Three Sisters Pass (north approach) - ClubTread Community

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post #1 of (permalink) Old 08-05-2013, 09:58 PM Thread Starter
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Default Three Sisters Pass (north approach)

Three Sisters Pass and south end of Ehagay Nakoda Range, 11 km return, 900 m elevation gain to the pass, additional 125 elevation gain to the south end of the ridge

This route is from the Canmore side - not the more commonly used south approach from Hwy 742. As rain was in the forecast, I decided to go out and practice some navigational skills. The route begins at the end of Three Sisters Blvd next to the abandoned golf course (it is part of the Highline trail system). The trail crosses Three Sisters Creek. The original bridge was washed out in the flood, but another has been built further up. The new trail follows an old wood and wire pipeline for a ways. The new bridge is built from a cannibalized section of the pipeline.



1. The washed out bridge
2. The wooden pipeline
3. The new bridge

Immediately after the new bridge, I left the Highline trail and followed the creek. I reached the old mine dam. About 300 m upstream there is a waterfall. The flooding has caused it to change its course.



4. The old dam
5. The waterfall
6. The waterfall in 2012

The trail goes up a ridge on the left of the waterfall. There is then a fork. I followed the left fork for a bit to see where it went. It seemed to veer to the left up a ridge. I am guessing that it is to a technical climbing route on Little Sister. I doubled back and went along the right fork. It drops back down to the creek. The trail beyond the waterfall is almost completely washed out. There are piles of dead trees in the creek bed, but I could easily avoid most of them. You need to be careful in your navigation. One fork in the creek takes you to the basin below Ship's Prow. Another takes you well below Three Sisters Pass. The correct fork is by a huge pile of logs and is marked with pink flagging.



7. The fork in the trail
8. The creek above the waterfall
9. The flagging at the right hand fork in the creek

I was already pretty soaked from the rain, but it was going to get much worse. Despite the dotted line on the Gem Trek map, there is no visible route. I simply bashed up the steep creek bed through thick vegetation. I climbed to the right to bypass a headwall and aimed to the end of the cliff on the right hoping to bypass a bushwhack through the trees. No luck. I had to descend and work through some very thick and wet trees and brush. I have not been so soaked since my backpacking days. I had to take my boots off to empty them and wring out my socks. I then proceeded towards the pass first checking out a little nub that provides a good view of the Three Sisters and the pass.



10. The thickly vegetated right fork of the creek
11. The bushwhack through the wet trees to the pass
12. The viewpoint in front of the pass

I quickly hiked over to the pass. The sun then came out and I decided to take a look at the south end of the ridge. It is a moderate scramble to the south end bump.



13. The south end of the ridge
14. The scramble up the bump on the south end of the ridge
15. The Three Sisters from the south end of the ridge

The ridge thereafter gets exposed and ugly and I could see a disjointed series of higher points. There is a big gully system far to the left, and it is possible that this might be an access to the summit. However, it is a completely different approach and I did not have time to check it out. I descended and followed the creek back. Ship's Prow has an unnamed little sister that bears a very close resemblance (except smaller). The hike back was much quicker and uneventful.



16. The broken and exposed ridge beyond the south end bump
17. The view back down to the pass
17. Ship's Prow (back) and the unnamed smaller peak (in front)
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post #2 of (permalink) Old 08-08-2013, 04:42 PM
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Thanks for posting your report. I've done the southern approach which is quite pleasant but I've always wondered about the north approach.

Do you know if it's possible to traverse to Ha Ling from Three Sisters Pass? I wonder if anyone has attempted that.
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post #3 of (permalink) Old 08-08-2013, 10:22 PM Thread Starter
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I have not heard of anyone doing so. I don't really know what the ridge is like to the south of Ship's Prow. So getting on and getting off this south bit of the ridge might be the problem.
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post #4 of (permalink) Old 05-02-2016, 02:23 PM
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Fantastic report of rarely visited area!
One comment in regard to

Quote:
The trail goes up a ridge on the left of the waterfall. There is then a fork. I followed the left fork for a bit to see where it went. It seemed to veer to the left up a ridge. I am guessing that it is to a technical climbing route on Little Sister.
Climber access up Little Sister is way earlier, just off the Highline about 5 minutes before it crosses Three Sisters Creek. See this report and GPS Track. Interesting enough, there are several flags along the left side of the creek even before waterfall and beginnings of the trail so they all might have been used for access; regardless, the one I describe in the report is the best. Some amount of bushwhack in lower part is inevitable though.
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post #5 of (permalink) Old 05-03-2016, 02:53 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zeljkok View Post
Fantastic report of rarely visited area!
One comment in regard to



Climber access up Little Sister is way earlier, just off the Highline about 5 minutes before it crosses Three Sisters Creek. See this report and GPS Track. Interesting enough, there are several flags along the left side of the creek even before waterfall and beginnings of the trail so they all might have been used for access; regardless, the one I describe in the report is the best. Some amount of bushwhack in lower part is inevitable though.
Many parties who climb Little Sister descend the South Ridge to the Little Sister-Middle Sister col. I saw signs of a trail descending the scree slopes below said col, towards Three Sisters Creek, so perhaps that was the trail he came across.

When I climbed Little Sister, after descending to the col, I traversed across scree slopes beneath Middle Sister, on the North side to see if there was a potential scramble route between Middle and Big Sister.

As it turns out, there is a very enjoyable (probably moderate) scramble up this drainage. The only difficulty is a steep bit, where you climb up to the left of a little waterfall (could be dry later in the year). I descended the normal scramble route, which makes for an interesting loop, although the trail along Stewart Creek is mostly washed out.
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post #6 of (permalink) Old 05-03-2016, 08:56 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wardenac View Post
When I climbed Little Sister, after descending to the col, I traversed across scree slopes beneath Middle Sister, on the North side to see if there was a potential scramble route between Middle and Big Sister.

As it turns out, there is a very enjoyable (probably moderate) scramble up this drainage. The only difficulty is a steep bit, where you climb up to the left of a little waterfall (could be dry later in the year). I descended the normal scramble route, which makes for an interesting loop, although the trail along Stewart Creek is mostly washed out.
Scramble route -- to where? To the col between Big & Middle Sister (from 3 Sisters Creek side)? If so, then I understand your loop (with side walk-up Middle Sister, just to tag a summit along the way)

Re descent from Little Sister: Someone told me once they rappelled to col between Little and Middle Sister because "scramble" part on upper ridge (above technical climb) was so loose they didn't want to go back that way
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post #7 of (permalink) Old 05-04-2016, 12:25 AM
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Yes, to the col between Big and Middle Sister, from Three Sisters Creek. It makes for a good circuit, especially if you have a bike to leave at one of the trailheads, to get back to your vehicle.

The South Ridge of Little Sister is probably superior in terms of rock quality to the normal route up the NE Ridge. Much of it is comprised of super grippy, water-worn limestone that's almost impossible to slip on (but if you do, your skin will be shredded). I actually down-climbed the ridge and would rate it around 5.6, with the crux being at the very bottom. The first half of the NE Ridge also has excellent rock quality, but the start of the second half is very poor and probably the crux of the climb. I do think that the approach for the NE Ridge is shorter and vastly superior, though. I don't remember the scramble part on the upper ridge being too heinous, but I descended a little ways down, rather than following the ridge proper to get past a couple of iffy sections.

Photo 1 - Looking down the South Ridge of Little Sister
Photo 2 - Looking back at the South Ridge
Photo 3 - Looking down drainage between Middle and Big Sister, towards Three Sisters Creek.
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post #8 of (permalink) Old 05-05-2016, 03:18 PM
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ah, wow! You don't see these kind of images every day ;=)

Was actually looking at Mid Sister (from Bow River level) last evening for good 10 minutes, with totally different perspective due to this conversation. That climber descent from Little/Mid col straight into 3-Sisters creek looks like horribly steep scree. Mentioned traverse at base of Mid Sister on north side looks doable but very uncomfortable side-sloping. And right now there is still snow & probably very dangerous.

Agreed very much on NE ridge approach from hiker perspective; it's an awesome trip & I am likely to repeat it this year. I am somewhat surprised it doesn't see more traffic -- I find it vastly superior trip to say Grassi Knob. Looking at these towering cliffs at base of roped climb is amazing experience.
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post #9 of (permalink) Old 05-05-2016, 06:35 PM
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The scree near Little/Middle col IS terribly loose, I'm not gonna' lie. I imagine that it would be decent for descending, but climbing up to the col that way would likely be a bit of a chore. On the traverse below Middle Sister, I actually had my footing collapse beneath me and did a butt-slide down the scree for maybe 15-20 ft. That said, the drainage between Middle and Big Sister has lots of limestone ribs, which offer solid footing and the scree as you approach the col is reasonably stable.
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