The Posse was back at it again. This time on the mountain known as Middle Sister. In some circles it's called Hope. I like that name. Who among us can't use a little more hope in our lives? For the Posse, it was a lot of hope. This was my fourth time scuddling around on the rocks and sand of Middle. The weekend before, I reached the summit for the first time. I really enjoy this mountain. It is a bit harder to climb than it's sibling to the south. The traffic of travelers is much less also.
Six of us reached the trailhead at pole creek together. It was a warm afternoon. The initial miles are what I refer to as carnival line miles. When you are at the County fair, waiting with all the other zombies in line for a ride. You sense excitement and you're happy when the line surges forward. In the case of our Middle Sister ride, the line was filled with beautiful sights. There were no greasy food huts or screaming kids to be seen. The ride we were headed for takes you over ten thousand feet into the sky. Beat that zipper. The reason I bring up a fair. Our County fair was happening that weekend. I felt for the zombies in town.
The trees are all burnt and falling over, they quietly moan about a fire years earlier. They have a cool look to them. We were able to see Faith and Hope through their frizzled branches.
It wasn't long before Grace was visible too. The Posse has a connection with this mountain. A love that feels like getting mule kicked in the bread box and kissed with a sledgehammer.
The scamper to camp was good times. An afternoon well spent. If you want to climb Middle using the north route, be sure to take the climbers trail that branches off the main avenue right around the four mile mark. When we reached camp the rest of the group for this expedition was there to greet us. I took a few minutes to watch the Posse mill around, creating their personal space for the night. Even in the secluded outdoors, it doesn't take anytime at all and we make a little neighborhood. The mosquitos were thick. They appreciated their meals on heels. One of my coworkers told me, after seeing the video of this expedition, that leave no trace means not camping on grassy areas. Duly noted, we will keep this in mind moving forward. The afternoon and evening passed with an anticipation and excitement. We had been planning for this climb many months. The time had come to summit Middle Sister. The group was nine strong; three of them had a bit more on the table. Keegan and Jose had attempted South the year before and stopped short of the summit. Joseph had stopped short of the top of Middle the year before as well. If you have ever played poker, you are aware that sometimes it's better to fold a hand and take the loss. There will be other cards dealt and opportunity to make back what you lost. Middle Sister was another hand, would the men call it's bluff? Would their efforts be a royal beatdown? I had a front row seat and I could hear Kenny Rogers singing the gambler, in my mind.
We were awake at four the next morning. Pack up camp and be on the trail around five was the plan. Groggy travelers staggering around in the black early morning to climb a ten thousand foot mountain. In the trees nearby came a sound none of us wanted to hear. A big cat. It sounded agitated. Someone said, "Everyone get together." All you could see was lights on everyone's head as we grouped together. The cat kept yelling out. After a few tense moments, Keegan announced that he was the source, he had planted a FoxPro out in the trees and used it as a way to wake everyone up. Well played Keegan. He had told me of the trick so that I would be able to video the event. It was a great start to the day, everyone was laughing.
Climbing a mountain is much like eating a whole pizza by yourself. You may shovel that last piece in your mouth and send it down into your belly; there's going to be discomfort during and after the meal. When I climbed South last year, I didn't celebrate truly, until the days following the climb. As the sun broke through, I watched eight people amble toward the top of a mountain. Making the summit was the intention. Even if some didn't, I was impressed with their willingness to try. It takes difficult situations to build character. Climbing and reaching a spot where you can't go any higher is intense. The feeling on a mountain is welcoming with the thought of not staying long. If your crazy aunt Florence invites you over for dinner, you may pop over for a few. As soon as she tells you that her cucumbers grew like mad in the garden and she has too many on her hands. She had to get creative with her recipes. Before you know it, she offers you a pickle squish smoothy. You are up and out of that situation. Go and visit but don't stay long.
The best route I have found for Middle is the north side. Once the snow has begun melting on Hayden glacier, one must go around Prouty Point to the north and continue up from the west side. It's called the saddle. You can see it in the above photo. The views are spectacular once the saddle is achieved.
From left to right. Joseph, Markus, Chris, Keegan, Kyler, Jose, Apollo, Vivian. Joseph and Vivian are tried and true Peak Posse adventurers. They know what it takes to climb mountains. A very matter of fact duo who embrace the challenges of our group. Markus is my brother in the Christian faith and climbing this mountain together was a real blessing. Many times on the way up we expressed Gratitude to God for such an awesome place. I didn't know if he would make it up. He did. The Tarzan yell from the summit was pure fun. This was my first time climbing with Chris, he blazed up Middle. Talking with him later, he didn't reach a point mentally or physically where he thought about giving up. I look forward to more summit attempts with Chris in the mix. If there is one person I know who may love mountains more than me, it's Keegan. If youtube only had videos of summit attempts, he would be ok with it. As I mentioned earlier, Keegan had tried to climb South last year and wasn't able to stand at the top. He dropped a lot of weight and not only did he make the summit of Middle with no problem, we are embarking on the South Sister sleepover within days of me writing this. Full packs all the way to the top and camping there. It was very, very cool shaking his hand at the top of Middle. Kyler is a summit machine. He was with us when we climbed Mcloughlin in the snow. That was quite the adventure. When I watched the video footage of the scramble near the peak of middle, Kyler was there, clawing his way up. Those images capture the sheer will and energy required to find a mountain top. I can say with confidence that this wasn't his last summit. It was Jose's birthday when we made camp. He was on this expedition to prove something. South Sister was a fight. He didn't come out on top. When a man has something to prove to himself, you will see a man for what he is. The evening before, Jose was on the fence about his chances of reaching the top. Once we hit the trail the next day, I saw nothing but try, relentless pursuit. When he reached the top he found a rock and laid down in the shade. It wasn't easy for Jose. Apollo was a stranger to me. I know very little about him. To be introduced to someone in a harsh environment, like a mountain, and to see only positive character traits, tells me he is made of some good stuff.
The reason I dedicated this part of the story to these people, I understand how special this group is. There wasn't a cross word spoken, everyone felt comfortable. The comradery was genuine. I gauge the success of the Peak Posse by the experience each person has. The mountains and canyons are the stage, the individuals are the actors. Trail conditions, exposure to the elements, and the stress it places on people makes a mountain attempt a serious affair. Each person was aware and responsible for themselves, while at the same time, light and lively.
There is one last player in this adventure, Middle Sister. It is a fun mountain to climb. You will encounter different trail conditions, which makes it all the more exciting. Dirt, snow, loose rock, steep scrambling and sometimes no trail at all. If there was a drink called the Middle Sister, it would be sweet, cold and powerful. Overall, it's what I would call an entry level mountain. The only spot that makes it more than that, is a section just below the summit. Upon first glance, it is intimidating. As you get closer, it isn't all that. My suggestion for tackling this section is to stay on the ridgeline and then scramble up staying close to the firm rocks. Take your time, if you see a loose rock, avoid it. We watched several travelers approach below the ridge and they were slow going and sending boulders down the mountain. Dangerous.
After this short scramble, the summit is achieved. I like the way a mountain feels. Up so high, breathing air that the mountain is sharing. The sounds are different. Voices sound muffled in a way, like in a room. It is confining, the space is small and conversely open and free. Saying it's special is to bring the mountain down to the definition of a word that doesn't do it justice.
We are creatures that love experience, challenge. We also like telling our stories. That's what life is, our story. The story itself is unaffected by the way we choose to let it shape us. When I climb a beautiful mountain, like Middle Sister, I can make the experience about me or I can make it about us. The mountain, myself, God, the people with me and even people I have never met. I've heard people say that climbing a mountain has changed them. They are different now. I tend to believe that they aren't so much changed as they are introduced to themselves. A mountain is an opportunity to see who we are without a filter. We all have an idea of who we believe we are. We get to choose the suit we will wear for all the world to see. Put in difficult situations, the real person will make an appearance. The three piece suit we want everyone to see may turn out to be a pair of wrinkly sweats and a soiled flintstones shirt. A mountain is a mirror. Sometimes we won't like what we see, sometimes we will. A group of nine people went up Middle Sister. I appreciate their willingness to let me travel alongside them. It was my honor and privilege.
I have included links to the you tube videos of the expedition at the bottom of the page.
Here are a few pictures taken when I climbed the mountain using the south ridge route.