Middle Sister August 5, 2004

Mountain height:            2,769 m (9,085 feet)
Elevation gain:               1,400 m
Ascent time:                 
2:55
Descent time:                2:00
Roundtrip distance:        17.3 km

Solo scramble.

Hard to believe that it took us two attempts to complete the most difficult scramble in the Alan Kane book (Mount Smuts), but four to finally reach the summit of one of the easiest – Middle Sister. The fact that two of those attempts were winter ones and the other took place in terrible weather conditions, might have something to do with that odd statistic.

As easy as the Middle Sister scramble is, what it lacks in difficulty, it certainly makes up for in sheer length. Although considerably shorter than comparable Mount Bourgeau and Castle Mountain (in difficulty), the long hike up Stewart Creek seemed to go on forever - just like the other four times I’ve done it (the last time was for our Middle/Little Sister col trip); and after you’ve escaped the tedium of the creek, you are only about halfway there. Fortunately, the second half of the hike is somewhat more interesting and scenic.

Like our previous trips in this area, the weather and specifically the low-lying clouds blanketing the valley, provided some great scenery. At the start visibility was quite low and I could see nothing of the surrounding mountains. However, as I gained elevation, I suddenly found myself above the clouds, which remained in the valley. I was hoping to make the summit before they dissipated, but my start time, at 9 am, was too late for that and by the time I was halfway up they had unfortunately disappeared (odd to actually wish for thick clouds to stay???). The clear skies and surprisingly interesting scenery more than made up for that.

I was quite happy to finally surpass the point where we had turned around on our three previous tries and make it to the back of the valley, where I started up the final, but deceivingly long stretch to the summit. Again, the scenery continued to impress me, especially the steep walls of Middle Sister, imposing Big Sister above, and a great view to the southwest, which included Birdwood, Robertson, Sir Douglas, and King George. Almost at the summit, I veered to the right to look over the edge of the mountain and was very pleasantly surprised to see a spellbinding view of Little Sister, looking like a little more than 5.3 climbing to me!

By the time I reached the summit, the panorama had improved even more and I could pick at an amazing number of scrambles and other mountains. After an extended stay, enjoying great weather and a wonderful view, I started the easy, but long decent, hoping that I could shave at least an hour off my 3 hour ascent time. I came close…but no cigar – 55 minutes! Overall, a very enjoyable day and achieving Middle Sister, our most elusive summit to date, means that I’ve finally completed all the scrambles in the “Canmore and Bow Valley” section of Kane’s book – onto the next section.  

  

Mist crawling over the mountains, near McConnell Ridge

More very interesting scenery

 

The upper stages of Stewart Creek 

 

Just above the Big/Middle Sister col, looking towards Big Sister

 

A great view of Little Sister on the way to the summit

 

A surprisingly great view to the southwest; in the background are French, Robertson and its glacier, and Sir Douglas; Commonwealth, Pig's Tail, and Birdwood are in front and the barely visible mountain to the right of Birdwood is 11,000 foot+ Mount King George

 

The same view, but smaller, Goat Mountain and Mount Nestor are visible at the right

 

The steep and striking walls of Middle Sister

 

A close-up of the above

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