Collier Glacier SlidingThis was my first attempt at Middle Sister, Oregon, and I was climbing with my friend Ed from Newberg, who is an experienced mountaineer in the Cascades. That was lucky, because there are many confusing routes up the mountain, on the snow fields and glaciers. But he had a lot of experience and could help us find the way, with a map and compass and GPS at our side.
We started from the Obsidian Trailhead, and hiked in to Sunshine meadows campground. You need a special wilderness permit to hike in this area, but they are available free from the McKenzie River Park Ranger's office, and they can FAX the permit to you in advance. You also need a Northwest Forest Parking pass to park at the Obsidian Trailhead parking lot, but I parked just down the road at the Scott Lake turnout and walked the extra half mile to the trailhead.
Just over the Jerry Lava Flow, bear left onto the trail marked for Minne Scott Springs, and follow that about a mile until it ends at the Pacific Crest Trail. At the intersection, head straight forward, toward the mountain across the meadow for the climbers trail up. As you reach the scree, head for the only line of scraggly trees on a ridge ahead, at this altitude, and the trail that skirts them on the right (South) and up the mountain. After about a thousand feet, the trail ends and it is necessary to walk up on the glaciers and snow. Keep the Black Finn, a giant twisted fin of lava, on your left as you climb. Once on top of the first rise, the mountain will come into view. Keep heading east and you will get to the Collier glacier, which spans the two mountains, North Sister on the left and Middle Sister to the right. Walking up Collier Glacier on this hot sunny (eighty degree) summer day was a bit dicey, as the snow would give way in parts, and once I broke through the crust to an alarming fall, which I caught myself with my other bent leg. No actual crevasse was showing but there were probably some forming on the snow fields. Some crampons would have been great, as walking across the middle of the glacier was a frightening experience. Also some technical rock climbing was necessary in parts, to shimmy around some sheer outcroppings near the top. Coming down was a simple glacade slide back down on the snow.
All in all a wonderful day up in the high country, and well worth the effort. But bring some extra sunscreen and lip balm, as I got a nasty sunburn on my lower lip, probably from the reflection off the ice. Well recommended, but with crampons and ice axe, as it would have been a much easier climb with them in hand.