June 30-July 1, 2007
“There are no easy ascents of North Sister.” So says our President. And, as I looked out on the steep snowfield covering part of the gully before the Dinner Plate, I was wishing he was with us instead of 4˝ miles away on South Sister.
The idea for this climb began two years earlier, when Mark Slipp led Middle Sister via the Hayden Glacier. This route has two big advantages over a west side approach: early season access, and an easy, snow-covered route up to the saddle between Middle and North. The one down-side for a North climb is losing about 400' to get down to the top of the Collier Glacier.
We started the climb under the full moon at 4 a.m., about half an hour after a large Chemeketan party passed our camp site on their way up Middle. (An earlier start would have been better—this climb always takes longer than you think it will.) We roped up just below the Hayden and, after a slight detour to the right, climbed through the notch in the terminal moraine. We then looped right and up, onto the prominent snow-ridge, from where we could look down on several crevasses below. From the top of the Hayden we climbed further up the snow to the right and and dulled the points of our crampons crossing several hundred feet of rock, to reach the snowfield which feeds the Collier.
Getting onto the south ridge of North is always a problem. You need to stick to the loose scree and angle up to the left. We followed the easier rock to the right, which meant we had to find our way around the gendarmes that guard the low end of the ridge.
The patch of snow blocking the path below the Camels Hump had mostly melted in the two weeks since Chance Fitzpatrick and I had scouted for this climb. Much had melted also from the gully before the Dinner Plate, making it harder to get onto the snow. We used all nine of our pickets and could have used a couple more if we had had them. The 60 m rope just barely reached across the Dinner Plate and our third rope was used to protect the scramble to the staging area below the Bowling Alley. We climbed to the right just inside the Alley (known as the “Nelson Variation” to some, though certainly much older than that) rather than following the more obvious route further up, thus minimizing exposure to rockfall. After a short stay on the summit the whole processed was reversed.
A white-out added to the excitement when a cloud blew over us. Back on the other side of the Dinner Plate we discovered that a raven had stolen the food out of Juli’s and Larry’s packs. These smart birds have learned to pull on zip tabs and forage around inside packs. Take Chance’s advice: turn your pack over and pile some stones on it!
We took a shortcut back to camp, going through the notch to the east that’s at the top of the Collier, and making a beeline over rock and snow to the toe of the Hayden. This cut about an hour off our descent. Many thanks to my fellow climbers for their aid and patience on this difficult climb.
Climbers were: Larry Dunlap, Brian Hamilton, Scot Hunt, Juli McGlinsky, Rich Peevers and Wayne Deeter, leader.