Middle Sister

July 2-3, 1988

As with most trips into the mountains, weather was the big question mark. It didn’t look good, but wasn’t “life threatening” so we decided to have a go at it. We hiked in from Frog Camp under cloudy skies and intermittent drizzle. After setting up camp on snow at Sunshine Meadow we headed for a nearby snow slope. Here we went over basic snow travel, practiced self-arrest, and learned how to use prussiks on a fixed line. After getting thoroughly soaked we returned to camp for dinner. Around sunset, it decided to rain in earnest and the plan was to hike out next morning and find a nice dry place for Sunday brunch.

As fate would have it, I awoke at 5:30 a.m. and felt an urgent call from nature. I reached for the tent zipper and found it was frozen. Oh boy, I thought. I’m sure glad we’re not climbing today. Finally extricating myself from the icy tent I went outside to find a cloudless sky and a beautiful reddish glow on the horizon. I thought to myself, maybe I can sneak back into the tent and no one will be the wiser. Suddenly a voice broke the silence, “What’s the weather look like out there.” Oh no, I thought to myself, caught in the act of being a wimp. “It’s clear and beautiful, but very cold,” I reluctantly replied. So began day two. Collectively it took us two more hours to get thawed out and find enough dry clothes to head up the mountain. There were beautiful altocumulus clouds overhead as we departed and one climber, remembering Rich’s weather lecture commented, “Doesn’t that mean thunderstorms in six hours?” As we progressed up the mountain, so did the clouds. When we hit the snowfield on the NW side we were glad to find a rope already fixed, but concerned that the previously visible mountains to the north had slowly disappeared. We finally arrived at the summit about 1:30 p.m. and were just settling in to enjoy our labors when there vas a curious crackling and popping sound. Then we began to notice a prickly sensation on our heads, as if our hair was on fire. Ice axes began to hum ominously and we all hit the ground uncertain as to what was happening. Not wanting to stick around and find out, I concluded that being off the summit seemed like a good idea at this point. So I lead a hasty retreat past a climber from another group whose hair was standing straight out from the static electricity. Everyone did extremely well descending very steep scree as gusts of 30 mph blasted us with graupel (soft hail). When we finally reached the safety of a lower snowfield, the clouds began to disperse and by the time we reached our camp the sun was shining brightly. 0h well, just another day in the mountains — for Jan and Rich Anselmo, Dan Brenner, Carol Horvath, John Hudson, Mary Lipp, Ruby Seitz and Rick Ahrens (leader).

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