North Sister - Thayer Glacier Headwall

May 2004

A trip South to Smith rocks and the Sisters was about the only way not to spend the weekend inside of a cloud. So, after staying up late watching The Return of the King, Loren wakes me up at 3:30 am to drive to Smith. In the early morning stupor of 3 hours sleep, I still think he's joking about the wakeup time. I guess we're getting a good day of cragging in!

Sure enough Smith is a zoo, but we're able to climb some fun and classic moderates. We do this sort of thing for two days, where highlights include Spiderman (5.7) and Moscow (5.6). Both great easy routes that I'd never done before. More fun was had at the campfires back at the grasslands, but I shall digress and move on to the fun stuff: alpine.

Sunrise on the lower headwall.

Sunrise you ask? yes, on our last day we (Loren) decides that sleep is for normal body-loving people, and we depart the Pole Creek trailhead at 12:30 a.m. intent on doing the Three Sisters Marathon. Well, maybe I should qualify that with the brains were intent on the marathon while my body simply asked the question: Got Sleep?

The answer was a resounding no as I stumbled along behind Loren in the dark. Thinking back now, it was like a drunken stupor where any cease of movement meant I was splayed out on my back sleeping. It was going to be a doosey of a day.

Loren climbing up the lower runnels. Hey, don't go so fast!

The climbing on the face was excruciating. Postholing up to my knees with every step, the solid neve runnels around mid face couldn't have come too soon. The sunrise had breathed new life into me as we steadily climbed up the lower face. Again in retrospect, the climbing here was quite spectacular. Free of ropes and much gear I was able to climb at my own (slow) pace and enjoy the clarity and solitude that one finds on such a high snowy route.

While postholing down lower was bad, nothing had prepared me for what lay above. For literally a thousand feet, I crawled on my hands and knees, slowly making progress through the deep snow. A slight crust had formed, and with the crawl technique in hand, I managed to wallow less in the sugar snow. Not exactly fun conditions, but the occasional rock whizzing past made up for it.

Dave nearing the top of the face. Photo by Loren.

We scraped our way across a short rock band and onto the knife edged summit. Quite an exposed and beautiful space with rime ice everywhere. We signed the summit register and began our tricky descent down the standard route (SE Ridge?). A downclimb of the bowling alley was the first test. Got Sleep? No, but I still passed!

"It's only like 30 feet of AI2 Dave... uh Dave, are you sleeping?" -Loren at the car

The Bowling Alley from below.

After downclimbing the kind of sketchy rime, we waltzed our way across 'The Traverse', a steep snow traverse on the North side. Luckily snow conditions over here were firm and we motored right along.

Loren on the traverse.

After a bit more descending of steepish snow, we were able to pull out of the rising wind and take a nap. Victory is mine!!

Dave's got two more volcanos in 'em. A OK. No problem.

Middle and South Sister calling, but I am sleeping and don't hear the ringing.

Loren was still pretty stoked to keep going, but I was done. To his credit he tried cajoling me to move just a hundred yards further along the traverse, maybe try and get me going, but it was no use. The body had moved on. Buttered corn lead down the glacier below Prouty Point for some fantastic turns. I was really starting to dig the whole movement without exertion thing when we deadened into the creek. Yes, we would have to walk to the car now, but thanks to Loren's technology savvy accouterments, it was a short cross country walk in the right direction. A good trip with a lot of fun people. Thanks Loren!

A veritable navigating machine.

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