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Author Topic: May 24-26, Three Sisters range  (Read 7445 times)
Charlie Hagedorn
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May 24-26, Three Sisters range
« on: 05/27/14, 10:24 AM »

What a joyful range! The Three Sisters are happily in the middle of everything. They're real mountains, but small enough that it's possible to approach a West Ridge from the northeast in a day and ascend from camp to summit in three hours at a moderate pace. The Three Sisters have much in common with volcanoes to the North, just bite-size; it's  easy to compare the north face of South Sister with those of Adams and Baker, and the south/west sides of both Middle and South with Adams, Rainier, and Helens.

With a cool, wet, and grey forecast for Washington, we noted with each forecast model run that Oregon was staying dry, at least through Sunday night. Susan had been to South Sister many years ago, and wanted to go back. We weren't sure about North for this trip, but the other two looked easily attainable.

We hiked in through the recent burn to Camp Lake, encountering continuous snow about a mile above the final trail junction. As we skinned to the lake, we noted a fun-looking line on the Prouty Glacier of South Sister. Minutes later, two tiny dots left great turns down the glacier before traversing toward us. Camp established a little after noon, we headed toward the South/Middle divide, aiming for the NW or W ridge of S. Sister.

We met the happy Coloradoan/Bendian Prouty skiers on the way, then rambled west until we gained the West Ridge. The ridge climbing was moderate and pretty; clouds and a breeze arrived as we climbed. The summit was beautiful and the cloud dissipated, but the sustained breeze of ~40 mph made it a short stay. On the West Ridge, the skiing was as good as I'll do this year; super fun.

Middle Sister the following morning was straightforward from Camp Lake. Speedy Susan cruised right up, and I moseyed as fast as one can mosey. Another breezy summit, this time with a nascent lenticular, had us scurrying downhill once again. The SE,S,SW,W,and WNW faces of Middle are variations on a theme dubbed "SW Chutes of Adams". We picked S, and the snow was uniform, smooth, and fast.

At the base of the run, we lunched and noted that we had eight and a half hours of daylight and expected good weather ahead of us, and we were sitting on a volcano. Given that we'd rather explore than lap slopes, and given the wind up high, we decided to wrap around Middle clockwise to the top of the Hayden Glacier and see what we could see. Shallow slopes at ~7800' made for easy going.

As we reached the Renfew Glacier, a puffy cumulus layer at 12k had lowered into stratus at eye-level. By the time we reached the col with the Hayden, visibility was down to ~20'. The focused winds at the col were memorable; sustained and just shy of knockdown. We transitioned and made plans for a glacial descent until we could get below the cloud ceiling. The appearance of boot and ski tracks from earlier in the day simplified things. Once out of the clouds, we skied increasingly sticky snow down the Hayden, then skinned and skied to camp.

A word about the forest. I rarely advocate for GPS use as a primary tool, though Susan and I use it to speed us on many trips. On this "deproach", we relied on it. With peaks obscured by clouds, an intuitive/map/compass navigator would have had an expert challenge rejoining the approach trail. Missing the trail would yield a mid-grade schwack down to the trail that parallels the range. At that elevation, the (good!) trail is within an impressive burn, and may be hard to see. After that, it's a long way to the nearest road.

The Three Sisters are a really fun range. Whenever we have occasion to return, I'm already looking forward to it.


* ProutyTracks.jpg (166.1 KB, 800x600 - viewed 1315 times.)

* SusanSkisSouthSisterWestRidge.jpg (163.47 KB, 800x416 - viewed 1229 times.)

* SusanWestOfMiddle.jpg (170.22 KB, 800x347 - viewed 1266 times.)
« Last Edit: 05/27/14, 11:17 AM by Charlie Hagedorn » Logged

Charlie Hagedorn
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Re: May 24-26, Three Sisters range
« Reply #1 on: 05/27/14, 10:26 AM »

And, since I'm playing with a new GPS, here's a track, generated with Hillmap.com .    And, one more photo...


* SistersTripTrack.jpg (186.13 KB, 702x783 - viewed 1294 times.)

* SusanWestRidgeAfternoon2.jpg (179.64 KB, 800x600 - viewed 1261 times.)
« Last Edit: 05/27/14, 12:04 PM by Charlie Hagedorn » Logged

Mtnmanb
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Re: May 24-26, Three Sisters range
« Reply #2 on: 05/27/14, 11:38 AM »

Way to get after it you two, looks like a fun trip!  Lots of light means lots of turns!

B)
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danpeck
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Re: May 24-26, Three Sisters range
« Reply #3 on: 05/27/14, 09:07 PM »

Most Excellent.  I love the sisters.  Thanks for your map too.  Very useful.
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rlsg
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Re: May 24-26, Three Sisters range
« Reply #4 on: 05/28/14, 07:16 PM »

Back before GPS ("back in the day") we got "off route" --so many tracks going every which way in the snow--and so bivied in construction grade rain gear--before gortex-- (a can of lighter fluid was a wonderful thing that I had brought along "just in case") for the night since we couldn't figure out triagulation/declination etc before the sun set.  All ended well as we were able to get our game together in the morning using Black Crater Butte and N. Sister to triangulate off (hit the correct trail in 15 min..).

Flat treed country:  one can sure get screwed up.

BTW, how was the last 1000' feet to the summits?  We have been thinking it was too cold/firm for corn...Looks like you hit it perfect.

Thanks for the great report and cool pics!
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Charlie Hagedorn
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Re: May 24-26, Three Sisters range
« Reply #5 on: 05/29/14, 07:10 AM »

The last thousand feet was more-firm, but still soft-enough to be fun. Anything fully exposed to the wind was more firnspiegely, but temperatures were warm enough to keep it soft. Once we were onto sunny slopes out of the wind, it was great!
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jtack
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Re: May 24-26, Three Sisters range
« Reply #6 on: 05/29/14, 12:30 PM »

Thanks for the report, I have had my sights on Middle Sisters for a few years, and for one reason or another can't quite seem to get it done.  Good to know the trail head is accessible now, great pic as well.
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Charlie Hagedorn
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Re: May 24-26, Three Sisters range
« Reply #7 on: 05/29/14, 01:44 PM »

We were surprised with how accessible the Pole Creek trailhead is; it's barren and dry. The snowline was approximately where our plotted tracks diverge on the approach/exit. The impression we'd gotten from road/trail conditions reports and a call to a ranger station had us expecting a lot more low-elevation snow.

Bring shoes for the fun walk through the Pole Creek Burn.

@rslg - I think if we'd had to get out without the assistance of general/special relativity, atomic clocks, semiconductor manufacturers, a bunch of engineers, NASA, and the Air Force, we might've traversed northward up high until we hit Soap Creek, which is fairly prominent, then followed it/schwacked down to the trail where it crosses the creek. It's farther, but that plan might have worked even with a low cloud deck and a complete lack of forest landmarks.
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rlsg
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Re: May 24-26, Three Sisters range
« Reply #8 on: 05/29/14, 03:40 PM »

We were surprised with how accessible the Pole Creek trailhead is; it's barren and dry. The snowline was approximately where our plotted tracks diverge on the approach/exit. The impression we'd gotten from road/trail conditions reports and a call to a ranger station had us expecting a lot more low-elevation snow.

Bring shoes for the fun walk through the Pole Creek Burn.

@rslg - I think if we'd had to get out without the assistance of general/special relativity, atomic clocks, semiconductor manufacturers, a bunch of engineers, NASA, and the Air Force, we might've traversed northward up high until we hit Soap Creek, which is fairly prominent, then followed it/schwacked down to the trail where it crosses the creek. It's farther, but that plan might have worked even with a low cloud deck and a complete lack of forest landmarks.

Copy that on soap creek...we may have been lower down toward pole creek at that point (foggy memory)

BTW--how would the ascents been  without 'poons and axe or minus one or the other with the firmish surface for the last 1k'?

Again thanks, it is a lovely group of peaks for sure!
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Charlie Hagedorn
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Re: May 24-26, Three Sisters range
« Reply #9 on: 05/29/14, 04:06 PM »

Another party skinned with ski crampons to the summit of Middle that day, which must have taken some finesse on the ridgeline. As for whether axes/crampons were required: like usual, it was up to the softness of the snow. The difficulty by the summit routes we took was comparable to a slightly-steeper variation the south side of Adams (and slightly glaciated in the case of the WR of S. Sister); just as on that route sometimes you can skin all the way, and sometimes you can't, I imagine that the Sisters are similar.

Aluminum crampons and ski crampons are so light, and so effective at getting you out of unexpected situations, that it's easy to bring them along, in my opinion. Whether they're required or not is fully up to the weather.
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rlsg
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Re: May 24-26, Three Sisters range
« Reply #10 on: 05/29/14, 04:36 PM »

Perfect!!!
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