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[TR] 3 Sisters Wilderness - 4 Sisters Traverse RT from Tumalo Falls w/ bike approach 06/26/2020


bedellympian
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Trip: 3 Sisters Wilderness - 4 Sisters Traverse RT from Tumalo Falls w/ bike approach

Trip Date: 06/26/2020

Trip Report:

Normally I wouldn't bother to share a linkup like this, but I think this loop is very aesthetic (both in the areas you move through, and the logical line it draws on a map) and thought others out there might find use in the description...

Ever since my first summer in Oregon when I went up several volcanoes I swore that I would never deal with the choss again unless it was coated in snow or ice (this trip fully confirmed that and now that I've done it I have no desire to repeat it, but some of you might be crazy/stupid enough to follow my footsteps). Because of this I had absolutely zero interest in the Sisters Traverse as a summer outing (skiing it in spring I was fine with and found enjoyable). Then, this past winter my friend Miles suggested I could do it as a human powered outing from my house in Bend. I believe he was envisioning something efficient like biking to Green Lakes or Pole Creek trailheads to shorten the distance on foot. However, I immediately thought of biking to Tumalo Falls and doing the traverse as a loop from there. This was for several reasons... 1. the road to Tumalo Falls draws a direct line toward the mountains from town (instead of going way out and around to other trailheads) 2. this road is less busy and more enjoyable to bike 3. the areas you would get to pass through on the approach/depproach are some of my favorite in the area (Farewell Bend trail, Tam Rim, Broken Top trail, Happy Valley and North Fork trail) which favorably skews the scenic hiking to scree slogging ratio 4. the bike and loop made for a logical line when drawn on a map and made it easy to do as a self-supported outing with no bike shuttling.

While I thought it was a cool idea, I had other plans this summer. Unfortunately the solstice came and went without a favorable weather window in the less-chossy ranges that I prefer. So, with no other big objectives on the horizon and clear skies locally I ended a 3 day streak of sitting on the couch watching weather models and Netflix to take advantage of the long daylight hours.

The nice thing about short trips from your home is the packing is minimal. I woke up, ate a big breakfast, packed and was out the door. 

Itinerary: bike to Tumalo Falls, hike Farewell Bend trail to FS road 370 N, W on Tam Rim Horse Trail to Tam Rim Trail and the far W end of Tam Rim, drop down cross-country and traverse high eventually picking up the Green Lakes Trail N, take a L on Camp Lake Trail and follow the climbers trail up to the Hayden Glacier and the saddle between North and Middle Sisters (I shiver bivied part way up the ridge above the saddle for a few hours), climb/descend North via the standard S Ridge to Bowling Alley, climb Middle via the N Ridge and descend the S Ridge to Chambers lakes, climb South via the NW Ridge (less steep than the N Ridge but lots of loose scree), and descend the standard climbers trail on the S side to just below the glacier, cut down to Green Lakes (careful not to get cliffed out here) and follow the trail around the S side of the main lake to the climbers trail for Broken Top, climb BT by the standard NW Ridge, scree ski down the W face and traverse L on flatter ground to pop over the SW ridge and connect to the Broken Top Trail, follow this E (lots of snow fields) over the ridge just S of Ball Butte (I cut cross country quite a bit here as everything was under snow), eventually connect with FS road 370 (S of where you had it the first time) headed N and then connect to the Metolius-Windigo Trail, this takes you to Happy Valley where it is only 4 miles of easy and slightly downhill trail to the bike at Tumalo Falls, from here I had a mere 14.5 mile net downhill ride back to my house, arriving home just before I needed to break out the headlamp.

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I could tell you all the little stories but they are a little hazy and seem rather irrelevant now. I'd love to see someone else do this loop fast. I bet there is someone out there who could destroy it, as supposed to be destroyed like I was. There is a fair amount of off-trail travel and the early summer timing after a wet spring meant there was still lots of snow and some fairly large river crossings, however I would rather have that than endless scree. 

Gear Notes:
road bike, small pack, sun protection, blister kit, trail running shoes with gaiters, spare socks to switch out when your shoes get soaked, light pons/axe, emergency reflective bivy bag and micropuff for the shivering, lots of water to be found early season, GPS w/ topo map were helpful in optimizing the cross-country travel

Approach Notes:
ride yo bi-cycle!
  • Rawk on! 3
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