North Sister

July 31-August 1, 1993

If there were ever going to be a classic and text book climb of the North Sister, this trip would qualify. The four climbers left the Obsidian Trailhead on a sunny Saturday afternoon around 1:30 p.m. Once at Scott Spring, the party was on fairly fresh snow, and snow was to be the typical ground covering for the remainder of the climb. The party was camped and fed by 7:00 with plenty of time for some quality sleep.

The tents came to life between 1:30 and 2:00 a.m. and the climbers enjoyed their “breakfasts of sorts” in complete unaltered illuminance of a full moon. The group was heading eastward and upward by 2:30 accompanied by light winds from the west and a comfortable snow padding underfoot. Lamps were unnecessary as the moon was bright — even the stars were outshined. Our timing was perfect, and we were roped up treading the crevasses on Collier Glacier by the time the eastern sky was turning blue. The party was up the south ridge and weaving in and out of the gendarmes by 7:00. Rapid progress slowed once we reached the Dinner Plate snow field due to ice conditions in the Bowling Alley. And also, because of our party size, we didn’t have enough ropes or pro. However, the fun started here, regardless. Unseasonable summer storms had added snow to both couloirs under the south horn of Prouty Pinnacle. Therefore, crossing the Dinner Plate required five rope lengths. We had three ropes. The party members belayed each other half way across, then a fixed line was placed across the remainder of the Dinner Plate followed by a fixed line all the way up the Bowling Alley using ice screws. Once the leader was belayed up the steep pitch at the south-east head of Bowling Alley, the remainder of the party either prusiked or were belayed to the large rock rappelling anchor on top. Deep, sloppy snow over the ice required belaying on to the crest above the Bowling Alley between the north and south horns of Prouty Pinnacle. The short, unaided climb to the summit was free of snow/ice, and was marvelous.

We enjoyed lunch on the summit, the reward experienced by the minority of North Sister climbers. It was 12 noon. Again, the descent was a little on the tough side due to our limited resources. We enjoyed a rappel down the Bowling Alley but encountered a slow, difficult journey back across the expanded Dinner Plate because the snow was sloppy and we were shuttling ropes again. But this time, with virtually no anchors as the wet snow was too soft in which to place pro. Rocks were used when available. Yes, it was now sunny and warm. We were off the Dinner Plate at 3:00 p.m. We had been on the technical part of the climb for eight hours! Although we communicated with two other parties and a couple of soloists during the day, it was sort of satisfying to know that ours was the only successful summit bid that day, due to the fact that the individual members of the party worked so well together with difficult snow/ice conditions and limited equipment.

After an almost uncanny rapid trip down to camp at Arrowhead Lake, we enjoyed an extended dinner and tent-drying break. The party departed camp at 7:00 p.m. and reached the trailhead just at dark. As each member of the party settled into bed around 11:30 Sunday night, we were well prepared for sleep after a long but exciting 22-hour day. This great climb was shared by Andy Dungan, Mike Barkin, Andrew McIvor and Ken Ball (leader).

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