Road trip! Went up Middle after climbing North. Trip report
* North Ridge 6-11-16
* North Ridge 7-4-17
Took some first timers up Renfrew Glacier. Super smoky conditions from all the fires. Came in from Scott Trailhead (NOT Scott PAS TH, mind you) because we couldn't get an Obsidian LE Permit in time. Camped at Sister Spring for the night, then did the summit push the next day.
All the smoke was replaced by clouds for day 2. Some light rain, but otherwise just bad visibility. Such a shame; this was the first cloudy day in what seems like months. Crampons and poles for me, but some ice axe practice for other group members. Made the summit and saw absolutely nothing.
We came down to find out that wildfires were coming in. Rather than take the long way out, we cheated up the Obsidian Trail (without a permit! GASP!). Probably a safe bet. In the next two days, the entire Three Sisters Wilderness Area closed due to fires.
This was one long day. I decided to make the climb and headed out from Scappoose just after 6:00 pm. It took about 3.5 hours and I didn't arrive at the Pole Creek trail head until almost 10 am. After finally finding a parking spot I started my climb at about 10:15 am. I decided on 6 hours up and 4 hours down, so I gave myself until 4:15 pm to summit. It was a beautiful blue bird day and I was really hoping to summit but I didn't want to be hanging out on the mountain as darkness fell.
I followed the trail until a junction near where it goes over a creek. One trail goes on to Green Lake and the other goes up the mountain. I took a right here and went up the mountain. I followed this trail until about elevation 6000, which is just above the burn zone. From here I went bushwacking using a bearing directly east at 270 degrees. This direction put me just on the climbers right of the Hayden glacier. I followed a dry creek and then the lateral moraines on this same bearing which generally pointed at Prouty Point
The Glacier had sizable crevasses across it and wasn't a viable route. So I ascended the moraines just north of the glacier. I finally stepped onto snow at about elevation 8300 along a ridge that goes directly at Prouty Point. Once I was close to Prouty Point I went around it staying on the ridge but as far away as I could get from Prouty Point. There were lots of large rocks that had fallen from Prouty. I came into the Hayden-Renfrew saddle and from there I found an easy way to get on the North Ridge route. Along the North Ridge there is a 3rd or 4th class scramble up about 1000 ft of the usual cascade scree. Lots of large loose rocks with opportunity to knock a rock loose, so cautious climbing is required.
I summited at 4:20 pm, which was only 5 minutes behind my schedule. I was rather surprised at my luck to actually arrive at about the time I planned. I found a couple other climbers there. We had a pleasant conversation and they took a couple nice photos of me on the summit.
After about 1/2 hour of rest I started back down the same route. The scramble down was uneventful and once on the snow I found the soft snow very easy to plunge step. I stuck on the snow all the way down to where it ended in Squaw Creek at about elevation 7800. I followed Squaw Creek until it intersected the climbers trail near the confluence of the two forks. I followed the trail back to the Pole Creek Trail head and arrived at 8:16 PM, which was 10 hours from my start. So I made my goal of 6 hours up and 4 hours down. This included 30 minutes at the summit, a 30 minute break to fix a couple of blisters (new boots) and another 15 minute break to fill a water bladder and eat lunch.
It ended up being a 16-17 mile day and 4800 ft of elevation gain and then loss. Since it was a warm sunny day and the snow was soft I left the crampons and ice axe in the car. The boots and trekking poles worked nicely going up the soft snow. After a 3.5 hour drive home I was back in Scappoose at 12:20 am; a long, but fun 18 hour day.
Good times with a big Cascades Mountaineers group. Middle had been on my list for a while and it was fun to co-lead it for some beginner/intermediate snow climbers! The approach was harder than I expected and the climb itself was a little easier than expected.
We started at the Pole creek Trailhead and followed the climber's trail (or something close to it) up to the bottom of Hayden Glacier. However, the glacier had sizable crevasses running all the way across it, and it wasn't a viable route. Instead, we ascended moraines and cinders and snowfields just north of the glacier, which took us to the fantastically scenic pass immediately below North Sister (at the top of Collier Glacier). Then we went around the back side of Prouty Point to the Hayden-Renfrew saddle, and from there it was the usual North Ridge route. (NOTE: In the section just south of the saddle, it's best to stay on the edge of the ridge as much as possible if conditions permit. The west side, while less exposed than the crest, is a horrible sand/scree slog that you really don't want to deal with.)
With the encouragement of a couple other hikers at the summit, we descended on the very steep southeast ridge (once again: stay on the ridge crest as much as possible!). We were hoping to be able to cut across Diller Glacier, and then the moraines east of Diller, to get back to the north climber's trail. Unfortunately, Diller was just as impassible as Hayden, so we had to descend all the way to Camp Lake to pick up a decent trail back to our car. Getting down to Camp Lake was mostly cross-country bushwhacking; the lack of defined trails between the lake and the SE ridge was surprising.
Overall, it ended up being an 18-19 mile day. (It would have been about 16.3 miles if we'd done a straightforward round-trip up and down the north-of-Hayden route.) Due to the warm/dry year we've had, there was VERY little snow, and no special gear was needed, other than trekking poles and sunglasses.
Absolutely beautiful conditions today! Snow for the most part. Nice and firm. Zero wind......doesn't get much better!
Low snow this year allowed for an early start from Pole Creek trailhead. We followed the Green Lakes trail for a few hours up to the North Fork of Whychus Creek, and camped just below the treeline, around 6800 feet.
The weather report had warned of high winds on Sunday evening, but we figured we'd be able to make it safely up in the morning. We woke up at 7am to a clear, sunny day, and we could see pillars of wind-blown snow flying off the top of North Sister. Conditions were perfect until we approached the saddle between Middle and North; the snow on Hayden Glacier was firm but not awfully slippery. The wind speed picked up as we ascended, though, and within a thousand feet of the saddle, the force of the wind was nearly strong enough to push us up the slope. The thin, snowy north ridge looked awfully exposed with wind so strong, so we turned around by 10am before touching the peak.
Climbed with a great group of Mazama's up the Hayden Glacier. 4am start and made the summit by 8:30. Spent at least 45 minutes at the top in great conditions. No wind, pleasant temperature.
Went back up with the wife and friends for the full moon. The snow field is pretty much gone just above the crux. Tread lightly on the crux so we can keep this mountain together for a while longer. We don't need 2 ugly sisters.
Headed up to give Hope a visit. Camped in the Obsidian Wilderness. Watched a beautiful lightening storm that night. Went up the North ridge. There does seem to be a bit of a Northern snow field hanging on just above the crux. I skirted it to the climbers right. Beautiful summit, and a great descent to Arrow Head lake where I took a dip to cool off.
Climbed with the Mazamas. We had a beautiful day with great weather and views. Left from Pole Creek trailhead and set up base camp at the bottom of the Hayden Glacier. We then climbed the glacier and ascended via the North Ridge, traveling in rope teams and using a running belay for some of the steeper parts of the ascent. We hit snow about 2/3 of the way to base camp. Conditions were good except for what seemed to me some icy stuff at the start of the ascent of the ridge. We wound up climbing in a rocky area to avoid that part of the descent. Some of the upper stuff is pretty steep but not for long. We were able to plunge step almost the whole way back to camp after getting off the ridge. Definitely a step up from the things I've done before (Adams, Mt. St. Helens), and some of the more experienced climbers in the group noted that parts of the ascent were a little more challenging than they had anticipated.
Tried to climb this a month earlier but didn't get to the summit. This time I was more prepared and climbed from the Obsidian TH with my brother. Beautiful weather with nice views of the surrounding mountains. Amazing sunset on the way down. Spent the night in a meadow and packed out in the morning. If you have never been to the Obsidian Trail I would highly recommend it. One of the most beautiful areas in Oregon.
With Karl and Sue via the Southeast Ridge, descended the North Ridge which this time of year has a short downclimb through short slightly overhung icy bands to add some spice. Very windy. Lots of skiers. Why don't more people do the SE route route? Got off the mountain as lenticulars started popping up on all the mountains. Rain in by evening.
Climbed this as a dayhike with a couple good friends. There were no permits available for the Obsidian trailhead so we hiked from Pole Creek. The Pole Creek area burned badly in 2012 but the trail is now open. The first few miles to Camp Lake are absolutely devastated. In late August at least, the route up the south slopes and southeast ridge is pretty straightforward class 2 talus and scree. There is a little snow to walk on but certainly bringing my ax and crampons was a waste of time. Definitely some rockfall danger. Great views of course. After reading some register entries I suspect the south slopes are easier than the north ridge route. The round trip time took about 11 hours
The top of this (above the saddle), is pile of sandy scree and broken volcanic rock. Probably the most dangerous thing I have been on (on par with the hourglass on Little Bear Peak). Not recommended.
This is my go to mountain for those whom have little experience. I took up a youth group of 7 and enjoyed another perfect day on the Little Sister. Each year I do this it seems like the crux at the top gets a little more washed out. Pretty soon we're going to have stop calling this a walk up. Please be careful to not destroy this beautiful mountain. Obsidian TH, Black Finn, wrapped over to Collier, North Col, Summit Ridge, North Buttress. Hit the Little Brother on the way down.
Hiked in via the Obsidian Trail then up along a climber's path until it was covered with snow. Followed the snow fields up to the north ridge which leads to the summit. Descended down the Renfrew Glacier and back to the climber's path. Beautiful views of the North and South Sisters.
Climbed with Mazamas via North Ridge Hayden glacier, nice weather, great trip. The best thing about this mountain is that its central location right in the middle of the sisters and broken top with 360 degrees alpine scenery around you.
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.