An early season climb of Middle Sister is a great choice for beginning mountaineers to gain confidence on inviting terrain while combining many of the basic alpine skills into one climb. While there is no technical rock climbing on the north ridge route, the glaciated approach and exposed higher angle snow travel mean that you may not want to leave the technical gear behind. Add to this the gear and skills needed for snow camping and you will likely find your pack having a hefty weight as you leave the trailhead.
After diverging from the main trail, the climber's trail ascends the Whychus Creek drainage to the base of the Hayden Glacier. It is in this stretch of terrain where you will find a suitable site for camp. After digging a tent platform and melting snow for water, soak up any last rays of sun before it disappears behind your next day’s objective. An early start helps ensure predictable conditions and provides stunning views of sunrise as your rope team crosses the mellow glacier. While the alpenglow on the Three Sisters may hold your attention, don’t forget to look behind you as the sun moves across the Eastern Oregon landscape.
From the saddle between Middle and North Sister, follow the ridge to the summit, placing pickets if necessary. A misstep here would send you sliding down the wrong side of the mountain! From the summit of the volcano, reverse your path back to camp and pack up for the long haul back to the car.