Myself and 4 friends started the Middle Sister hike from the Northwest approach beginning at The Obsidian Trailhead off of the Old McKenzie Hwy 242. Two of my friends are fairly fit and athletic, while the rest of us are pretty average in shape. None of us had been doing much hiking in a long time though.
We started on the trail by 6am; it was beautiful with the sun just starting to come up and the air was crisp but warm. The Obsidian Trail is AMAZING. If nothing else, you must explore and experience the Obsidian area. (However it is a limited entry area and will become more strict for day hikers without a special pass, like ourselves, by next year...except for Pacific Crest Trail hikers). The trail starts at 4,800ft in the forest and eventually opens up into meadows and fields of gorgeous wild flowers, streams, and amazing views of the Three Sisters. We went through a huge area of black lava fields and eventually met up with the PCT at a junction called "Sunshine" and soon hiked into an area that was a mixture of greenery, wild flowers, trees, hills, and glassy, sparkling obsidian rock pieces, just everywhere!
We hit an area called Sister Spring that was a lush area of green grass, obsidian, and a red rocked stream amongst a shale cliff side and a snow filled gully. We took the gully up and thus began the snow and scree scramble up the Middle Sister.
We brought crampons and ice axes with us, but did not need to use the crampons at all. The snow was soft enough that our hiking boots did well. Ice axes and walking poles were helpful to keep our balance though. We went up through little valleys of snow and scree, spotting some cairns every now and then. We eventually hit the Renfrew Glacier and trekked our way up without a problem. As we approached the N ridge to the top, we started getting fairly fatigued as the scree and rocks were heinous and such a challenge. One from my group scrambled to the summit, and the rest of us made it slightly above the crux. There were no "easy" ways to the top, either unstable and steep snow stood in the path or unstable, treacherous rocks requiring a bit of rock climbing skills were available. We attempted to get up the rocks, but decided we were completely content with where we stood with a beautiful view of the North Sister directly in front of us as well as Mt Jefferson, Washington, 3 Fingered Jack, and the Collier Cone.
To be honest, the real reason we didn't get to the summit was because we were terrified! We encountered 3 careless hikers who decided to descend at the same time we were beneath them attempting to go up. Rather than communicating and assessing the potential dangers of this bottle-necked situation, they continued to clammer down the rocks and scree, while we yelled at them to "Please Stop and Wait for us to get out of the way!". They didn't seem to care about our safety despite causing huge rocks and scree to slide down right into our pathway. One elder gentlemen stood, terrified, below these hikers as a huge rock was knocked down by them and flew right in front of his face, merely inches away from his head. He descended quite quickly after that. I got myself out of the way and witnessed these hikers continue to allow rocks to fall, and an enormous 30-40 pound rock flew from them and almost knocked into a guy below who had his dog with him. The dog unfortunately was hit by this rock, right in the hind legs, and had his owner not been holding onto his collar, he might have gone tumbling over the ridge. The dog limped the rest of the way down. Nobody was wearing helmets up there, and thank goodness nobody got seriously injured, but there was high potential for a bad accident No thanks to the careless hikers!
At any rate, we went back down fairly fast, but managed to get slightly lost on the way down. We ended up a few ridges to the south from our original pathway, but bushwhacked it a little bit and found Sister Spring and the PCT after probably an hour of time wasted. Two from my group decided to frolic naked in one of the blue glacier pools!
Overall we returned at 7:00pm, 13 hours and 14-15 miles later; we were exhausted, our feet hurt, and one of my friends had gotten either altitude sickness or some other stomach bug and felt terrible. But I would do it again, maybe bring a helmet for safety at the top, or go earlier in the season or when there's more snow (safer than the rocks!), and maybe start from a closer starting point. Maybe I'll try the east side approach next time for a new experience!
Also important to learn and spread the words of hiking etiquette! (Such as, wait for others to get into a safer spot rather than letting rocks slide and fall on them!) For everyone's safety and also for the preservation of the fragile wilderness areas.
Renfrew Glacier route from camp at Arrowhead Lake. Very late start (probably 10 AM or so), but made good time up the approach and glacier. A short, but steep (45 degrees or so) and icy snowfield about halfway up the north ridge was the crux of the route - three other climbers on the mountain that day had to turn around because they had not brought crampons and axes, thus we had the summit to ourselves. Excellent views to the north despite the haze, all the way to Hood and Adams. All in all, this is a very mellow and straightforward outing (except for that short bit on the north ridge) over some beautiful country and probably the world's friendliest glacier.
After first missing the climber's trail turn off, I lost track of the trail under the snow. In spite of the many climbers who went up yesterday, their tracks coming down had already disappeared in the melting snow. The route description was confusing to me and I went up the wrong gully and ridge, which I realized when I reached a rock strewn and crevasse filled glacier, below a high and steep rock
wall! I angled lower and crossed the glacier safely to the correct ridge and made the slow steep climb to the summit, having the mountain to myself on a Monday. Coming down I tried to follow the correct route but again lost it trying to get back to the climber's trail. I checked the track the gps app on my tablet was making and was able to easily head cross country to rejoin the trail, however I soon realized I didn't have my trekking poles anymore! I followed the gps track back to where I stopped to get it out of my pack and there were my poles! After losing about an hour I was back on the trail, and reached the trail head 10 hr 34 min and 19.4 miles later.
Tried North without beta and got sketched out by the bad scree and route finding issues. Ran up Middle to make ourselves feel more accomplished. Nice view and stuff I guess.
After trying to climb Middle Sister via Obsidian TH two years ago (in June-uary), I'm glad to say that I have laid this beast to rest. We started from Pole Creek TH, camped just above treeline in the valleys in-between Middle and North, and headed up the North Ridge via Hayden Glacier on Sunday morning. We originally planned to leave at 4am, but a large group of Mazamas were planning to rope up and attempt the same route at 3:30am, so we decided to postpone and go at 5am to give them enough time so that we didn't bottleneck. Got to the summit at 9:30am. Great snow conditions and a fun bit of exposed ice to traverse.
Clear day with good friends.
chemeketan climb success!
Climbed Middle Sister the same day after climbing North Sister via the saddle between north and middle after camping the night before at Arrowhead Lake. Was a fun rock climb but a ice sheet on the normal route force us to do some hands and knees climbing around it which we tried to avoid on the descent but it ended up being the safest option. Great views. Enjoyed the glissades on the glaciers back to camp.
Not much in the way of crevasses on the glacier. We moved well up to the notch between North and Middle. One group member had some issues on the final ridge that forced them to turn back, but everyone else made it aside from a second who went back with them for safety sake. Windy, but not bad.
Been up it a few times now, need me some skis.
Climbed up from Arrowhead Lake and then crossed onto the east face, did some rock/ice climbing to the summit. Great views and amazing clear day!
My wife and I took a group up the West Face of MS. We started at the Obsidian trailhead. Hiked up to, and camped at Arrowhead Lake (6900') Saturday night. Sunday, started climbing at 5:00am, and summited at 10:00am. Our route touched the south edge of the Renfrew Glacier, and then straight up the West Face, which is a nice blocky stair step to the summit. We descended the North Ridge / Renfrew Glacier route. The weather was perfect. Arrowhead Lake is still frozen and covered with snow, but had a couple of exposed spots for a great water source. Camp spots at Arrowhead Lake are bare and snow free. Crampons are necessary if climbing in the early morning...ice axe and helmet are, of course, advisable.
Descended the South Ridge of North Sister, then up the North Ridge of Middle Sister. Snow and scree, very straightforward climb. Went on to South Sister to complete the Sisters Marathon.
Great day on MS with great views of all the Oregon volcanoes lined up
Snowshoed in from Pole Cr. Record spring snow in the Cascades. Snow and wind Monday afternoon and night but totally clear early morning. My partner became ill at the saddle and I summited solo. Beautiful day.
I first climbed the Middle Sister during a week at Boy Scout Camp Melakwa. That was back in 1970. Had a great time.
As part of my solo Marathon, I camped at the highest cave in Oregon on the summit of Middle Sister, so I had to re-summit it after climbing N. Sister earlier in the day. Then I went down the west side to do South Sister the next day. One of the most incredible climbs of my life. I also had a ice alpine summit of Middle from the Obsidian Trail side earlier in the year.
First volcano I ever climbed. 12 years old
We camped somwhere just east of camp lake. Hiked a ridge that I believe was the next ridge over from the main southeast route. No need for crampons or ice ax via this route, unless you start really early. The snow was mushy enough that crampons wouldnt have done anything. Mosquitos are heinous in places, not bad at all in other spots. I would recommend camping lower to avoid the bugs.
Attempted to climb from the Obsidian Trailhead, but we ended up starting at 7 miles down the Old McKenzie Hwy because the road is still closed. Heavy snow covered the ground for at least a few feet starting at the trailhead and all the trails are completely buried. We navigated by the lava flows, but had to turn back after thick fog and snow rolled in.