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[TR] Middle Sister - East Face 06/05/2020


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Trip: Middle Sister - East Face

Trip Date: 06/05/2020

Trip Report:

Images: https://imgur.com/a/2r8kVaa

Anyone else do this route, #14 from Jeff Thomas's Oregon High, or #15a East Arete? Seems there are no modern TRs.

9:15 PM start

10:15 PM Camp and Green Lakes trails intersection

Midnight above normal camping area just out of the woods

2 AM Above final moraine

4:30 AM Above the East Face on SE Ridge

5 AM Summit

A couple of weeks ago I got a good image of the East side of Middle Sister and the #14 East Face, green line, and #15a East Arete, blue line, routes looked good, https://i.imgur.com/7lj8kNl.png. Figured it was best to have a go before the next storm cycle this weekend. This, https://i.imgur.com/toFrlVF.jpg, gives the best (though still crummy) shot of the actual route, see the center left snow ramp.

This was the first time for me on the Diller Glacier. It sure is nice to have such an easy approach, no steep moraines to navigate. Unfortunately, the moon was obscured in the little bowl that is the East Face and all the pictures I took didn’t turn out. Oh well, I’ll try to describe things.

After getting up the lower ramp, I looked for a way to get past the bergschrund. In the darkness I thought I saw a way to get up on the far left but that was a no go. Traversed to the center and there was a super crappy ramp that had next to no support in the middle – nope. Tried to traverse a bit more to the right and found gaping holes in the snow and the rock under my feet like there were multiple bergschrunds. I think the snow and rock was debris from the bergschrund and or crap from previous avy events. I down climbed a bit to keep out of danger and then finally went all the way to the right and found a decent ramp right next to the cliff. I hadn’t seen or heard any rockfall from the cliffs but still, not the greatest place to be.

Stayed close to the cliff, and I think there was another bergschrund but it was to the left of the cliff. Got in a moat-ish depression and followed it up probably less than 50 feet until it ended in crap snow and 3-foot hole next the cliff. Traversed left and got into a multiple foot wide runnel. Another 50-ish feet up, this ended too. With more leftward traversing, finally got somewhere near the middle of the face and away from the cliff – big relief.

The snow up to that point was fairly firm and even required swinging the tools to get penetration. This didn’t last too long and soon I was just pushing the tools in. The crampons previously weren’t penetrating too deep but now, if I kicked a bit, the 1 – 1.5-inch crust broke. There was probably 3 – 4 inches of not complete fluff underneath but definitely not well consolidated either, bleck. The crust never sounded hollow but breaking through it seemed to cause some sort of vibration, or at least, it didn’t sound great to me. I climbed as gingerly as I could to stay on the crust and not cause a slide.

The rest of the climb was fairly easy. The slope was probably 30 – 40 degrees. There were some open holes in the snow further up but they were easy to navigate around. I angled to the left a bit and got up to the SE Ridge, happy to be out of harm’s way.

Had the summit to myself and watched the sunrise from further down the standard route. The wind was non-existent except on the very edge of the SE Ridge and the summit, maybe up to 25 MPH. Ran in to the climber that camped the previous night and chatted a bit on the ridge above the Hayden Glacier.

This route might be fun when in condition but that probably won’t happen until next season.

Gear Notes:
Helmet, crampons, axe (didn't use), 2 tools

Approach Notes:
Normal Middle / North Sister approach except stay to climbers left coming up the final moraines and then veer left to get to the route - see attached GPX.
  • Rawk on! 1
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