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|-+  2005 Backcountry Trip Reports
| |-+  May 2005 Backcountry Trip Reports
| | |-+  May 28-29, 2005, Middle Sister, Camp Lake
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Author Topic: May 28-29, 2005, Middle Sister, Camp Lake  (Read 3411 times)
Jeff Huber

Posts: 771

May 28-29, 2005, Middle Sister, Camp Lake
« on: 05/30/05, 07:59 AM »

Short version:
Our plan to ski the SE Ridge of Middle was thwarted by intense thunderstorms Saturday night, followed by rain and threats of more thunderstorms Sunday morning. We made one run above Camp Lake early Sun am in-between period of rain, we found the snow surprisingly well-consolidated and of excellent skiing quality. We hiked out in the rain Sun morning. The views and the experience of a new area more the made up for the lack of skiing and being soaked.

Long version:
Our objective for the weekend was the Southeast Ridge of Middle Sister. This route is regarded as one of the finest ski descents in Oregon. You can see our annotated planning photo of this route here. The plan was to hike into Camp Lake on Saturday, ski the SE Ridge on Sunday then descend to the car. The weather had other ideas.

The near record high temperatures in the Portland area the days prior to our trip raised concerns. The forecast over the past week generally called for it to cool for the weekend, though the discussion stated there was low certainty in the forecast. Later forecasts called for a chance/slight chance of rain and thunderstorms on Saturday and Sunday. The hot weather caused Carla and Jason to make other plans, leaving Ann, Andy and I.

We departed from the Pole Creek TH Saturday morning. There were bright, high clouds in the sky and as we were packing there were a few brief periods of rain. Intermittent snowpatches on the trail started about a mile prior to Squaw Creek and after Squaw Creek the trail was essentially snow covered. You could skin from this point all the way to CL with one short carry, though we continued in our tennyrunners for another mile as we were unaware of the snow coverage ahead. As we got closer to Camp Lake the views became increasingly spectacular. They included the Southeast side of North Sister, the East Face of Middle Sister and the North side of Broken Top.

We setup camp on the northeast corner of Camp Lake under this amazing view of the northeast side of South Sister:

Around 6pm the excitement started. With no warning our camp was rapidly engulfed in clouds, which were soon followed by intense thunder, lightening, heavy rain and gusty winds. We took shelter in our tents. The thunderstorm continued for approximately two hours, with two periods of surges in intensity of the lightening and thunder. Andy calculated the closest the lightening reached was ~2-3 miles. This was close enough for it to be quite impressive, and a bit scary. The way the thunder boomed it would last for multiple seconds and seemed to be echoing off the Sisters -- words really can't convey the magnificence of this event. Intermittent rain continued thru the night. Estimating from my Brunton Sherpa, the temperature in camp reached about 40 degrees or a bit below that night.

The next morning we got out around 5 to a lull in the rain. There were breaks of blue sky to our west, but ominous clouds were to our east and appeared to be moving towards us. With the threat of more weather the SE ridge was out, but we wanted to get one short run in above our camp. We skinned up slopes northwest of Camp Lake to near the base of the main SE ridge snowfield. We descending around 6:30am, the snow was well consolidated and very pleasant to ski -- it was large-grain, intuitive summer corn. Andy skiing; Ann skiing. Faint suncups were beginning to develop on these lower slopes.

Back at camp we packed quickly and right as we started to skin out the rain started again and continued for about an hour.  At the Squaw Creek crossing we got an interesting gauge of the volume of water which had fallen. The depth of the creek had increased such that the majority of the logs we had used to cross on the previous afternoon were now underwater, see: Andy Crossing Squaw Cr on the way in, the logs on the way out.

On the way back to Pole Creek and then at the TH, all parties we encountered (3 or 4) talked to us about the intensity of the thunderstorms. One solo climber camped in the open on the Hayden glacier (a scary spot to be) reported being able to get a radio station in Bend which stated the Bend area had received significant hail and that several underpasses were temporarily closed due to flooding.

We reached the car around 11:30, headed to the town of Sisters for Pizza then headed back to Portland. Although this trip involved little skiing and a large amount of hiking with heavy packs (roundtrip 13 miles), we all seemed to agree that the sublime views, magnificence of weather and the experience of a new area more then made up for the lack of skiing. As a contrast to Adams we saw only a few other parties the entire weekend, and only one skiing party. Next time we will hopefully spend several more days at Camp Lake--there is so much to ski here, it is the skier equivalence of being a kid in a candy shop.


A large TOPO map with our GPS track superimposed of the hike in/out can be seen here.
« Last Edit: 05/30/05, 02:07 PM by Gaper_Jeffey » Logged


Posts: 52

Re: May 28-29, 2005, Middle Sister, Camp Lake
« Reply #1 on: 05/30/05, 05:01 PM »

Thanks for the report Jeff,
What a thunderstorm!!!!!!! I have never seen like that.
I came very fast without any warning.

Posts: 2450

Re: May 28-29, 2005, Middle Sister, Camp Lake
« Reply #2 on: 05/31/05, 10:52 AM »

Jeff, You're right the area is ideal for days of touring in the right conditions.  A few years ago a group of us did the Three Sisters traverse with a group starting at each end and doing a key exchange at Green Lake.  

Jill and I are heading north and hope to ski in the Sisters area if the upcomig weather system improves.

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