North Sister

September 5-6, 1999

Six climbers traveled to the Obsidian trailhead and hiked with heavy packs to a 7400-ft. camp near the “black fin”, affording a spectacular and intimidating view of their objective, the summit block of the North Sister. The group relaxed in the late afternoon sun and contemplated crossing the fierce and nearly vertical in appearance snow field just beneath the summit pinnacles. Following dinner, a practice fixed line was set up and the party members practiced using prusiks and the various types of ascenders that had been carried in. All the individuals that had joined this climb were very excited about the prospect of crossing the “Dinner Plate” snow field just mentioned above. Although short in length, the night was delightful with a dark sky full of bright stars, a gentle wind, and a brilliantly-lit Eugene to gaze at in the distance. It was a beautiful night for the leader to sleep under the stars. He was given this opportunity when he was thrown out of a climbing partner’s tent due to his snoring. After two similar experiences on Obsidian climbs now in one season, it is obvious this leader has a solitary future in front of him involving bivouac bags. Oh wait, perhaps he should solicit tent partners who always sleep using ear plugs!

As the party prepared to leave camp at 3:30 a.m. the next morning, they watched in awe as a very bright beacon shined from the Glisan pinnacle on the North Sister. The beacon was identified as the rising moon, now a perfect crescent just a week after being full. This bright light provided all the illumination needed to show passage across the snow fields above Sunshine and on across the Collier Glacier. Sunrise occurred as the party ascended the miserable scree slope on the south ridge of “The North” and they wasted no time in threading the “Gendarmes” and approaching the Dinner Plate. The Dinner Plate snow field was 1.25 rope lengths long, a steep 45 or better degrees requiring front pointing, and text book in condition for using snow pickets. The leader quickly laid a fixed line across the snow field, then another up the Bowling Alley. Two other party members joined the leader in ascending up to the summit area and an enjoyable rappel back down. The group left the Dinner Plate at 1:00 p.m. and experienced a windy yet sunny afternoon as they traveled back to camp. The party broke camp, returned to their cars before dark and enjoyed a celebrative dinner at Ike’s Pizza at Leaberg Lake.

Summiting were Mike Moffitt, who completed his Ten Peak-Award qualification by this success, Tamar More, who deserves recognition for her diligent and dependable belaying, and leader Ken Ball. Special thanks go to Jerry Hawes for his support of the summit team and to Linda Johnston and Wes Clay as well for carrying equipment to the Dinner Plate.

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