Twin Mountain is one of the remote peaks located in the Elkhorn Range in eastern Oregon. It is one of the prominent peaks visible from Interstate 84 that travels east to west through the state. Due to the remote nature of the peak access to the summit is limited.
My focus of the trip was to summit Peak 8428 then traverse over to Twin Mountain. I began the trip at the Dutch Flat Trailhead off of the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest road 7307 at just below 5000'. It was about 4pm when I finally left the trailhead with my goal being a flat spot somewhere on the long north ridge leading up to the summit of Peak 8428. The hike up the trail went fairly quick and I covered the approx 6 miles in a matter of a few hours then I started the cross county hike up the ridge.
Looking down the ridge leading to the summit of Peak 8428
The start of the ridge is fairly steep with cliffs that had to be circumvented. Halfway up the ridge there's a few flat area which provide nice bivy/small camp sites and I was counting on a few snow patches to use for water and I was lucky enough to find a few. In the coming couple of weeks most of the lower elevation snow patches will be melted due to the recent increase in temperatures. I set up my small tent and began the tedious job of melting snow for water, it was around 10 pm before I fell asleep.
Summit of Peak 8428
I woke up on Friday the 9th of July at 5 am, ate a quick bite of food and started packing up my gear. I knew I had a long day ahead and wanted to get to the top of Peak 8428 early so I could concentrate on my main focus Twin Mtn. A little after 6 am I was again working my way up to the summit of 8428. I was standing on the summit by 8 am taking in the views of all of the neighboring peaks. Looking across at the long traverse over to Twin I decided to pull out my stove and pot to melt more snow to insure I wouldn't run out before the summit of Twin.
My plan was to stay on top of the connecting ridges to the obtain the summit of Twin. After dropping down off the summit of Peak 8428 I realized that I would have a number of cliffs to navigate around so I decided to take the direct line and drop directly off the ridge down across the cirque then up to the southeast ridge of Twin.
Looking down off the southeast ridge of Twin Mountain into a high cirque
The climb up the ridge was pretty straight forward with the only obstacle being the low to the ground Whitebark Pine that resembled a thick shrub layer due to the extreme environment. As I approached the top of the ridge and the summit of Twin I noticed the tips of a set of skis, not exactly what I had anticipated. I checked out the skis and noticed a glass jar which is being used as the summit register and from reading through the couple of pages I realized that the skis were left as a memorial to a previous climbers friend.
Summit of Twin Mountain
By the time I reached the summit I had finished off all of my water so I began melting more snow for the descent. After about an hour on the summit I realized the clouds that were forming were turning into something a little more serious. After a few thundering booms I packed up quickly and began the long descent down the northwest ridge.
The northwest ridge was the big unknown, it was going to be one of two things, open under the tree canopy or rocky and full of downfall under the canopy and of course it was the latter. From the summit my GPS showed just under 3 miles down the ridge back to the trail and an elevation loss of about 4000', all of which would be through downfall. It took much longer than I had anticipated and was topped off by having to cross two streams at the base of the ridge before the final 100' climb back up to the Dutch Flat Trail.
I reached my car at the trailhead at about 8 pm exhausted, but with a feeling of accomplishment. I had stood on the summit of two isolated peaks in the Elkhorn Mountain Range and pulled off a cross country traverse which required numerous elevation gains and losses. For those interested in spending time in the Elkhorns I would definitely recommend it, the views are amazing and the crowds are non-existent.