North Sister

September 27, 1992

Pop! … Bang! … Snap! In my whole climbing experience, I don’t think I’ve ever been so scared as I was early in the morning of Sept. 27 on of all places Collier Glacier. Compared to the huge, steep, broken up glaciers on many of the mountains in Washington I have climbed, Collier is tame and seemingly un-intimidating. However, frozen over recently accumulated snow had something to do with loud snapping noises that seemed to reverberate in every direction about every 30 seconds. This occurred as our party walked alongside and around crevasses that were plentiful on the route across Collier that morning. The crevasses were of concern enough without the additional terror of unexplainable sharp noises that now in my memory haunt me as explosions. My face gets hot just thinking about it.

The trip began the night before with the wonderful experience of hitting snow on the way in from the trailhead after a long, dry summer. In fact, we began walking in snow by the time we reached White Branch Creek and Obsidian Cliffs. Sunshine was a winter wonderland with over six inches of snow and we made our camp on the snow covered plateau above Scott Springs.

At 3 a.m. the next morning we left camp and traveled upward for several hours until we experienced the glacier crossing described above shortly after daybreak. The heartache of this climb came during the threading of the gendarmes in the Camels Hump area where fresh and deep snow hid the tell-tale tracks and trails normally obvious on late summer climbs. After spending a painfully long period of time in this area, we arrived at the first of two large couloirs that make up the Dinner Plate. Here, while pulling slings out of his pack, the leader dropped his camera — his constant companion of seven years — watched it roll away out of his reach and drop into the couloir where it would fall 2,000 feet to its death on Collier Glacier far below! By now, sun was hitting the west side of the South Horn of the summit and rocks the size of basket balls were flying down the couloir every few seconds. Although the leader managed to cut steps and secure anchors half-way across the Dinner Plate, the climb was aborted due to the rock fall and the fact that time was running out.

Although the climb was not successful in reaching the summit, everyone enjoyed the challenges encountered, some good back country fellowship, and the new snow. We were all appreciative of Ed Lovegren’s mountaineering wisdom, great conversation, and his interesting stove (that looked like a small lemonade can!). Climbers were: Jamie Kiley, Tom McQuirk, Bill Reisnig, Will Kimball, Ed Lovegren, Larry & Judy Smith and Ken Ball (leader).


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