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[TR] South Sister - North Face - 05/22/2018

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Trip: South Sister - North Face

Trip Date: 05/22/2018

Trip Report

Edit: See post below by Drocka on a June 2011 ascent which I believe should be credited as the FA.

Sometime ago I noticed a blank spot on the map on the north face of South Sister. If one looks at Oregon High on page 109, there are two routes on the face, the Silver Couloir (22) and North Face Couloir (23). Further to the west is the Northwest Ridge (24). The blank spot is between the North Face Couloir and the Northwest Ridge. As such, on Monday I decided to ski over for a look about. 

I started up via Green Lakes and the Prouty Glacier, traversing at around 8200-8400 foot level of the glacier til the North Ridge. Unfortunately, it did not have as much snow as I hoped so I carried my skis for the last bit til I reached the Skinner Glacier which sits below the face. The lack of snow was an issue because I had planned to ditch my skis and bivy gear, descend the north ridge, and ski back out. As such the option was now to carry everything up and over. Which in hindsight worked out but at the time I did know if such idea was going to be amicable given the route was a blank spot.
In the morning after a crack of dawn start, I skied up to the base of the face, swapped out skis and poles for crampons and ice axes and started up. Initially it was nevé and canning, then plunging picks, to eventually swinging tools. Overall the slope was 45-50 degrees with a short 10 foot ice step just below the gap. The gap is the critical bit and cannot be seen on some photos. After the gap, I traversed up and left until it was possible to gain the Northwest Ridge which I followed for the last 300 feet or so to the summit rim. Had there been more snow one could probably continue up and left even more. But given I was climbing solo (in tele boots) and carrying skis I did not want to have to deal with crappy rock or rotten rim ice.
After reaching the summit, I hung out for a bit before going down the south side. I descend til I was on the Lewis Glacier where the snow soft enough to be enjoyable skiing. I skied out until about the last mile. Where a couple picked me up and shuttled me back to the Green Lakes Trailhead.
One photo of the routes and one from my bivy - sorry there are not more.  I have marked all three routes on the face. From left to right Silver Couloir, North Face Couloir, and what I did. As you can see for May there is not a lot of snow..

Gear Notes:
Crampons, two tools, screws and pickets if climbing roped

Approach Notes:
Via Green Lakes and Prouty Glacier



Edited by ScaredSilly
  • Rawk on! 3

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So this isn't in the guidebook because it is poorly known, or you think this is a FA?  Either way, well done! 

And thanks for posting, it's nice to see everyone using the site again for TRs!

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Edit, though I contacted Jeff Thomas, Derick (drocka), et al. should get credit for the route FA. He is going to update this thread with photos and description of his trip.

Edited by ScaredSilly

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When you get confirmation, we can put a FA tag on this for posterity!

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Right on! Looked like a good day out! Sent you a message.

Edit: I will write up a TR! The Three Sisters Wilderness offers great adventures! It is awesome to see others exploring this area!

Date of our climb was June 26, 2011. 

We simply referred to the route descriptively as North Face of Northwest Ridge (NFNWR).

Oregon High - A Climbing Guide by Jeff Thomas is a great resource for climbing in this area.

-and yes, page 109 has the best detail for the north side routes.

This pic is looking over towards South Sister from camp.


Edited by drocka

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