North Sister

August 31-September 2, 2002

The northwest ridge of N. Sister is not a popular route up the mountain, but it has the distinction of being the route by which it was first climbed. Louis Henderson (a botanist) climbed it in 1881 and almost didn’t come back to tell he story. He actually didn’t tell anyone for 51 years. So much for history.

On 8/32/02 five determined climbers departed Lava Camp across to the PCT at about 11:30 AM, headed for the base of the N.W. Ridge. The leader had made this trip 3 times before and was glad to finally have company. After a stop at South Matthieu Lake and another at the base of Yapoah Crater, We packed on to Mini Scott Springs (the best water on earth), and onto the base of the northwest ridge at 7,200 ft. We met a group of Chemeketans at the springs who were also going to climb the N.W. ridge. We camped in a wind sheltered area the first night and mentally prepared for the next days climb.

The Chemeketans went by our camp about 6:45 AM and headed up the ridge. We left camp about 8:30 AM, and began our ascent. This is a long route up the mountain with many weird rock formations to pass generally keeping within 40 ft. of the ridge line. The group was slow and the leader made several stops to let this group catch up. Finally the group reached the saddle between Glisan Pinnacle and Prouty Pinnacle. A fixed line was set around the N.W. side of Prouty, and all climbers made the trip to the saddle. At this point it was about 2:35 PM and the leader was worried that the time was getting short to get back down to camp before dark (no scree field here to descend). Three climbers went for the summit, and two decided to stay and wait. All summiters first climbed the Bowling Alley and summited N. Prouty. The summiters returned to the saddle via a rappel down the Bowling Alley and headed back down the mountain. The group was also slow to descend the mountain and finally reached the base of the ridge and camp about 8:30 PM (almost dark). All were very tired and had a quick dinner before going to sleep. All together we were on the mountain for 12 hours.

We gave our selves time in the morning to relax and pack up, and left camp about 11:00 AM for the trailhead. Going down we took a short cut down the cinder fields, which cut about a mile and a half off the route up. All took a long break at South Matthieu Lake (two people went for a swim). On to the cars and the drive home. Who says botanists aren't tough people (ask Josh Ladau). All returned home with various blisters, aches and pains to recover from. The summiters were Wayne Deeter, Steve Still, and the leader, Bill Johnson. Ron Unger and Bob Mason did not summit but can claim to have been within 180 vertical feet of the summit. The weather was great, and the group was great to climb with.


North Sister from South Matthieu Lake


Bill and Ron approach base camp


The ridge from base camp


Mt. Washington


Heading toward the ridge


Base camp from the ridge


First full break


Looking back at the first segment of the ridge (base camp in center of picture)


Linn Glacier


Looking back down the ridge (Scott Mountain in background)


Ice-fall on the Collier Glacier


Bill sets a fixed-line on the traverse around north Prouty, Ron and Bob prepare to follow


Looking back, again


Snow-free dinner plate (bottom of bowling alley to far left)


Steve crossing over to the bowling alley


North Prouty from the rappel point


Bill in the shade after rapping back into the alley

— photos by Wayne Deeter


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