Middle Sister (OR)

July 6, 2019


Bend, OR

Not to be confused with the Canadian Rockies scramble, Middle Sister near Canmore, Alberta, this one is the smallest of the three volcanoes in central Oregon west of Bend. It’s only marginally shorter than North and South Sisters so to me, this group of peaks is considered as three separate volcanoes, instead of one volcano with two sub-summits. The standard route goes up the north ridge and is accessed by Hayden Glacier from Pole Creek trail-head. There’s nothing difficult to get Middle Sister but peak-baggers should aim to combine Middle with North Sister in one push. That’s the plan between Alex and I and we had climbed North Sister earlier in the day.

North and Middle Sisters from Pole Creek. GPX DL

From North/Middle col we traversed and ascended a broad but flat snowfield to another col immediately at the base of Middle Sister’s north ridge, and then took a break ditching most of the gears. There still appeared to have substantial amount of snow on the north ridge so we had to haul crampons and ice axes, unfortunately. The lower ridge was mostly a class 1-2 hike on a game path. The snow band in the middle was about 35+ degrees but is heavy packed by scramblers. Following the boot paths we didn’t feel the need to use any specialized gear and in short time we were on the summit. The clouds came in and out intermittently and created some dramatic views.

Alex on the flat snowfield traverse between North and Middle Sisters

Me starting up the north ridge of Middle Sister. Photo by Alex R.

Alex on the lower part of north ridge with North Sister behind

Fighting gravity on treadmill scree…

Alex above the steep snow band now

Ascending onto the upper north ridge. Note the clouds

The clouds briefly lifted and we were treated by incredible vistas

Alex arriving at the summit of Middle Sister

A zoomed-in shot of Broken Top

South Sister was still engulfed in clouds

A much closer look at the summit of North Sister

Alex and I on the summit of Middle Sister

Summit Panorama from Middle Sister. Click to view large size.

After a while we started the descent. The snow offered neat oppurtunity to boot-ski and so did the scree. In no time we were back to the col packing up gears. Plunging and gliding down Hayden Glacier also took no time and there came one last transition/break at where I ditched the trail-runners. The rest of the hike-out was very boring and tedious but at least didn’t take too long. Our round trip time was under 11.5 hours which was pretty much as expected.

Time to head down now

Alex descending the upper part of the north ridge of Middle Sister

Me plunging on snow with North Sister behind. Photo by Alex R.

Alex down-climbing that band of steep snow

Back to the col where we ditched gears, looking back

The summit of North Sister looks very pointy from the upper Hayden Glacier

Me starting down Hayden Glacier. Photo by Alex R.

Alex plunging down Hayden Glacier

Looking across Hayden Glacier towards Broken Top and South Sister

Another look at Broken Top

Almost down to the bottom of Hayden Glacier now

At climber’s camp at treeline. We resumed the plod down

As much as the trail went…

Me plodding out on the boring trail. Photo by Alex R.

Not doing any unnecessary lingering we drove out to the city of Bend, had a delayed dinner, and then drove to South Sister’s trail-head. And then there came the next day.