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[TR] North/Middle/South Sisters - 3 Sisters Marathon 8/17/2012


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Trip: North/Middle/South Sisters - 3 Sisters Marathon


Date: 8/17/2012


Trip Report:

Looks like there hasn't been a Sisters Marathon TR in a while, so here goes.....

Drove up to Pole Creek Trailhead and were hiking by 4:20am.....

North Sister went fairly smooth, minus some shenanigans on the traverse (had to chop steps in the snice to get across. Hiked up to the saddle and headed up the scree to the South Ridge?, which meets up with the SE. The Bowling Alley went smooth as well, and nothing fell on us.....holds only as solid as they need to be, and only where they need to be. Topped out on N Sis at 9:20am in 5 hours.

The descent on N Sis was uneventful, and we dropped down to the saddle and went up Middle Sister. Not much to describe here, just went right around Prouty Point and headed up, topping out at 11:50am in 7.5 hours total.

Descended the South Ridge/scree fields and headed for the NW Ridge of South Sister. Plenty of spots to refill water and hang out in the nice alpine lakes and meadows in between Middle and South. Mercifully ended the scree slog up the NW Ridge and reached the summit at 4:15pm, about 12 hours after we started.

Descended the South Side route and were at Devils Lake and the car at 6:15pm.

Not sure about the mileage (16-18 miles?), but 10k vert gained in a touch under 14 hours.


Sunrise on the Middle Sister


Traverse Shenanigans


Bowling Alley


Descending North Sister Summit


Middle Sister Summit view of South Sister


After the snow fields, the brutal scree of the upper NW Ridge


3 down! Now on to Devils Lake...


Hiking out



Gear Notes:

Have taken a rope in the past but chose not to this time. Ice axe would have been nice for chopping steps in the traverse, but we did it with a whippet (not ideal).....no crampons this time either.....only could have used them on the traverse, but we made do without. Iodine tablets for refilling water in lakes/streams. Helmets for sure!


Approach Notes:

Went North to South and started from Pole Creek TH.....snow free the whole way up to the Hayden Glacier.

Edited by dirtysouth
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Nice photos and congrats on a classic 3-some!

(The south sister summit shot of the tired and happy climbers is esp nice.)


A question: About how long was the snow pitch on the N sister so-called "terrible" traverse? I am heading up there with a team of 7 folks Sept 8-9 and am hoping it's about gone by then. Last year about this time the snow could be skirted via a moat on the top side of the snow patch, but it looks like you guys just went for the direct whippet assisted crossing.




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Hey John - the traverse was only about 15-20 ft across. Last year on Sept 5, I was able to skirt that traverse also by sticking in the moat at the base of the rock, but it wasn't there this time....I was really hoping for that.....maybe in a couple more weeks of high temps/warming rock? It cost us about an hour because there was no moat. So we down climbed a bit and chopped steps at what looked to be the safest/shortest snow patch across.

Another traverse pic


And looking at the traverse where I hoped the moat would be


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Looks like the NW side of South, not the North Ridge?


After the snow fields, the brutal scree of the upper North Ridge



Should be lots of people on the marathon this year, with the route melted out for the first time since 2009! I'll be out there in a few weeks, heading South to North.

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Yeah you're right......We climbed the NW ridge on South. I've done the same thing before....traverse down and right (southwest) from Middle to link up with the NW ridge. Has anybody climbed both the NW ridge and the N ridge on South Sister (during a 3 Sis Marathon) that has a preference? Seems like the North ridge would be more direct/quicker?

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Ok so I just attempted the marathon with an overnight stay (due to late start out of PDX) on Middle. I am seeking a few details about North from you.


So, I headed up the SE ridge of North and saw where it met up with the S ridge. I then headed as best I could to the summit but got hung up exactly where you made the terrible traverse. I could not see a non-sketchy way to the top and I was alone (didn't want to take any chances). Am I correct in saying that from the S ridge, you take that traverse to the north side of the summit and come from the backside up to the top of the summit?



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Hey Greg,

Indeed the South ridge and SE ridge join up. There are cairns marking where to go after they join. Continue across the traverse you mentioned (sometimes you can go up 30 ft and hop into a moat that forms here to avoid exposure or needing crampons and axes). However, I just spoke to someone who did that traverse yesterday and there was no snow anywhere on the traverse at all. After this, wrap around up and to the right into the Bowling Alley. There is a short (4 ft) step surrounded by choss to enter the Bowling Alley and on top of that step, you should be able to look up and right and see old slings/tat that mark the spot to belay from or rap off of at the top of the gully. It's usually safest to start at the bottom left side of the Bowling Alley and stay left, until traversing up and right (towards the old slings) near the top. From there, it's fairly intuitive to reach the summit. Scramble up and go left towards the higher summit. Doing this will require a short ridge walk, then some 4th class moves onto the summit proper. Hopefully this helps and my explanation isn't too confusing :)

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I've done both nw and north ridges during the traverse. Thought the nw was awful scree, and the north was loose and 4th/5th class...although I've been told that there is a way up the north ridge that is not harder than 3rd. I'm (for reasons beyond my grasp) going to do it again on Wednesday and considering taking another shot at the north as it is the route taken for the speed records.

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