Middle Sister (Oregon Cascades; 10,047')

Middle Sister, wedged between its neighbors, is most easily approached from the north (start at Old McKenzie Highway) of from the east (start at Pole Creek). Its glaciers have shrunk tremendously in recent years. The North Face is a nice ski descent, but the approach is a pain in winter or spring. By the time Old McKenzie Highway usually opens it's still doable, but one has to act fast.

Topo Map

Middle Sister (plus North Sister and Mt. Jefferson) from the summit of South Sister in late May of a dry year.
Routes: N Face (I, moderate snow unless icy, moderate to steep ski descent)
SE Ridge (I, Class 2 or moderate snow)

References: Jeff Thomas, Oregon High , Keep Climbing Press (Portland, OR 1991)
J. Smoot, Summit Guide to the Cascade Volcanoes , Chockstone Press (Evergreen, CO 1992)

Date: July 1-2, 2006

Party: Paul and Dietrich Belitz

Route: N ridge via Sunshine (up), N Face (down)

Equipment: AT Skis

Time: Frog Camp - Sunshine 2 hrs
Sunshine - Summit 4 hrs 20 mins
Summit - Sunshine 45 mins
Sunshine - Frog Camp 1 hr 45 mins

Comments: Good snow conditions

Trip report:

We went up to Sunshine on Saturday afternoon and spent the night under Paul's Betalight. Good thing we had brought it, as the thunderclouds we had admired on our way up promptly started to rain on us. The next morning we got going at 6:40. I opted for skinning, Paul preferred sneakers and carrying both skis and boots. We missed the entrance to the upper Renfrew Glacier and wound up high on an old moraine. That moraine leads straight to the Renfrew-Hayden col, but boulder hopping is a major pain, especially in ski boots, and after some of that we descended to the Renfrew after all. The north ridge was mostly melted out, but the characteristic S-shaped snow/ice field on the North Face seemed to be in good shape, and we set our sights on that for the descent.

On the summit we met Deb Carver and party, who had come up the SE Ridge from a camp at Camp Lake. After admiring the views we started down, and managed to ski from within a few feet from the true summit to Sunshine with only one very short portage across a moraine. The permanent snow field on the North Face, which looks quite intimidating, turned out to be mellower than I expected. The trick is to stay near its east (skier's right) edge, and then to cross in order to catch the exit chute on the west (skier's left) side. The snow was good, and the entire descent to Sunshine took 45 minutes, which included taking pictures.

From Sunshine we managed to continue skiing for a little while, then it was time to strap skis and boots to the packs again. It was a nice trip, and a good descent on an impressive line.

Photo Gallery: Click the thumbnails to see a higher resolution image

Middle Sister from Sunshine at sunset.

Camp at Sunshine.

Paul on the way up.

The North Face from the Renfrew monraine.

View of the Husband from the Renfrew Glacier.

View of South Sister from the summit.

Paul on the summit, view north.

Paul starting down the North Face.

The crux of the descent.

Paul skiing below the crux.

Paul with the North Face behind.

Dietrich skiing the Renfrew.

Date: August 31, 1998

Party: Dietrich and Paul Belitz

Route: N Ridge via Hayden Glacier

Equipment: Crampons, ice axe



Trip report: