passage granted on the North Sister

passage granted on the North Sister

Page Type Page Type: Trip Report
Location Lat/Lon: 44.16743°N / 121.77212°W
Date Date Climbed/Hiked: Dec 31, 1969
Activities Activities: Mountaineering
Seasons Season: Summer

Why the North Sister/The Black beast of the cascades.

It begins with it is the only major Cascades' volcano in Oregon I have not summited. It is the only Oregon volcano Between me and a Obsidians 10 Peak Award, and Three peak Award.

I know from my last experience on the mountain that it stands alone for difficulty and danger among the Three Sisters. It is steep, it has horribly loose rock, and thats describing the easist way to the summit.

My first attempt was turned around due to some navigation errors, Large group, and lastly the Amount of snow on the Terrible Traverse. It is the Terrible Traverse and the Bowling alley were each individual really needs to bring there A-game regardless if there leading are following.

I am also admit I am fascinated with the ragged geology, the steep ass snow, the lizard like spines of the ridges and it's overall feeling of alpine adventure.

I was not looking for the lead..

I really did not see myself leading this climb until I had someone else show me the way. I had missed opportunities in 06' and 07' and this year the climb was rescheduled due to massive early season snow. I think my wife had conspired all along to keep me away from this mountain. She was not Happy with the reschdule date of August 16th and 17th. I wined and pissed and moaned for her to relent. The fact that I ascended the peak on the 2nd and 3rd of August was just by chance.

I had Mt Adams via Mazama glacier scheduled for the 2nd and 3rd. I was being duped however by a forest fire on it's south flanks. I begin scrambling to find another route which boiled down to Adams glacier (not a good plan) or the North cleaver(doable but long and loose). It sure sounded like a beautiful area but I only had the weekend, so new Mountain.
I still didn't consider North Sister.

I started looking at a Three fingered Jack, Mt Washington weekend. I had one guy on my roster Ivan who really wanted some snow (little did I know he would be the only participant). I started looking at the Prouty glacier route on South Sister but was warned away from it, to much rockfall and dangerous steep scree. So Ultimatley a highly respected alpinest and their are a few in my circle of friends. Sue suggested matter in factly Why not North Sister.

Let's go climb this Black Beast!

I couldn't help but obsess on how I was going to protect the traverse and the Bowling alley. It is a club climb and it really is on My shoulders. I am excited none the less and am looking forward to a real adventure.

it would not be your typical dog route up a mountain so I put much more Time into looking over trip reports (new and old) getting beta from friends that have summited recently ( within the year) and accessing photos of the Traverse and the bowling alley.
Feeling confident that I have gathered up enough information, The beggining of are weekend has arrived.

The climb was scheduled for Sunday the third of August but we were excited so we headed out friday evening for Pole Creek trail head. We had a pleasant night under the stars and a leasurly breakfast, we throw together the packs and proceeded towards base camp. It is a bit of a walk in to the meadows at the toe of the Hayden glacier. It is a beautiful area and easy access to the upper reaches of both Middle and North Sister.

We set up camp and had lunch, we then put together summit packs for a glacier travel/ rescue scenario up on the Hayden glacier. It was time well spent and offered up great photo opportunities. It also gave us a good look at the lower route up the glacier to the saddle at prouty point. The glacier was in great shape for early August, it has been a great snow year.

Climbing the Black Beast.

The beggining of the terrible...
Terrible Traverse
The Terrible Traverse.
Oregon cascades
Oregon Cascades
We awake in the early alpine hour of 2:15 am It has been a beautiful evening with a bizzilion stars, even so it is dark as there is no moon. We head out of camp and up a talus ridge at 3:00am. The glacier can be accesed just out of camp the ridge puts us right at the Hogsback which is an excellent start for are glacier travel portion. We proceed up the glacier in the dark, peaceful but uneventful. We arrive at the saddle and Find that the whole of the north aspect and upper snowfields of the Middle Sister are melted out.

We had quite a bit of moraine to cross to get on the upper Collier glacier which is are access to North sister.
We are treated at this point to a sunrise view of the northern Oregon and southern Washington Cascades. Mt Rainer, Mt St Helens, Mt Adams, Mt Hood, Mt Jefferson, Three fingered Jack and Mt Washington. This is Ivans first trip into the Three Sisters Wilderness and he is spellbound.

We arrive at the scree scramble entrance to the south ridge. we negotiate this annoyance and make the south ridge by 6:00am We are faced with are first challenge we came up the scree to direct and are low on the ridge and were confronted with two gendarmes we down climbed one but had to set up a belay for the second one. we then begin the slog up the south ridge to the first of many gendarmes. We make an excellent navigation decision as we approach the apex of the south and southwest ridge. When I was here last we proceeded up to the apex and dropped into the Camels hump. This time we noticed a prominant boot track traversing west along the base of the gendarmes of the south ridge. We went this way accessed a loose gulley and low and behold came out level with the bottom of the camels Hump. It was free of snow and we did not have to drop in with a belay. We quickly passed this area and after a brief break for hydration and food we walked liesurly to the Terrible Traverse. A little less Snow than the last time I was here but still a Moderate cornice of snow stood between me and access to the traverse proper.

Ivan quickly sets a Picket and his axe for anchors to belay me out on the traverse. I top the cornice and round a outcropping of dinnerplate scree and the first words I mutter are OH MY!
The snow is hard and a little sugary which is not good. I report to Ivan but he urges me on. The beta I got was to go low if the dimmerplate aka The terrible traverse is dry, go high if it is full of snow. I gulp again as it looks that I must go high. I start the long process of chopping steps and kicking them in were i can. I am out of communication with My belayer. I make a decision to anchor in and pull all the slack up to coax him out on the traverse. Once I establish this we get him re anchored within earshot and he brings back in all the slack and I proceed to continue excavation of are route. I have to add that I couldn't resist but to look down the gullies towards the glacier two thousand feet below. It reinforced the importance of slipping is not allowed ( The no slip zone.)
Five Pickets later and a precarious dismount onto loose large dinnerplate I anchored in and brought Ivan across. I will note here that we didn't have to go back the same way as Lower on the traverse we could access the the boot track and half the distance of steep snow to get back across. We once again made a less than desirable traverse into the bowling alley that upon later inspection found a much easier way to enter and exit the alley.

Ivan chose to lead the bowling ally. I was Pleased with the idea and tucked my self out of the way as he made his way up, kicking down rocks as he went. We missed the boat here again as the suggested route is extreme right to stay out of the fall line, alas Ivan still puts up a successful belay at the rap rock and brings me on up. We scramble up to the saddle and look at the summit block and ponder wether we should have brought the rope up here. Not! it was the best and only true solid rock on the whole mountain( it's like it didn't even belong here) We were relieved and excited about are accomplishment. WE are on the North Sister though and for all the others that have been here before us you can't help to be preoccupied with the fact that you have to do all the hard parts again in reverse OH MY!

Thanks for visiting,



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calebEOC - Aug 7, 2008 1:36 am - Voted 10/10


I am kind of kicking myself for not joining you guys on this one, sounds like it was a good adventure.

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