Sunday, June 4, 2017

Memorial Day Snow Camping

As is Miller tradition, we headed up to Pole Creek over Memorial Day weekend made our way toward North Sister.  This year we started out with a couple miles of walking before we were able to put on our skis.  Last year, I spend this time in Flagstaff, the Grand Canyon to be exact, so I learned from my family that there was quite a bit more snow this year than last.  This wasn't too surprising because we've had lots of rain in the valley, but it certainly wasn't the most snow we've had over Memorial Day.
North Sister
Saturday we started out of Pole Creek around noon and made our way up to a small ridge below North Sister where we have camped the last few years.  We made it to our camp site fairly quickly, largely due to there being tons of ski and hiker tracks leading up toward Middle and North Sister.  Perhaps this weekend adventure is becoming more popular, or maybe it was just the fantastic weather, but there seemed to be more track than ever before.  After we pitched the tent, we sat around for the rest of the afternoon and enjoyed the shade.  This was by far the hottest Memorial Day trip we've had!  The only problem with the shade was that there were tons of little flies this year and the air was pretty still.  I guess bug bites are the tradeoff for no freezing nights!

The excitement of the evening was the I felt a bit lightheaded and had to lie down in the tent for a while before we went to bed.  This could have been the altitude since we'd climb to about 7000 ft. or dehydration since it was very hot and the sun was reflecting off the snow.  My guess is the root cause was that I just made it through a week of midterms and was pretty much exhausted by Friday afternoon.  Whatever the cause, I felt great the next morning after a long night's rest.

The Sunday of Memorial Day, we usually make out way along the snow fields below Middle Sister to get in some good skiing and a view into Camp Lake.  The last couple years the weather has been much nicer so we've made our way up toward the Saddle on Middle Sister, then up to the top.  This year, with terrific weather, we began the long climb up toward the Saddle with hopes of making the top.  There is one steep pitch above the saddle which can get pretty hard and icy.  Its hard to guess how it will be each time, so all we could do was hope for the best and enjoy the beautiful day.
Middle Sister on the left
Mom and Jacob heading up toward Middle Sister

Dad, Mom, and Broken Top

Middle Sister and Prouty Point

Dad with South Sister in the background

Mom and South

Dad with South, Bachelor, and Broken Top
As we climbed up, I made sure to keep my long sleeve shirt on but unlike the past that wasn't because I was cold.  This year was a cooker!  And spending all day on snow above 7000 ft. with the sun beating down was a recipe for a big disaster.  That morning we all piled on the sunscreen, but it was still humbling just how powerful the sun can feel.  Anyhow, we got a few breezes on the way up, but for the most part it was just pretty hot.

The snow was already getting pretty heavy as we reached the Saddle and looked out to the west.  Far off on the horizon was Mary's Peak.  I always enjoy seeing Mary's Peak since I see it every time I look up while at my desk.  We ditched the skies at the Saddle and had a quick bite to eat before starting up the ridge toward Middle.  The first section was loose, open rock, but we soon hit a steep snowfield.  This was it was pretty hard, with fairly poor steps, so Mom opted not to head to the top.  Dad, Jacob, and I reached the top which offered a great view of the Cascade Range.  This years we could see all the way to Mt. Adams!

Mom heading up toward the saddle on Middle Sister

Looking down the range all the way to Adams

Too small here, but you can see Mary's Peak on the horizon

South, Bachelor, and Broken Top

The steep section on Middle Sister

Dad and Mt. Jefferson
The rest of the day we spend skiing down long snowfields before making our way around the mountain to overlook Camp Lake.  There was much blue showing on Camp Lake this year, but with all the precipitation we've had that was no surprise!

Once we got back to the tent, we were all looking forward to sitting down in the shade and enjoying the afternoon, but we were quickly swarmed by flies.  I guessed that the warmer weather, without freezing nights, had allowed the bugs to get a bit higher than in years past.

The next morning we headed up toward North Sister.  We climbed a short ways up the ridge to grab bit to eat and look out toward South Sister.  After that walked back down to our skis and started the descent.  This snow on this part of the mountain was a bit more inconsistent than yesterday but the snowfield was still a long and fun descent.
Mt. Jefferson behind North Sister's Ridge

Broken Top and Bachelor

Some hearty flowers

Middle Sister

North Sister

The snowfield down to our tent
Once we got back to the campsite, we grabbed our packs and started the trip out.  We were able to ski a ways, but needed to walk out the last couple miles with our skis on our packs.  All in all, it was a very fun weekend which we will hopefully be able to duplicate soon!

Looking back up the same snowfield

Mom and Jacob on the way out


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