Middle Sister Ski

Middle Sister (10,046ft) via Hayden Glacier, 5000ft Mod. Snow, 27 Feb 2020

Yesterday, my buddy Michael Boles and I headed up towards Pole Creek Trailhead at the break of dawn, with snowmobile in tow, with the goal of getting to the top of Middle Sister. Neither of us had made the true summit before, and for myself, it was the last of the Three Sisters whose summit had still eluded me.

I was excited to get back into the mountains with Michael. We’d met during our first year at school, and he’d been my partner for a lot of my first alpine objectives, notably Mt Washington and Mt Hood. Since, we haven’t had many opportunities to get out together, so it was nice to reminisce about the old days, enjoy the beautiful day together, and scheme future mountain goals.

Our trusty steed with the objective looming behind

Thankfully there was no gate up the dirt road to Pole Creek; a high-clearance vehicle would’ve made it to the trailhead, but we busted out the sled about 2 miles from the trailhead, and completed a first for me… snowmobile approach! We skinned out from the trailhead at a leisurely 8:30am, and were quickly drenched in sweat on this unusually warm February morning.

It was scorching, yet the snowpack showed no signs of loose wet activity
Mike skinning above Hayden with the impressive backdrop of Middle’s East Face

The approach went smoothly, and after quite a scorching slog up the ridge parallel to Hayden Glacier, we made it to the saddle between Middle and the Prouty Pinnacle. This glacier may be my favorite spot in the Three Sisters, suspended high above all else in the range and offering stunning close-ups of Middle’s impressive east face.

Ran out of mountain!

Once at the ridge, we switched to crampons and began questing through the rimey chicken-head littered north ridge. A short steeper section of ascending almost staircase-like rime requiring front-pointing and careful footwork brought us within sight of the false summit, and from there, relatively easy snow walking brought us to the true summit, where we lazily sat and let the moment soak into our memories. There was barely a hint of wind at the top, and the views extended north to Mt Adams and St Helens, west to the coast, and south to Diamond Peak and Mt Thielsen, inspiring future pursuits.

Dropping down from Prouty Pinnacle!

After regaining our skis, we enjoyed a glorious golden hour ski down Hayden Glacier. The snow was perfect; it hadn’t become slushy, much to our surprise, and allowed for fun, fast turns through occasional bumpy patches of sastrugi snow.

Not sure it gets too much better than this

With help from Mike’s phone maps, we were able to stay high and ski all the way back to the trailhead, save for one short skin up a small ridge to set us up above the Pole Creek drainage. Coronas and chips and salsa awaited us at the car, perfectly completing a smooth, summer-like day in our beloved home range.

‘Rona SZN?!

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