(The east side of North Sister under a half-moon.)

By Chris Davenport

Written on May 11, 2012

Yesterday was our biggest day of the trip so far in terms of distance covered, vertical climbed & skied, and pure effort exerted. Luckily for us we had some great local knowledge. We hooked up with local skier and owner of Three Sisters Backcountry huts Jonas Tarlen through our friend David Marchi; Jonas took us on a grand adventure. Jess and I were ready for a big day, but when it was all over we were definitely whooped! 

Aside from losing an hour trying to summit North Sister in icy conditions, we moved quickly all day and finished the almost 18 mi. traverse of over 10,000’ vertical in just under 12 hours. One of the coolest and perhaps most surprising aspects of this day was that during a perfect weather window, and in ideal snow conditions, we didn’t see another soul out there in Central Oregon’s biggest mountains. 

Three Sisters Vital stats: The Three Sisters Traverse is comprised of three separate summits: North Sister (10,085’), Middle Sister (10,047’), and South Sister (10,358’).

We skied Mt. Washington this morning (our 9th volcano in 6 days) and are headed to the trailhead for tomorrow’s big day on Mt. Jefferson. Our internet connection has been quite slow during this part of the trip, so I’m going to let the photos (below) tell the story on this one. I think you’ll enjoy… 

But not without a final shout-out to Shane, Jonas’ partner at ThreeSistersBackcountry who picked us up on the road in his snow-machine, complete with chocolate milk and beer!  Thanks Shane!

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more from Washington and Jefferson.


«You’ll find a bunch of awesome photos of our Three Sisters Odyssey after the jump»

Jonas Tarlen, owner of the Three Sister Backcountry huts, on the early morning approach to North Sister.

Chris Davenport and Jess McMillan approaching the east side of North Sister from Pole Creek.

Jess McMillan making the traverse over the Camel’s Hump towards the summit block of North Sister.  South Sister’s North Face can be seen on the right and Mt. Bachelor can be seen to the left. The climbing on this ridge was spectacular.

Jonas and Jess attempting the very steep and icy traverse to gain the summit couloir on North Sister. The team turned around from the summit do to falling ice and challenging conditions. With two axes and technical crampons and maybe even a rope we could have made the summit, but still would have had to down-climb back to where we skied from.

Jess get’s ready to drop in off of North Sister for the ski over to Middle Sister.

Jess McMillan enjoying perfect spring corn-snow conditions on the South Face of North Sister

Jonas, Jess, and Chris on the summit of Middle Sister – with North on the right.

Jess skiing of the summit of Middle Sister

Looking south at the grand North Face of South Sister. Our ascent route follows the shallow ridge inside of the right skyline. This face reminded me slightly of the Gibraltar Ledges zone on Rainier.

Jonas and Jess work their way up the north side of South Sister. We skied the South Face of North Sister on the far right and then the South Face of Middle Sister – just right off the summit. This last climb up was a real grind. Everyone was out of water (3 liters each) by the time we reached the summit. I ate two Clif Bars, two Shot Bloks, and two Shots as well as my super-secret Volcano sandwich during the day.  Jess had a sandwich as well but it was liberated from her backpack by an airborne marauder – a raven - during our climb towards the summit of North Sister. This little criminal even unzipped her backpack with it’s beak to access the goods.

A tighter shot of where we had skied up to this point. Middle Sister on the left and North sister on the right.  Doing the traverse from North to South made perfect sense as we hit great corn on the south face ski descents and had firmer snow to climb on the north sides. Mt. Jefferson makes an appearance in the distance. (We will ski that on Saturday, May 12th.)

A grand view of the Oregon Cascades!  Jonas and Jess approach the summit of South sister after a 10 hour traverse up to this point.

The team may be tired but we’re never too tired to be stoked on this trip!  Jonas, Chris, and Jess enjoy the summit of South Sister.

Jess still in good form skiing the classic South Ridge of South Sister.

A GPS / Google Earth depiction of our Three Sisters route. Burly!