Tempting Fate to Summit Middle Sister
A struggle with poor decisions and sketchy weather deep in Oregon's Three Sisters Wilderness
Canon 5D Mk III
In celebration of my buddy’s 30th birthday, a few friends and I set out on a mission to bag Middle Sister, a classic central Oregon volcanic peak. Mileage wise, the climb isn’t that bad—it must’ve been our packs that slowed us down. Carrying everything for an overnight snow camp plus a split board, climbing protection, snowboard boots, 3 lenses, and a DSLR adds up fast.
So, we hiked in. Then we skinned in even further before setting up camp. We slept 4 full grown men in a 3 man tent in order to cut down on weight—at least we weren’t cold. The morning of the climb we felt great. We skinned from camp and gained a good 2,000 ft before swapping out skis for crampons. Unfortunately for me, I made a bad call and assumed that my snowboard boots would support crampons. The rest of the crew checked first.
I struggled for a long time, having to stop repeatedly to reposition, or altogether replace, my crampons. These necessary moments separated me from the rest of the group, and eventually the grade became so steep, and the consequences so high that I had to call it a day. Just 200 vertical feet from the summit no less. It was really tough to do at the time—being so close and putting so much effort into getting that far—but as it turned out, the decision to head back was only the beginning of my problems.
Riding down wasn’t even easy. The sun was hot and the snow wet. Closer towards the bottom I had run out of speed and come to a complete stop, forcing me to take my board off, hike to the next chute and then put it back on. It continued like this for too long.
At camp we packed up as quickly as possible. And just as we began to haul out, the sky opened up, pouring on us most the way back to the trailhead. Then came the lightening. And the strike and forest fire off in the distance. By the time we were back at the trailhead no one was talking or joking anymore. Everyone had agreed we’d passed our metaphorical “walls” hours before.
All in all, 23 miles in 24 hours with 5,500ft of gain with massive packs was still sorta fun, and I’d probably do it again.