Three Sisters Traverse: The Sequel
I felt like I was going insane during the few weeks leading up to this trip. We watched the weather like hawks, hitting "refresh" compulsively and riding the wave of emotion that comes with ever-changing Fall weather. We saw the threat of precip rise and vanish and watched the winds pick up ferociously and suddenly despite the prior day's forecast showing clear skies. We tentatively planned on attempting our push on the first weekend in October and I planned to use the weekend before to do some beta-reconnaissance. We would be ready to move with a clear window and we watched the season begin to close around us. Finally, on Thursday, we got a clear forecast- for Friday and Friday only. That was it and it was a small clearing. We frantically scrambled to get work off for Friday, packed our bags, and went to sleep as soon as we could on Thursday night. This would be a 'Portland to Portland in a Day' trip for us.
We left in a hurry on Friday morning, drove to Pole Creek in bleary-eyed excitement, and were pounding dirt shortly after arriving. It was an absolutely stunning morning and we chatted intermittently until we left the main trail and started gaining the ridge. It was really neat exploring a new-to-us route up North Sister- the views were excellent and the gendarmes up high helped keep us out of the wind for the most part. By the time we reached the Terrible Traverse, we were well ahead of our previous year's time and psyched.
We stood briefly on the summit before down-climbing. In my excited state, I made one stupid mistake as we started down the summit block- I slipped sideways and rolled my foot, HARD, into a rock. Pain shot up my leg and I flexed my toes to make sure it wasn't 'show-stopping' damaged. It didn't feel broken but it certainly hurt. I gingerly made my way down the South Ridge and across the Collier Glacier, slipping occasionally on my throbbing foot but otherwise managing to safely wind through the tiny crevasses and up and over the boulders.
We hit the summit of Middle Sister with energy to spare but I struggled to bomb down its flanks towards South. My foot HURT. When we stopped to fill our water bottles, I quickly pulled off my shoe to see if there was any visible damage- I was shocked to see that the swelling (on the medial side) was advanced enough that my sock was bulging out against it. Ugh. We pounded on.
By the time we hit "The Pill Bug," as I fondly describe it, on South Sister, the weather was deteriorating in force. We scrambled as quickly as we could up the loose, chossy, mess that is South Sister's North side and pushed against the pounding wind and billowing fog. By the time we hit the summit plateau, my hair was frozen in icicles around my face and my eyes were burning against the cold. We didn't spend much time on the summit and as soon as we ate a few snacks, we hit the trail again, bundled against the freezing temperatures and feeling light and happy as we descended into better conditions. It was exhilarating!
We hit the STOP on our watches as we passed the Devil's Lake TH, 10:57 minutes after leaving Pole Creek. Surprisingly, we weren't destroyed, a big change from last year when we literally hiked our way down South Sister's flanks, nursing weak and shocked joints and muscles.
Our exceptional friends, Lindsay and Drew, played chauffeur for us again this year. We hugged them happily when we strolled into the parking lot and were, as always, so happy to see them waiting for us at the end. We drove back to Pole Creek chatting happily and keeping our rumbling stomachs as quiet as possible as we thought about the fries and veggie wraps we were about to devour at Three Creeks in Sisters. What an excellent, excellent day it had been... now... for sub-10 hours in 2017 ....
For further beta on this trip, check out my other, climbing-specific, webpage: Mountain Refugees.