Celestial Emporium of Benevolent Knowledge

Musings about mountains, physics, and other oddities.

Middle Sister, June 2020

Word count: 486 (~3 minutes), Last modified: Thu, 02 Jul 2020 00:00:00 GMT

Summit of Middle Sister

Brief Summary

North Ridge via Obsidian Falls and Renfrew glacier, see SummitPost. Class 2/3 trip, mostly a walk up. About ~5500 ft of elevation gain over 18 miles. Max snow angle ~45 degrees. No crevasses of note.

End of June I met up with a few friends to climb Middle Sister in Oregon. Experience levels varied; two of us were brand new to mountaineering, while myself and Matt were leading. For that reason, and because the snow might be crud at the top, we ended up taking a rope and pickets. No need though, very straightforward and beautiful route.

The trail in was pretty long and kind of a slog given how much was buried in snow, even at low elevation. However the area is absolutely gorgeous and worth a visit regardless of climbing to the summit. The relatively low gain for the first half makes it a nice day trip or backpacking option.

We broke it up over a couple of days because of the long approach and to give us a good weather window. This ended up being a good decision, as an unpredicted wind and rain storm came in our planned summit day. Rather than be miserable, we opted for the warmer but nicer morning we left as a backup

The Cascades in the dawn

The Cascades are a volcanic range of relatively isolated peaks, but because they form up along the "ring of fire" they're organized in a line or arc that is incredibly striking. Above is a picture from the glacier while ascending in the morning.

Most of the climb is mellow and keeps below 30 degree inclines. Crampons really do make glacier walking easy though. The only "semi-technical" part where an ice axe is strongly required would be the ridge proper, see the end of the glacier in the picture below.

Route, North ridge is just after Renfrew glacier

It was a warm day and resulted in some unfortunately slushy snow along this final section, along with a few patches of harder ice. Going onto the class 2/3 rock on the right was nicer, but because it's a volcano it was also crud.

After the gorgeous summit view, we elected to descend the south-west face rather than retrace our ascent line. After a brief steeper section this brings you to some very fun glissading on the glacier snow.

All Three Sisters

After a long hike out, one gets an excellent sight of all three of the sisters. I've yet to climb the other too but South Sister seems even more tame and worth a go up. North Sister involves a slightly more technical section, but I'm not sure how ambitious I feel to climb crumbling volcanic rock.

Unfortunately, because of the COVID-19 crisis, this was one of the only planned trips which managed to survive this year. Thankfully it was quite memorable.