Ascent of North Sister on 2020-08-23

Climber: Evan Battaglia

Other People:Solo Ascent
Only Party on Mountain
Date:Sunday, August 23, 2020
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:North Sister
    Elevation:10085 ft / 3073 m

Ascent Trip Report

My stomach was feeling upset so I took a rest day after driving from Abercrombie. The next morning I left the TH at 6am.

There were probably 30+ cars at the TH, and after seeing how busy remote Cloud and Crazy were, I figured that being near a major metropolitan area, Middle and North Sister would be teeming with people. Surprising I only saw 5 other parties the whole day, none of them past the climbers trail turnoff, only one of which appeared to have climbed something (they were coming down from Middle Sister in the morning... don't know if they did it that day or the day before). I also one tent past the climbers trail turnoff (on the way up) -- maybe another party climbing something the day before.

This was one of the scariest mountains I've done in a long time, probably since the Matterhorn. The Terrible Traverse really is terrible. It had no snow, and with it being loose rock but not stable scree, there were a few steps that were pretty scary. I saw a red rope way up off-route to the right for some reason. I thought maybe people had gone up to avoid the traverse and rappeled down and left the rope for the way back. But there was no one else on the mountain. There are also a couple other strangely placed rap anchors on the mountain.

Past the traverse, I didn't immediately find the Bowling Alley. I first tried a narrow chute but stopped when it was clear it was harder than class 4. I continued further up to a ridge, but that dead-ended. It was a little to backtrack from these places. That was the 2nd worst part of the climb for me. I kept thinking I about how I witnessed the climber on Broken Top get injured due to being off-route on loose rock. Then I noticed a much wider gully behind be and finally realized this was the Bowling Alley.

Once I found the Bowling Alley, it wasn't too bad. On the return I made two rappels, really just because I had brought a rope. I rappeled the upper part that was steeper but more solid rock down to a slightly sketchy anchor around a boulder that I used but didn't really put all my weight on 100% (it was low-angle). My rope ran out before the end of Bowling Alley and I downclimbed the last 30 ft or so slowly but without too much difficulty compared to the rest of the mountain. I likely could have downclimbed everything without the rope, but I'm not sure what it would be like since I didn't try. On the way back, the Terrible Traverse wasn't as bad for some reason.

The third-hardest/scariest part for me (second, if not including where I was off-route) is getting on/off the ridge. I really don't know the best way here. On the way up, I approached from the saddle to the south, followed the glacier around a couple hundred feet, and tried to make my way up. It was not good at all -- loose unpredictable big rocks. A unique looseness quality. Once on the ridge I noticed a "trail" seeming to continue further down the ridge to the south. On the way back I ended up leaving the ridge sooner (more north) -- probably because there is a part where you preetty much have to go around a highpoint on the ridge (or downclimbed a ~10 ft class 5 step apparently); on the way up I had to backtrack to get down below it; on the way down I went below it and kept going down off the ridge. It seemed natural but going down that way was not good either -- especially for ascending (scree). There are some other difficult, loose spots along the ridge. Once I slipped and got some scrapes.

Overall I was in a good mood today and did enjoy the climb more than the relative slogs of Crazy and Cloud, but it is a scary mountain which I don't think I will repeat. Make no doubt about it, Noth Sister has some real dangerous loose rock. Washington, 3FJ, abd Broken Top have the reputation too, but I found those all quite solid. I was initially baffled as to why there was no one else on the mountain today, but I can't blame anyone for not wanting to climb this... (not sure why there was also nearly no one on Middle Sister, maybe it's more popular earlier in the season?)

Gear used: rope (see 5th paragraph), crampons (used only a very short distance on the glacier/snow once I came off of the ridge, could have done w/o), ice axe (used when I used the crampons and also on the descent for stability)
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:4785 ft / 1458 m
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Open Country, Snow on Ground, Scramble, Exposed Scramble
    Gear Used:
Ice Axe, Crampons, Rope
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:4785 ft / 1458 m
    Start Trailhead:5300 ft / 1615 m
Descent Statistics

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