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rocky_joe

[TR] Three Sisters Wilderness - ThreeSistersMarathon 9/5/2008

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Trip: Three Sisters Wilderness - ThreeSistersMarathon

 

Date: 9/5/2008

 

Trip Report:

After a year plus of talking about it and some rough planning based on other TR's Maineiac (Tom), Jon and I were finally getting our butts in gear for a long day of summits, struggles, route finding and eventually a bivy SW of the ridge down S Sister.

We departed from Pole Creek TH at 4:15am, long before the llama and horse people would even dream of waking. The Lexus parked next to us would ask our driver why we left so early and upon hearing the response would only remark that we were crazy (as if we didn't already know). After a brief detour we had made the ridge and we on our way to our first peak (of three). After running into two other marathoners who had a two hour headstart on us we traversed the terrible. It is the worst part of the whole trip (save for the north ridge of S Sis). Very exposed careful traversing on the Cascade dinner plates that I'm sure we all know to well. After that the very over rated "Bowling Alley" after hearing and reading reports of the bad rock in the alley we were far to scared as it turned out to be a fun, yet exposed class 4 scramble before reaching the summit pinnacle at 11:15 (7 hours). The view was great.

Fro there we made our way back down and across the terrible traverse to the south ridge of which we made quick work down the scree ridden trail. We crossed the glacier and after a short "call of nature" break were on our way up Middle Sis. however Tom was feeling quite ill, we think a bad combo of altitude little food, and a complete abandonment of water for his beloved CYTOMAX (never will i ever touch the stuff) We made Middle Sis summit at 3:00 (the last member up took splits). After an extended rest break it appeared Tom was feeling better and we made our way down towards what would become the worst route I have ever climbed. After finding that there was not other suitable way to summit south from middle we accepted that we had to make our way up that lava sh*t.

Through pulling of bread box size rocks and making class 4 moves on rock we had no idea would actually hold we foud one piece of beauty; sunset and making it through that section before having to turn on the headlamps (thank god). At 8:45 we made summit of South Sister. 16.5 hours from the car. We took a good long break to get some food, water, and even a call home to let mom know I wasn't smashed at the bottom of some gulley. We changed socks and were on our way down...or so we thought. After going to far to climbers right along the crater we missed the ridge down. 3 hours of headwalls, glaciers and endless scree had defeated us and we resigned ourselves to a super exposed bivy (only a few hundred feet away from where we were supposed to be!!!! argh). At first light we made quick time up to the ridge and then down the trail...two hours on the nose to the car (which would have made 19.5 hiking time). However that was interrupted by 3 hrs of wandering and a miserable 6 hour bivy. so instead we were left with a 28 hr car to car time. It was definitely a fun experience (in retrospect) I would advise anyone who is planning it to be very set on your routes, and drink lots of water...which sounds like a duh but thats what got us.

 

Gear Notes:

Helmets

Cascade Ale

Big Balls

Useless GPS

 

Approach Notes:

Dark fun trail via Pole Creek

Edited by rocky_joe

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Good job Joe! I'm curious, in retrospect, are you confident that you were on the right ridge on SS? Coming down Middle, did you have a good view of the route? I'm just surprised it was as difficult as you thought it was.

 

I'm also wondering if you would have started earlier from Pole Creek so that it was just getting light when you hit the Bowling Alley.

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Keep in mind that the North Sister cruxes are at their easiest this time of year. I would much rather climb the North in Sept. than May or June if I am going for speed. When filled with ice early on, the Bowling Alley is another story. the flip side being the early attempt, when the S.S. North Ridge is covered with snow, one would eliminate the climb up South on scree. I would think the fasest and easiest Traverse would be in the Fall when crampons and ice axe could be left behind.

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We were on the correct ridge of S. Sister. We popped up no more than 20 yards away from the true summit, when we crested the summit cone. The thing that made that ridge hard was that the sun had set by the time we were halfway up it. As for the starting time, maybe an hour or so earlier... but also one group member had never climbed any of the Sisters, and the other two group members had only done South. Here is a link to photos, since I can never figure out how to actually put them in a TR on this site.

http://www.new.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2184111&l=ee76b&id=11519689

 

 

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Re getting a good look at the north ridge of South Sister: We found it hard to see any detail while approaching because it was back lit and lots of glare. There was no missing the ridge but we had no clue how we'd get through the headwall. As it turned out, there was no problem; when we got to the red band, we just went right, then up and right on scree (what else)without any exposed climbing. I think those that are finding South Sister cruxy are taking on the headwall too directly.

 

Concur that North Sister is not bad, even kind of enjoyable in current conditions. Though we must have been off route for parts of the SE ridge (even with full daylight; navigating by headlight must be slow work) because we encountered the most exposed scary climbing of the day along there.

 

Re the traverse as a whole: Ten years ago I hiked South Sister and vowed never "blech, never again". Well, the marathon is ten times sloggier and more scree infested. Yet with an element of challenge and adventure, it was strangely entertaining. Funny how the mind works.

 

Mini TR: Sunday 9/14 pleasant temps, no wind. Left Pole Creek 6:50, summit N 9:45, summit M 11:15, summit S 2:00, arrived Devils Lake 3:30.

 

next time: scree gaiters, more pizza

 

 

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yeah, thats why we picked the weekend we did...so we could go as fast as possible.

 

and couloir there was a group ahead of us who had left two hours earlier, they definitely had the right idea. and as for going up south we just took the most direct line...I couldn't see any other way up the mountain without going way out of the way east or west.

 

wimsy,

those times are pretty ridiculously amazing, how fast were you running?

 

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