|North Sister from Bridge Area|
|Arch & Black Sister|
|Black Sister (Black Rock)|
|Mike sees Avalanche Road from Galium Road|
Ah! North Sister. The dreaded North Sister. There are so many stories out there about this difficult summit. So, today, I was thoroughly committed to hiking to the base and going no further! Hmm. Didn't happen. With a little encouragement from my friends, I got all the way to the top. And, what a climb it was!
The three of us left from the chain-up turnout on Lee Canyon Road located just after the 8000 elev mark on the right side. I have a handful of tracks in my records that show different routes up to the peak but, today, a little tweaking to the old routes had us hiking up Galium Road. This is the old road that leaves the turnout on the top end. The road quickly turns into a trail and it is clear that hikers have been using this route for a while.
|Fall Color on Galium Road|
The trail follows the wash and passes an area where a spring comes flowing down the hill from the right. This area appears to be mined above so keep to yourselves and don't get into trouble lest we all lose this route.
The trail continues up the wash taking a left fork at one point into a smaller wash. Immediately after the fork, the trail begins climbing the gentle ridge to the right. (The right fork wash is not a good choice since it becomes a deep ravine.)
|North Sister Framed|
|South Sister (L), North Sister (R)|
The climb is steady and gets somewhat steeper until you reach the main approach ridge above. We hiked slow and enjoyed the developing scenery. North and South Sisters began appearing to the southwest above us. You can set your compass by these two peaks! The terrain on the ridge proceeded to become more and more interesting. There is a fairly good trail marked by either footsteps or cairns but, basically, you balance the ridge all the way up. When we got to the top of the trailing ridge, we were faced with a narrow bridge that gives passage to the remaining half of the climb to the Sisters Ridge above. At this point, the views open out all around and the North Sister Peak rises unabashedly above everything else in our upward climb trajectory.
|Approach Ridge View of the Sisters|
Still moving slow and steady, we began the second half of the steepening ridge. The trail weaved in and out of small brushy groves of pines and mahogany.
|Climbing the Ridge Trail|
The scree on the slope was well seated causing no difficulties in footwork. Moving in and out of the trees, we began seeing a few limestone / dolomite pinnacle-shaped rock outcroppings.
|Old Growth on Approach Ridge|
Just at the point where another ridge comes in from the right, we looked up to be surprised with a large arch! This is the elusive arch that I had heard about for many years! We were all thrilled! I had always wondered if Black Sister could be framed inside the arch but, no can do. We took our photos and walked over to the base of the arch. The opening of the limestone arch is somewhere around 10-15 feet in height. A wonderful find! Back on the ridge trail, we were getting very close to the top. Finally, we arrived on the Sisters Ridge that turned out to be more narrow than I had expected. There is a trail along the top of the ridge and we turned to our left to follow it over a few outcroppings to the base of North Sister.
|Pausing at a Bare Spot|
Here, I must interject that the North Sister Peak, itself, is ugly! Just looking at it from the base, I wondered how in the world anyone was supposed to climb it. But, there was a trail.
|The Elusive Arch|
As much noise as I made about stopping here or there to wait for Rita and Mike to return, the North Sister Peak sucked me in! The approach trail seemed harmless enough so, up I went.
|North Sister from Sisters Ridge|
|North Sister Approach Trail|
Ignoring the trail that led to the right, we had chosen the trail that heads straight up to the rock wall in front of us. When we turned the corner at the end of the rock wall, a very ugly chute appeared in front of us. Steep. Rocky. And, very few perches for the feet except for the far left and right sides of the chute. After our one hour long adventure up and down this chute, I decided to name it Disaster Gully, because, it is a disaster waiting to happen! It already has several stories attached to it. Luckily, they were all "close calls." The rocks are loose (akin to the "ramp" on Macks Peak.) Its ascent and descent must be coordinated among the group so that hikers are not in the fall line of another. And, yes, we had a close call of our own today.
I reached the peak along with Rita and Mike but I only stayed long enough to get a few photos. For me, this is a one and done! I got the heebie-jeebies up there!
|North Sister Summit to South Sister|
When we finally descended back down to the approach trail, we were all breathing a lot easier. Also, each of us had some kind of souvenir bruise to take home with us. Fun! 😅
|Rita & Mike on North Sister Summit|
|View of Mummy's Nose from Disaster Gully|
We returned to a point on the approach trail that provided log seating and sat for our break. The views had been and were still amazing. The Sisters Ridge can be seen from almost anywhere in Lee Canyon. It was fantastic to be sitting atop. After the break, we continued following the trail along the ridge. We passed a grove of trees that had been attacked by the parasitic branches of dwarf mistletoe. No doubt, it is why this small grove had died long ago. The trail led up and over a few small rock outcroppings and balanced along a very narrow portion of the ridge. It wasn't long before we were climbing up to the familiar small rock peak of White Sister. From there, we circled around below the base of Black Sister where we had been only a week ago.
|View of Sisters Ridge from Disaster Gully|
We took our group photo with North Sister in the background then walked down the trailing ridge. The old GPS track I had, showed a descent on the furthest ridge to the left. We checked it out and decided, for sure, the familiar steep trail we always use was the best to get to Deadwood Wash.
|Mummy Mountain from Approach Trail|
At the bottom of the trail, we arrived on the saddle and turned to the right on a trail that led to Deadwood Wash. This would be the third time this summer that we have used this wash for a descent so we changed it up a little and took the game trail on the right side.
|Balancing the Sisters Ridge|
The game trail seemed to start out as a great alternative to the wash that has a lot of dead wood and fallen trees in it. But, eventually, the game trail presented a lot of brush, too. Our goal was to descend the bowl parallel to the wash on our left to a certain junction trail on the right about 2/3 of the way down. We were ducking and zigzagging so much that I totally forgot I had a camera. Well, not much to take photos of but brush. There were several trails that turned off to the right but, we were patient. Our trail, according to the GPS, was one that was most worn. We set a small cairn there but, there really isn't much else to set it apart from the others. Happy to follow the worn trail out of the wash, we were soon flummoxed to find the game trail switch back and forth among the trees, hillside and two deep washes.
|Narrow Sisters Ridge|
Each time the trail "disappeared," we jumped to the left to find another trail. Eventually, we were hiking not too far above Lee Canyon Road on the hillside.
|Reaching White & Black Sisters|
Next, we dropped down through a pine glade and on down to the lower end of the chain-up turnout. There were so many game trails during this last section that you may be able to find a slightly more direct route. Nevertheless, our route worked quite well.
|We conquered North Sister!|
|Down the Steep Trail from Black Sister|
Back at the cars, the pine beetles had once again covered all the white cars and were immediately attracted to my yellow fleece! Oh, bother. Anyway, we learned a lot about this area, today. And, this route will do very nicely for strenuous club hikes in the future, with or without the spur up to North Sister Peak. Note: We saw what we think was mountain lion scat up on the Sisters Ridge! Sorry. No photo. Another great Thursday!
Stats: 4.5 miles; 2100' gain; 5.5 hours (due to lolly-gagging and a whole hour in Disaster Gulley!)
|Saddle Junction below Black Sister|
|Crossover Trail from Deadwood Wash|
|Trail to Lower End of Chain-Up Turnout|