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BrandonU

[TR] North Sister - Early Morning Couloir--Solo Attempt 7/14/2012

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Trip: North Sister - Early Morning Couloir--Solo Attempt

 

Date: 7/14/2012

 

Trip Report:

I love the Three Sisters area and it had been way too long since my last visit, so I decided a trip was in order :) . The east face of North Sister has always inspired me and is such a beautiful place, so on the 13th I packed up my gear and headed out to the Pole Creek TH with the intention of climbing the Early Morning couloir route the following morning. The hike in amongst the fragrant pines and along splashing Soap Creek was as wonderful as I had remembered.

 

All packed and ready to go:

Pack9.JPG

 

A friend I met beside Soap Creek:

Lizard.JPG

 

North Sister over Soap Creek:

N_S_Soap_Creek.JPG

 

I dropped my pack and hiked around the area for a while, taking in the awesome views and scouting out a good spot to set up camp. Eventually I found a great protected site on a ridge at about 7000 ft and got all set up.

 

Camp:

Camp11.JPG

 

Broken Top from camp:

B_T_from_camp.JPG

 

After filling up my water bottles and having some chili mac for dinner I settled in to relax and gaze at the mountain as the sun went down over the ridgeline.

 

North Sister at sunset:

N_S_Sunset.JPG

 

I wanted to get a nice early alpine start and be up climbing before sunrise, so I set my alarm for 3:15 am and went to sleep. I vaguely remember my alarm going off, then me shutting it off, then the next thing I know i'm waking up and its past 5 am. Damn! So much for the alpine start! :rolleyes: I scrambled to get dressed, eat some museli for breakfast, grab my gear, and I was headed off by 5:45. At least I woke up before it was fully too late I guess!

 

North Sister at sunrise:

P1150107.JPG

 

Broken Top at sunrise:

P1150111.JPG

 

Climbing towards the Early Morning Couloir:

P1150121.JPG

 

Looking North towards Mt Washington, 3FJ, Jeff, and Hood:

P1150128.JPG

 

Entering the Couloir:

P1150139.JPG

 

There was definitely lots of signs of rockfall, but luckily as I climbed nothing much came down, and what little did was funnelled into the large runnel that ran the length of the couloir. The snow wasn't that great, it reminded me of shaved ice for a snow cone. I came across several small cracks opening up, but they were all easy enough to go around or climb over.

 

P1150149.JPG

 

Midway up the couloir:

P1150155.JPG

 

Me having fun! :cool:

P1150141.JPG

 

Climbing...

P1150160.JPG

 

Nearing the summit headwall:

P1150171.JPG

 

Looking down from the top of the couloir:

P1150172.JPG

 

At this point a cluster of large boulders broke loose from above and came crashing down 10 ft to my left, scary! :o

 

From here, there was not an easy way up to the top I could tell. I was curious as to what I would see if I traversed to the south so I headed over there for a look-see.

 

Traversing South:

P1150187.JPG

 

I was greeted by amazing views of Middle Sister, South Sister, Broken Top, and Bachelor! But the options here for going up were even worse...

 

South and Middle Sister:

P1150188.JPG

 

South Sister, Broken Top, Bachelor:

P1150189.JPG

 

Looking North, you can see my tracks:

P1150196.JPG

 

I decided to traverse back to where I emerged from the couloir and attack the headwall directly. From below it looked doable, like 4th class or low 5th class. Once I got on it, it was much harder than I thought, made worse by the fact that all the rock was loose and unstable. Hand and footholds were easily broken off, and worse of all the tops of all the rocks were sloping and covered in a volcanic sand that made it very slippery.

 

Climbing up the headwall:

Climbing_up_headwall.JPG

 

Sand covered loose rock:

Looking_Down_Headwall.JPG

 

I wasn't comfortable soloing this, so I decided to bail. Plus I knew I didn't have enough gear to rappel all the way down if I did climb up it. So I climbed up to a rappel anchor I spotted from below, a single wired nut fixed in a crack, and set up a short rappel with my 20 m half rope.

 

1st_Rap.JPG

 

I still had a bit to go before I was back on the snow, so I slung a stable boulder with some cord and made a 2nd rappel back down to the snow.

 

P1150201.JPG

 

By now the snow was becoming much more slushy, which made the monotonous downclimb even worse. I was very glad and relieved to finally be off the mountain and out of the rockfall hazard! I was back at the tent by 1 pm and I dropped my gear and took a few hour nap. I awoke to thunderstorms coming in, so I figured I had better pack up and head back to the car.

 

Parting shot on the way out:

P1150202.JPG

 

A fun trip and a good experience!

 

 

 

 

 

Gear Notes:

Ice tools, crampons, helmet, 20 m half rope

 

Approach Notes:

Pole Creek TH to Soap Creek, approached in tennis shoes and packed climbing boots

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Smart young man you are. I bailed off that headwall too, and went off to the right to summit. It is a dangerous proposition going straight up.

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That makes three of us. I once bailed from that headwall too, but rather than right we then went left to find a way around the corner and then back right (traversing left) to reach the last little bit below the summit.

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Excellent TR Brandon! :brew:

 

Just curious, what is that thing in the 2nd photo down? I've never seen a "lizard" in that area that looked quite like that.

 

A little research and it looks like a cross between a Desert Horned Lizard (w/o the horns) and a Western Fence Lizard (but with a shorter tail). Odd creature, but cool nonetheless.

Edited by Couloir

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Thanks! You know I wasn't exactly sure what that lizard was either, I also thought it looked like a horned lizard but without the horns. Definitely cool though, and I saw 3 of them along the trail on the way up.

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Short horned lizards are the smaller, higher altitude version of the spikier desert horned lizard. Their smaller size allows them to heat up faster. The ranges for both species includes western deserts and semi deserts from BC to Mexico.

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Thank you for the photos. It's healthy to maintain a strict policy of not touching any rock on North Sister.

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im not trying to chestbeat, but ive actually soloed that headwall, at night. it wasnt so bad, the night time made the exposure less terrifying

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im not trying to chestbeat, but ive actually soloed that headwall, at night. it wasnt so bad, the night time made the exposure less terrifying

 

So, what was it like?

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im not trying to chestbeat, but ive actually soloed that headwall, at night. it wasnt so bad, the night time made the exposure less terrifying

 

So, what was it like?

 

It was 19 years ago. It was scary. It was dark. I think had it been daylight, I would have backed off. I've never gone back.

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We simulclimbed 4 on 1 rope with crazy Jim leading.It sucked and seemed like 5.7 in plastic boots.However we came down a better way descending first the NW ridge and then contouring around the north side of the mountain and down the snowfield near the NE arete.Only crazy Jim soloed the NE shoulder of the Prouty pinnacle and the rest of us were happy topping the Glisan.We are heading back up next week retracing our descent route as it was a safer alternative to the couloir or the S ridge. Might just summit the Glisan if the Prouty looks too freaky.

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It was definitely easier than the North. A group of 13 outward bound students and instructors let us climb through and there were 2 other groups also for a total of 20 moving on the route at the same time on a Wednesday. Things stayed safe and organized in spite the activity.We met a PCT through hiker that was a real character.2012-07-25_14_57_50.jpg

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