Middle is the fun one.
Once you have climbed South and North is still
There's Middle Sister
A great mountain to climb
Middle Sister is a fun mountain to climb. It’s bigger sibling to the South gets a whole lot more love than it does, probably because it is bigger and easier to climb. The issue with South Sister these days is the permitting system that you must use to be able to climb the thing. It’s not all that bad, I got one last summer on the first try. It still is a thing though. Middle Sister only has a five-dollar payment at the trailhead and off you go.
Pole Creek Trailhead is where your jaunt starts. Take the Mckenzie Highway to just outside of Sisters Oregon. Turn left on NF-15. Somewhere along the way it becomes NF-1524, Pole Creek Road. Stay on the main road until you reach the Pole Creek Trailhead. Unload your stuff, pay the toll, the aforementioned five dollars, and start the hike.
This is a longer expedition, between seventeen and eighteen miles. That’s the distance for the Northern route. I have climbed the Southern route and it is one mean, steep, pile of rocks. We will stick with the Northern route for this story.
The first four miles will have you headed moderately uphill. You will go through some burnt out sections, cross a little creek, which is a good place to have a rest. You will see North Sister at the beginning of the trail, but soon you will be in the trees and the mountains will not be visible. At the four mile mark the trail will turn to the left and you will see a smaller, but well traveled trail, heading straight. It is what us big deal mountain climbers like to call a “climbers trail”. The good thing for you is, as soon as you step foot on the climbers trail, you’re a big deal too. In fact from that point forward you can tell people, “I’m a big deal when it comes to mountains.”
Next time you find yourself in an awkward situation, throw it out there. It can only make things more awkward.
Once on the climbers trail, it gets a bit steeper. The landscape changes and the trees start to get all scrubby. Scrubby trees are so cool. They are a sure sign that you are gaining some altitude. Soon you will be walking alongside small creeks, they are snow melt from the glacier. I think it’s neat that the water running down the creek used to be way up on the mountain. It’s part of the mountain moving down, while I’m moving up. If you are going to filter this water, find the clearer runoff water. The milkier, whiter water is full of minerals and will clog up a filter in no time. That’s a pro tip for you that I learned the hard way on the Timberline Trail. What kind of jerk stain would I have to be to not tell you about the white water and your filter? I would have to be the kind that doesn’t come out, even with pre-treating. That’s a serious jerk stain.
The trail up Middle is pretty easy to follow, depending on the time of year. If there is still snow up there, just head toward the saddle between North and Middle Sister. The goal is to get on the opposite side of the mountain and make your way around Prouty Point. I have seen many folks forging up Hayden Glacier but I wouldn’t recommend it unless you have crampons. As the summer heat melts away the glacier, large crevices open on the glacier. I would definitely not take the glacier short cut if you are up there during that time of the year.
If the snow has melted already, the climbers trail will take you to a large boulder field. It’s fun crossing it. It feels like another planet in the middle of the boulders. Just make sure you are headed toward the saddle.
At the saddle, there will be a pool and a bank of snow to your left, towards Middle. This is your last chance for water so fill them jugs to the brim. Now, head up the snow. Then follow it around the backside of Prouty Point and keep on toward the summit. I must mention that you will have fantastic views on this side of the mountain.
Stick close to the rocks on your left, walking on the snow beside them is easier going. Soon you will round a corner and have a great view of the summit. This is my favorite spot on Middle Sister. When you see what you have to climb, how steep it looks, it’s a bit freaky. I have been with people that once they see it, they are done. No way they are going up. Truth is, it’s not near as bad once you are actually on it. The sight of it really put in my mind that I was climbing an intense mountain. Even though it is shorter than South, it has a more adventurous atmosphere to it.
You have to cross over from Prouty Point to the base of the summit before the final, steep loose ascent. It is very open, big, and vast. Take it all in. It’s a cool spot to be. My next pro tip is very important. Do not take the low trail from Prouty over to the summit base. Stay up on the ridgeline. It is very steep coming up and people kick rocks loose the whole time they are climbing up. Cross on the ridge and then stay on the rocks or right next to them. This last part is pretty steep. Take it slow and watch what you are grabbing and stepping on. It’s very easy to send a rock down on the poor slub below you. I say poor slub, not because of who they are as a person, but because of who you are. The numbskull kicking rocks down.
You are near the summit now. If you are afraid of heights, stay to the right. If you go left, you will find yourself on the edge of a very tall cliff. Once you reach the summit, it is spacious. You can enjoy yourself without having to get near the cliff. Let me tell you, the views are very good.
I have quite a few favorite memories of climbing Middle with the Posse. We camped out on the flats, among the scrubby trees. The group hanging out and looking up at Middle, that was some good times. The next morning we woke up early. It was still dark. Keegan had lugged a big hunting speaker up to camp and started blasting cougar calls. It freaked people the freak out. Imagine, pitch black with a cougar only a few feet away. We all got a good laugh out of that one.
The day we made the summit was pure fun. Eight people headed up a mountain having a fun time. I took a picture of the Posse as we made it up to Prouty Point and the great view of the Cascades in the background. It remains one of my favorites. This was back in 2019 and we had just finished the Mt Mcloughlin expedition in the snow. That experience was intense, like, “Woah!”
Middle was more like, “Hey! Alright."
It’s 2022 as I write this now. I will be making another trip up Middle, maybe this summer. Gotta stand up there with Tonka and Meerkat. They were not able to make it on the 2019 expedition. I look forward to it very much.
If you have climbed South Sister and would like a slightly more challenging mountain. Look North. You will see Middle standing there waiting for you.
We have a youtube video of our Middle Sister expedition.
You can find it here: https://youtu.be/5rAQTSUsyDE
Please show your support for the Posse. Purchase a Middle Sister patch from our Etsy shop.
The first few miles are among burnt trees with a moderate uphill climb
You will get some pretty good views through the trees
The creek crossing
Our view of Middle from camp
The mean one. North Sister
Markus and Apolo on summit day
Hayden glacier is on the left side of the picture.
Prouty Point is at the top, in the middle of the photo.
The goal is to go right of Prouty and get back behind it.
We are just below the saddle. That's Prouty Point on the left.
You can see some of the boulder field here.
What a great group!
Here we are on the backside of Prouty making our way to the base of the summit
Here is the view of the summit. It looks pretty formidable.
It's not as bad as it looks.
Stay on the ridge. You will see a trail that stays lower to the right of the ridge. Do not use that trail. Stay on the ridge.
Once across keep to the rocks or just to the right beside the rocks.
On the summit
The Peak Posse
Marcus, Apolo, Kyler, Keegan, Jose, Chris and myself down low