Ascent of North Sister on 2018-07-25

Climber: Harvest Mondello

Other People:Solo Ascent
Only Party on Mountain
Date:Wednesday, July 25, 2018
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:North Sister
    Elevation:10085 ft / 3073 m

Ascent Trip Report

Car to Car Free Solo of South Ridge Route (AG II / Class 4) via Hayden Glacier and the Pole Creek approach. Descent via the same route.

Party: Solo. My first successful summit of North Sister! Type 1 fun!

Route conditions: I did the approach in the dark and the traverse to the Bowling Alley was still frozen snow. It's not currently deep enough to set pickets but you can kick good steps. I saw photos of a two setting screws on the traverse the next day - these would not hold a slip. This will be all loose scree late season.

Approach: Pole Creek (5,300) to Ice Lake (7,500). 3 hours, 2,200 elevation gain, 6 trail miles.

At the first Fork stay left (Pole Creek Trail goes South and the Pole Creek Trail also goes NW to intersect the PCT - go south). Right at the next fork. Then right at Sandy Splits (1.5 hours) towards North Sister. There's bivy options at the treeline around 7,000 and a good one at Ice Lake (7,500). The Lake at 8,000 has less wind and shaves 45 minutes off your climb day.

The Climb: 2,600 elevation, 2 miles from high camp. 7 hours up and 3 hours down.

From the high camp you can follow the moraine until the next lake at 8,000. There's less wind here in general. You now have the option to cross the base of Hayden glacier on a snowfield, stay right and cut up the scree soon. Head up a gentle scree slope to the right of the red rock band on the South ridge. 2-3 hours.

The longer but less strenuous option is to head on the hogsback along the Hayden Glacier to the Middle-Prouty Peak saddle. Then cross the West side of the snow field Prouty-North saddle to the base of the Collier Glacier. Gain the South Ridge up gentle slopes. 3-4 hours.

Nothing should be tougher than class 3 until the start of the snowfield traverse and the Bowling Alley. If you're on class 4 you're probably off route and there's an easier variation.

Once you gain the ridge follow the gentle slope on the East side (climbers Right) past some red rock formations and then continue, then traverse East (climbers left) around the Camels Hump (a low broad gendarme) and East (right) again around another gendarme.

The real fun starts with a long West (left) traverse on a narrow ledge to the Western base of the South Horn (false summit). There's an old piton on this traverse.

Next on the "Terrible Traverse" you traverse (still on the West side) a snowfield (snow free ~August-Oct) (pro recommended - pickets and you can protect the ends with slings or maybe rock pro) for 2 pitches (~250 feet). Gain the South (Right) side of the a gully called the "Bowling Alley" (a snow or rock gully). If you go too far you'll reach a very loose small gully that is off route. Continue up along the right side to the false summit - the South Horn. From here traverse the ridge (ice screws if icy) to the North Horn - the true summit. The last section is also class 4 but on mostly good rock.


1 1/2 hours from summit to the end of the South Ridge.

Another 1 hour to Ice Lake (7,500) if you cut down the scree field just before the red rock band.

If you are heading back to the North-Prouty Pk Saddle allow at least an extra hour to the saddle and an extra hour down.
2 hours from high camp to Pole Creek Trailhead.

Recommended Gear & pro (optional):

Late summer/fall conditions:
Approach shoes, trail gaitors and strap on aluminum crampons recommended for late season conditions. Ice axe and helmet. Two trekking poles for the scree. Rock pro is optional; slings, cordelettes, tricams to 1.5" & nuts.

Winter/Spring conditions:

Boots/ice crampons, pickets and screws. Skis for the descent. Ice axe, helmet. Some rock pro - mostly double length slings for horns & cordelette for the traverse. Tricams to 1.5" (#2 blue) and a set of nuts (optional). But mostly you'll set snow / ice pro and sling horns.

Temps/weather: I started at the trailhead 10pm to do the approach and the builk of the climb car to car. It was maybe 70F at the trailhead and in the 50's on the summit. The snowfield to the Bowling Alley was nice and frozen (deal breaker if slush) and doesn't receive sunlight until afternoon.

In the spring/winter I'd recommend a high camp but it was too warm for this. 95F high was the forecast at the trailhead!
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:4785 ft / 1458 m
    Total Elevation Loss:4785 ft / 1458 m
    Round-Trip Distance:16 mi / 25.8 km
    Grade/Class:AG II / Class 4
    Quality:10 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Open Country, Exposed Scramble, Glacier Climb
    Gear Used:
Crampons, Headlamp, Ski Poles
    Weather:Hot, Calm, Clear
Forecast of 95F!
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:4785 ft / 1458 m
    Distance:8 mi / 12.9 km
    Route:South Ridge (solo ascent) (C2C)
    Start Trailhead:5300 ft / 1615 m
    Time:10 Hours 
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:4785 ft / 1458 m
    Distance:8 mi / 12.9 km
    Route:South Ridge
    End Trailhead:5300 ft / 1615 m
    Time:5 Hours 

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