Peak(s):  North Twin - 10196
South Twin - 10340
Date Posted:  10/18/2016
Date Climbed:   09/21/2016
Author:  Tony1
 Idahoan Twin Potatoes  

The Idaho Twins

North Twin (10,196 ft)
South Twin (10,340 ft)

Wednesday, 21 September 2016
Route: Ascend North Twin from Twin Peaks Pass > Descend to Pass > Ascend South Twin > Descend to Pass
Distance: ~2.5 miles R/T
Gain: ~2200 feet

The Twin Peaks of central Idaho are two summits situated in the middle of the Salmon River Mountains, northwest of the town of Challis. From the valley around town, the peaks appear clearly visible and prominent. North Twin is the 5th highest peak in the range, while South Twin is the 2nd highest. The highest peak in the Salmon River Mountains is White Mountain. It stands at 10,442 feet, only 102 feet higher than its neighbor which happens to be South Twin.

Access to these peaks is incredibly easy. Challis Creek Road leaves town and becomes Twin Peaks Road (NF 086) as it heads northwest toward Twin Peaks Pass at 9,183 feet. The road to the top of the pass is very much what I'd call a "Subaru road," and from the top of the pass it is just over 1000 vertical feet to either peak. The pass forms the saddle between the two peaks and is a fantastic place to start a hike of one, both, or even a trio which would also include White Mountain. It's possible to drive all the way to the summit of South Twin where there is an old fire lookout, but that road is high-clearance 4x4 only, the fork for the road is a bit below the top of the pass, and why drive when you can hike?

With plans to hike peaks near Meadow Lake (southeast of Salmon) foiled due to rain--although the lake itself was very pretty--I was just driving around the middle of the state, and I noticed "Twin Peaks" shown on the map in my atlas. The marker was right off the highway near the town of Challis, so I did a quick google of the area. I found detailed Summitpost pages, and after learning about the easy access, decided to head that way and crossed my fingers for good weather.

Starting out toward North Twin. Visible is the clearer area of the forest I used to ascend.

I reached the top of the pass, got myself and Sven the pup ready, and set off for North Twin at 2:25 PM. The eastern side of the southwest ridge of North Twin featured a sort of cut in the forest, which I used to ascend the slope until I reached the ridge crest. From there, I made an ascending traverse just below a bump in the ridge and found another gap in the forest.

Heading up the clearer area.

Above the first part of the trees, before traversing below the bump on the left. The false summit is on the right.

The second forest gap.

The second gap is covered in loose dirt and scree. It's not at a terrible angle, but enough to make upward progress somewhat of a task. After reaching treeline and returning to the ridge crest, I followed the ridge to the base of the false summit, where this time I encountered larger scree and small talus. I skirted the false summit through the talus and proceeded toward the real summit. After only 25 minutes of hiking from the pass, I was on the summit of North Twin at 2:50.

Heading up the loose stuff.


First summit view, looking back toward Challis.

The view to the northwest from North Twin.

The view to the south and west from North Twin, with South Twin prominently in view. You can see Twin Peaks pass going between the two, as well as the bottom of the access road for the old fire lookout.

I spent a few minutes enjoying the summit and left at 2:55, following my ascent path down North Twin toward the pass. The dirt which I found tedious to ascend earlier in the second "forest gap" proved to be a wonderful descent path, offering premium scree skiing.

Starting the descent down North Twin.

No choice but to scree ski, really.

I made my way down the first gap in the forest and reached the pass at 3:15, 20 minutes after leaving North Twin's summit. It looked like any possible rain was going to hold off for a while longer, so I made the decision to climb up South Twin as well. I crossed the road and was suddenly heading up again, this time along the northeast ridge of South Twin.

The second objective for the day.

From the hike of North Twin, this route looked steeper and more loose. It checked out. However, I also noticed what looked like a climber's trail heading up the ridge in switchbacks, starting about halfway up. I made it my goal to find that damn trail.

Loose stuff, part deux.

Progress up the ridge was slow, no matter where I tried to hike up. After passing remnants of previous mining-like development, I found the climber's trail and began to follow it. It was so much better than heading directly up the mountain!

Following the climber's trail now.

I followed the switchbacks of the climber's trail until I reached a rugged rock outcropping just below the summit. The talus slope steepened and became more loose as it reached the base of the outcropping. I carefully made my way up this section with Sven and was soon past it. I was under the impression that the entire route would be class 2, and I wouldn't be surprised if it can be kept that way on South Twin by somehow going around this outcropping, but I would say that this one tiny part of the route is class 3. It's fine without a helmet, but be aware you will most likely need your hands to help you get up this several feet of the ridge.

The rock outcropping from well below.

Approaching the outcropping.

Going through the notch-like part.

Once we were over the rock outcropping, it was a short stroll to the summit of South Twin, which we reached at 4:00 pm, making for an ascent time of 45 minutes.

Approaching the summit.

I spent a bit longer on South Twin's summit, looking around and exploring the outside of the old fire lookout and other minor developments, as well as enjoying the views. From the summit of South Twin, a large chunk of Idaho can be seen, including the Sawtooth Range. Mountainous terrain dominated the view in all directions, and it was gorgeous.

White Mountain viewed from South Twin, starring random shrub.

Looking back toward Challis from the summit of South Twin.

The fire lookout sign.

Sven posing with the lookout.

Panorama showing the view from the southwest toward White Mountain (left), around to the northern view toward North Twin (right).

Panorama from the southeast to the southwest. The Sawtooths can be seen behind the summit of White Mountain, just right of center.

At 4:10, I said my goodbyes to the summit and started down the ridge with Sven. We quickly negotiated the brief rocky outcropping and made our way down the climber's trail, eventually reaching the tedious lower half of the broad ridge. Before I knew it, we were back at Twin Peaks Pass at 4:35.

Starting down. What a view!

Negotiating the scree on the descent.

Almost back.

Forest floor colors under the burned trees on the way back down the Twin Peaks Pass road.

Having never been to Idaho (only through it a couple of times) prior to this little trip, I found this quick hike to be a good introduction to what the state has to offer in terms of peaks. The diverse colors of the Twin Peaks area only adds to the spectacular scenery. Headed to central Idaho any time soon? Check this place out; you won't regret it.


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