North Sister/3 Sisters Marathon

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Trip Report
Oregon, United States, North America
Date Climbed/Hiked:
Sep 6, 2008
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74.01% Score
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North Sister/3 Sisters Marathon
Created On: Sep 12, 2008
Last Edited On: Sep 12, 2008

North Sister SE ridge

Climbed the "Black Beast" aka the North Sister on 9-6-08 as the first part of the Three Sisters Marathon. Started from the Pole Creek trailhead at 0230 with plans of taking the SE ridge to the summit of North and then proceeding southward, summiting Middle and South Sister, ending up at the Devil's Lake trailhead. Having never climbed the North Sister, this presented the biggest challenge of the three, with the "terrible traverse" and the "bowling alley" the main obstacles. The weather turned out to be perfect with mostly clear skies the entire time and warm temperatures.

My partner and I reached the terrible traverse at 0850. Ascending the SE ridge was uneventful, but took longer than anticipated, probably partly due to stops for route-finding purposes once we left the trail in the dark.

Bowling Alley

While crossing the loose dinner-plate rock of the terrible traverse we met two other climbers heading to the summit. None of us had ever summited North. Unfortunately we made an apparently common mistake and "missed" the bowling alley initially, ending up in another alley, or chute. This cost us quite a bit of time and some effort, before finally noticing the bowling alley proper. Needless to say we won't make that mistake again! This false chute contained much more loose rock and basically brings you to the dead end (at least for me)at the base of the vertical north pinnacle. We downclimbed back toward the terrible traverse and proceeded into the bowling alley.

The rap slings could be seen near the top of the chute, and two of us proceeded to freeclimb the class 4 rock, while the other two went part way up and decided to retreat to the lower section and wait.

Above the rap slings the degree of difficulty lessens leading to a saddle between the north and south pinnacles. The views were incredible on this clear day, though the thought of downclimbing (without rope) loomed heavily in the back of my mind.

The steep section of the bowling alley requires full attention, as a fall would more than likely be fatal, or at least result in serious injury. After the other climbers moved out of the potential rockfall path, I carefully downclimbed the same route and then negotiated the traverse.

Three Sisters marathon

We proceeded down the south ridge of the North Sister and finished the trek with ascents of the Middle and South Sisters. The NW ridge of South was traveresed, but in retrospect we probably should have taken the more direct north ridge.

My climbing partner lost his camera somewhere between the North and Middle Sisters and just got a call from a very gracious fellow climber today who found it Tuesday (he posted on Craig's list lost and found). I'll try to post some more photos later.

Thanks for visiting,



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vancouver islander

vancouver islander - Sep 12, 2008 6:25 pm - Voted 10/10

Congrats on the Black Beast

We made the same mistake as you on missing the entrance to the Alley. On the way down we marked it with a cairn for future comers. I guess nothing lasts too long on N Sis with all that loose rock flying around. Oh well, we tried.....


oregonrpa - Sep 12, 2008 6:47 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Congrats on the Black Beast

The cairn was still there! Thanks for the effort, we just didn't look up soon enough, but noticed it later. I read enough reports beforehand that we shouldn't have made this mistake.

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North Sister/3 Sisters Marathon

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