2016-07-16-17 Middle Sister

Distance: 17.6 mi.
Elevation Gain: 5600 ft.

Having done South Sister the year before, we were itching to do some more Oregon volcano hiking. We started from the Pole Creek Trailhead (NW Forest Pass) just before 10 AM and hiked south along the trail. It was hot and dry through a recent burn area. We continued straight onto Green Lakes Trail for a bit and then turned right (west) onto Camp Lake Trail. We hit snow at about 6700 feet but had other tracks to follow toward the lake. We reached Camp Lake at 1:30 PM.

Camp Lake

We set up camp on the west side of the lake and then continued on toward the summit. The climber’s trail was mostly under snow so we used the GPS to find the best way onto the ridge, heading due west and then northwest along the southeast ridge of Middle Sister. We were alternating on and off steep snow fields or crumbly volcano rock scrambles every 10 minutes or so. We reached the summit at 5:45 PM. The views were amazing!

Our ascent route on the left skyline
South Sister
North Sister from Middle Sister

We headed back down on an almost identical route, still alternating on and off steep snow fields and rocks. This is where I learned an important lesson – don’t be lazy and throw your ice axe in your hip belt loop! I fell down on some scree, the tip of my ice axe hit a rock, and then thrust the adze directly into my rib cage at high speed from just a few inches away. Hello bruised (broken? still not sure) rib.

Ice axe in the hip belt = bad idea

Thanks to a bit of adrenaline I was able to make it back down to camp without much issue. We reached camp at 8 PM. Dusk was very beautiful over Camp Lake. In the morning, I learned that I couldn’t sit up from laying flat šŸ˜¦

South Sister from Camp Lake

We retraced our steps on the hike out, starting at 8 AM and finishing at noon. From there, we had the long drive back to Seattle!

More photos
Download GPS track

(Download the free Gaia GPS app on your phone to view tracks and then get a Gaia GPS membership if you want offline access. Discount below!)


Recommended brew: Breakside Wanderlust IPA

Gear Used:

  • Backpacking tent
  • Gaiters
  • Glacier glasses
  • GPS
  • Helmet
  • Mountaineering boots
  • Sleeping pad
  • Steel crampons
  • Steel ice axe
  • Summer sleeping bag
  • Stove
  • Trekking poles
  • Water drops/filter


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