I was unsatisfied with all of the trip reports I'd read, unable to tell if North Sister could be a non-technical climb. So, I decided to check it out myself and see if I needed to learn how to be a technical climber. We went from Pole Creek (Labor Day Weekend, Obsidian passes sold out), leaving the car at 7:45am. We went up the SE ridge, going cross-country from the Chambers Lakes Trail. I summited at 2:12pm. I only climbed to one of the summit peaks as there were too many people on the other and my husband was waiting for me below the Traverse. The Terrible Traverse was not terrible at all and the Bowling Alley is like a boulderer's dream, a beautiful and easy climb on good rock. If you have climbed Thielsen, then North Sister will be no problem for you. We descended the SE ridge at met the trail at Soap Creek and arrived at the car at 6:20pm. So happy to have all 3 Sisters accomplished! Happy climbing!
Solo ascent of the South Ridge Route 7/25/18
Road trip! We protected the snow traverse with pickets and did Middle on the way back. Trip report
We got to Obsidian TH at 9pm. By 11:30pm we had hiked (with headlamps) quite high onto the mountain and found a place for our bivy sacks. We slept from midnight until 5:30 and were hiking up the mountain again by 6am. The snow slopes and glaciers were fine all the way until North Sister's summit ridge. From there, the snow disappeared and we picked our way up truly terrible scree, choss, talus, and loose rock (I am not being redundant). The Terrible Traverse was a super steep snow field and we crossed it with pickets, axes and a lot of front-pointing. The Bowling Alley was all rock, loose, and scary but we made it up to the South Horn, took some pictures and then crossed back over to the North Horn (true summit). Amazing view, room for two (but not three) people on the summit. The downclimbing was no easier and we actually belayed each other through the Bowling Alley. The long climb and hike back to Obsidian was much more enjoyable having made the summit. In all, perfect weather, a great team (Jon and Eric), and the summit success made this the best 15 hour climbing day I've had in many years.
Thanks to Johngo for the excellent beta! Definitely check out his trip report and see the annotated figures if you're looking for resources on this mountain.
Excellent weather and mountain conditions. Satisfying summit.
1:40 to the climber's trail at a moderate clip. Look for a wide flat area off the the right of the trail. It looked like there would be room for 2-3 parties to camp. The climber's trail leaves the main trail just beyond here. If its your first time, I'd recommend that you have some daylight/twilight to follow the climber's trail.
After originally reaching the Bowling Alley in the Spring of 2007, only to have my partner take a fall on some peeling verglass and a subsequent retreat, we finally crossed this mountain off the 'Shit list'. Took a couple of tries on different routes to overcome conditions and AMS issues. We found the glacier to be quite healthy this year from the West, lacking appropriate gear we retreated and opted to dayhike from the East. Went up the SE Ridge, down the Hayden Glacier trail. To quote a climber we met on our summit day "I've now got a great deal of beta for a mountain I'll never climb again." Rewarding, glad to have it off my list!
Fine day with Bob Sumner. Third time's the charm. Trip Report.
It was our second time to climb the mountain. Last year was a late start in late September. This time ,we left around 6 am from Arrowhead lake. Snow was about halfway up the scree slope so we climbed up this way. After getting up above this point, I gassed out and the other 3 continued up the mountain. We could see another group of 7 above us.
The Terrible Traverse still had a pretty decent patch of snow that was rock hard and icy, the group of 7 decided to quit here.
Just before here the other guy in our group of 4 decided it was far enough for him that day.
The Wacko Ladies decided that they were going to summit this time around. After climbing the upper edge of the 50 degree snow bank and using a half rope to get back on the trail. Continuing on around the mountain they missed the Bowling Alley, making it a 5.8 to 5.9 climb to the Summit. Very limited protection but others had been up this way before having left some gear.
Coming down from the summit required 3 pitches with the short rope. All in all a pretty good day with a little adventure thrown in.
via SE ridge, easy and solid rime on summit, lots of fun, stormy conditions, windy/low vis
After six summits of this peak, and reading about many people who have route finding issues on it, I decided to post a trip report and annotated photos of the upper mountain. Please see the North Sister album section and look for North Sister - annotated route photos.
Came up the ridge that starts at the southern base of Collier Cone. Fun route, long climb day with a predawn start and post sunset return to the car. We were the only group on the mountain this fine summer day. We avoided the terrible traverse, but had some route finding to do underneath the glisan pinnacle that included some 4th class scrambling and a ledge traverse with an icy/muddy finish to access the bowling alley.
What the other guy said... a giant pile of poop. I enjoy scrambling but this was annoying. We tried to go right side of the ridge, my buddy having misread the route info. Decided to turn back after one look at that side of the mountain and the steep snow field we'd have to cross in 85 degree heat. I won't go back until its covered with snow and frozen solid.
This is one big pile of stuff! Reading all the stuff on it we brought an extra 50 pounds of rock gear just to be safe. Turns out there was snow and ice on the traverse. Our rock gear did very little without any pickets and screws. We had axes and crampons so we lead out a good 50 meter line. (obviously only to retrieve a dead body after a swing of 50m) Once through the travers we thought we'd use all that pro we brought. Nope. The bowling alley and above was a cinch. Even if we wanted to use pro, the rock up there is GARBAGE. We did rap down bowling alley. Than back at the travers, instead of being stupid twice we down climbed under the drift, crossed over and up the other side to the start. Much safer. All and all, if there wasn't a drift right in the travers this mountain would not need any gear. However be ready for loose stuff everywhere.
Started at Pole Ck TH at 4:45 am, left the trail after Soap Ck and hiked easily cross-country to the Southwest Ridge. Terrible Traverse was steep snow, Bowling Alley was solid scrambling with almost no rockfall. Summitted after somewhat less than 5 hrs and with lots of wind. Went on to climb Middle and South Sister in a 12hr 40min Sisters Marathon.
We ran out of time and conditions earlier in the year just 200 feet from the summit, but this time I did it on my solo Marathon trip. There's no secret why they call this the "Ugly" Sister. I could tell you about the many false chutes, the horribly rotten rock,the "Terrible" traverse, the 70 degree ice face over a 2,500 foot garbage chute, or the crushed fingers I sustained, but the bottom line is I did three sisters all by myself in just two days, and I did one of the twice. What more can a I say, other than a rope to rap down would have been really nice.
This is a pretty straight forward climb (surprisingly). Around the first couple gendarmes on the left, around one on the right and then the traverse. It was rock and debris for the first 1/2 of the traverse and then very hard snow for the second half. Used a rope and 2 pickets (crampons and ice ax also) for that portion. The bowling alley wasn't obvious at first. You can look up the bowling alley and see the rappel slings on the upper right, if you don’t see those, you're not in the alley. Didn't use a rope on the way up, it was pretty easy. Rappelled down since we packed the rope, but I down climbing would have been do-able. Camped in the saddle Southwest of Collier Glacier, did Middle Sister later that morning and went back to the vehicle at Obsidian trailhead.
Approach from Pole Creek to Soap Creek meadows. Our original plan was to climb the east face (left edge of Villard Glacier) route. Due to concerns about rock fall we went up the slopes along the NE Arete.
We climbed to the saddle between Glisan and Prouty. Unfortunately time was running late so we tagged the top of Glisan and went out the way we came. Nice glissading on lower slopes.
Walked past (heading north) the Bowling Alley chute and then turned up some divet and climbed some arete-like volcanic choss and summitted. Rappleyea was so freaked at the summit he refused to stand up. Sure felt like an idiot going down the bowling alley cuz we sure did get off route.
Amazingly sucky rock.
Climbed this and Middle Sis as part of a 3 Sisters marathon attempt, ended up bailing off S. Sis and doing a very very long circumnavigation around S. Sis in the dark. Went up the North (Ugly) Sister a 2nd time, from Pole Creek.