Jump to content

North Sister - NE Arete


Recommended Posts

North Sister - NE Arete

Just wanted to share with you all a wonderful climb that most Washington climbers might not be familiar with, since its so far South - the NE Arete on North Sister in the Three Sisters Wilderness in Oregon! North Sister is an aesthetic peak with varied terrain and easy access, even in winter. In 1994 I was climbing and living in Oregon, working as a research assistent for the Oregon Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, and had lots of time to climb in the Oregon Cascades and at Smith.

I chose this route because a month prior, in May, I had attempted the Early Morning Couloir, and had been stormed off. My partner climber the NE Arete 2 weeks later, sans moi, and, not to be outdone, I wanted to go finished my unfinished business.

I decided to do something new and different for me, a moonlight solo! I picked a weekend with full moon in June and set out from Pole Creek so I would arrive at the base of the E Face before dark, the Villard Glacier approach. Indeed, I arrived at about 7:30 pm, and decided that in order for it to be considered a real night climb, I would have to wait until after dark to proceed. So I sacked out and watched the sun go down over Oregon. The air was still, the night clear. At 8:30 I set out.

The freedom that I experienced while climbing up the steepening snow to the NE Shoulder in the next several hours will long stand in my mind as definitive and superlative. The sunset and moonrise, the vast views North to Mt Adams and South to past Thielsen, the Cascade crest silent and peaceful, the movement of crampons and tools over snow elevated me to something more. I had set out to prove myself better than my partner with this climb, and instead I discovered the simplicity and harmony of the alpine night solo. The majesty and beauty of the Oregon Cascades below my feet, North Sister became the teacher.

I reached the shoulder of the summit ridge far too soon. It wasnt even midnight! This was not according to plan, I had expected to reach this point much later, as my proposed summit time was sunrise, about 5am. The summit was now only an hour away, and my partner had sternly warned that I not attempt to solo the summit pinnacle in the dark. So I tried to bivy.

I had a bivy sack and some clothing, but no sleeping bag, no down sweater. I put on everything I had, climbed into the bivy bag with a 3/4 length pad at 10,000 feet on North Sister, and was comfortable for about 20 minutes. Then I started shivering and freezing. After an hour of fitful sleep and uncontrolled shivering, I at last broke open the emergency space blanket and wrapped myself in it. I did not get any colder, but by 2am I had had enough.

I got out of the bivy, packed my rucksack, and headed over to the summit cone along the summit ridge. Here at the col where Early Morning Couloir tops out is a steep fourth class step about 30 feet high, with one fixed pin. I hesitantly tried out the steep neve, scratched up the steep section with my tools and crampons on, moved out on frontpoint holds above dizzying exposure, and commited to the last few moves. I summitted at around 4 am.

The descent saw me hurrying along the gendarmes of the SE Spur, trying to get down before the snow softened up too much. I made it down to treeline by around 7am, the last 12 hours comprising still one of the most wonderful climbs I've ever done!


Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...
  • Replies 6
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

Top Posters In This Topic

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...