Middle Sister (10,047’):
Middle Sister has a reputation for being an easy but dull mountain. It is not deserved. The West and North sides, although somewhat monotonous on the approach, soon achieve an alpine air that is missing from the South side of South Sister. And despite North Sister receiving all the accolades for difficulty, Middle Sister has several challenging routes on its steep Eastern faces.
Middle Sister nurtures four glaciers, the Collier on the North, the
Renfrew on the Northwest, and the Hayden and Diller on the East.
Descent via Southeast Ridge:
We’ll climb over the top of Middle Sister and hike down toward
Pole Creek. Be careful on the lower
ridge, as crevasses from Diller Glacier extend all the way to the lip of the
ridge. Some skiers say that this is
one of the best steep ski descents in the Three Sisters.
North Ridge or Northwest Face:
Middle Sister is most commonly climbed from the North or Northwest. Both routes share the same approach, and present little in the way of climbing difficulty. The average gradient is less than 30 degrees, and there is no rock climbing. The situation changes during bad weather. Like the South Side of Mount Hood, the lack of definitive landmarks makes navigating the easy slopes of Middle Sister a nightmare in a whiteout. Take compass or GPS and a map and know how to use them. Take an ice axe no matter what. If the freezing level is low, take crampons to cross Collier Glacier or Renfrew Glacier.
From Sunshine and the PCT, follow the PCT South to Sister Spring. Head East up a gully, South of a cliff band. Continue Southeast to the lower end of Renfrew Glacier, staying just South of the odd-looking and aptly named “Dragons Back” rock formation. The tip of Renfrew Glacier may also be reached by following the climbers’ trail up from Sunshine, then traversing South at about 7,000 feet to skirt around the Dragons Back. From this point, the shortest route to the summit takes a direct line up the Renfrew Glacier and the Northwest Face. Time from Sunshine, 3-5 hours.