Oregon’s Three Sisters Are Calling for an Alpine Ski Traverse, BRB

The first thing I noticed when I gained the Southeast Ridge of the North Sister is how perfectly aligned the Three Sisters mountain range is for an alpine style splitboard or ski traverse. Most Pacific Northwest Volcanoes are hours in the car, a permitting process, and a jalapeño cheeseburger away from each other.

What started as an idea to climb one mountain outside Bend, OR turned into a scoping mission for what will be a massive multi-day splitboard traverse of a complex 10,000 ft volcanic mountain system.

The original plan was to hike in from the Pole Creek trailhead, take a hard right onto the Chambers Lake trail, and gain the Southeast ridge of the North Sister. We hoped to summit, but it wasn’t a priority.

The goal was to drop onto the steep Thayer Glacier as far up the ridge as possible. The North Sister is the most technical climb in the range, and as we approached, we watched wet slides tear down the east face into the Soap Creek Basin. We decided to stay on mellower terrain, spend some time checking out the area, and discuss the feasibility of the traverse.

The “Three Sisters Marathon” is a 16 odd mile traverse of the North, Middle, South Sister made “famous” by Scott Johnston, the climber, endurance athlete, and coach.  The route is ran/climbed in a single day during the late summer. The ski traverse is done, but not often. And, information is not as abundant as other Pacific Northwest Volcano ski descents.

I plan to run the route in late summer in preparation for the splitboard traverse. I’ll be using that trip to scout the route and I’ll take my time, learn the route, and find a bivouac site or two along the way. There is still plenty of research to be done and decisions to be made.

Should I go north to south to get the technical climbing out of the way while I am still fresh? Should I include Broken Top to make it a Four Sisters Traverse? What about Mt. Bachelor? Who can I convince to tag along? Should I just move to Bend, OR?

The internal ranking system of upcoming trips and projects is organic. Although larger long term goals may sit at the top (like Splitboarding Denali this past June), these kinds of smaller more intricate projects have a way of diving in and taking priority. The Sisters Ski Traverse is currently located right near the top of my to-do list. Stay tuned.

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Jake Willson
Jake Willson

Writer & Mountain Guide

Former Business Analyst Turned Mountain Guide. Splitboard stuff. Climbing stuff. Also, a very snazzy dresser. Between The Peaks // Karma Project // Miyar Adventures.


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