North Sister

September 1-2, 2001

On the Saturday of Labor Day weekend, five obsidian climbers headed out from the Thurston area around noon. They drove to the Obsidian trail head and made a speedy trip to Sunshine and on up to a familiar annual labor day Obsidians camp at 7,200 feet, far above Arrowhead lake. After some glacier travel rope practice, the group hit the hay for five hours. By the time they left camp, it was 3:30 a.m. and they did not use head lamps as the full moon illuminated the moraines on the approach to Collier glacier. Then came one of the most frightening moments in the climbing careers of all five climbers. The glacier was beautiful and enchanting as moonlight reflected off its icy surface. The plan was to cut across the Collier and avoid the elevation gain and loss of the route up and around the head of the glacier. Things were peaceful, quiet, and perfect. As the group walked along a huge crevasse horizontal on the glacier, they were all focused on the climb ahead, gazing at the summit massif, and noticing the first light of the morning sun breaking over the south ridge. Then, the group experienced the loud terrifying crash and vibrations of a cornice fall only 15 or 20 feet away. When the individuals realized they were not trapped in the bottom of a crevasse like Joe Simpson, they took some time to regain their composure, to change their underwear, and to re-evaluate how they are living life. It was, sort of a near death experience. A cornice or lip of a old ice bridge hanging on the crevasse along the opposite and higher side had broken and fell to the depths. The climbers had felt the cold wind as tons of ice literally fell right past them into the bowels of Oregon’s second largest glacier.

With the excitement over, the rest of the trip went without incident. There was no snow whatsoever on the steep Dinner Plate snow field traverse. One rope was placed and used as a hand line across the steep jumbled rock incline of the Dinner Plate. A rope was fixed up the “bowling alley” and the climbers prusiked up at their individual paces. Of course the group experienced “normal” rock fall and the accompanying terms of endearment shared between climbers in the “alley”, especially on the way down. After a lengthy visit to the Prouty pinnacles, the group returned to the 7200 foot camp, took a break, then returned to the cars before dark.

Taking part in this exciting climb and summiting the North Sister were: Brian Roddy, Robert Hermann, Andy Dungan, and Ken Ball, leader.

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