Big Sister

While sipping on a beer later that afternoon on the shore of Johnson Lake I described my ascent of Big Sister. “You mean like the Three Sisters?” Someone said. “Yeah”. “What are the names of the other sisters?” “Well there’s Big Sister, Middle Sister, and Little Sister”. “Are they harder to climb the bigger they get?” They asked. It is actually almost the other way around. Big Sister is a moderate scramble, Middle Sister is practically a hiking trail, and Little Sister is a technical climb. There are a few things that can turn you back on Big Sister however. If you follow the ridge route up, as described in Kane’s Scrambles book, which I highly recommend, then a down sloping rock band (crux) may be intimidating. I ran into a couple that had turned around at this point during a previous attempt. The crux can be avoided by traversing slabs to climber’s left, then getting back on route just above. The other thing that can turn parties around is a steep snow slope near the summit. Even with an ice axe, the angle is high and the potential runout could be deadly. I carried my axe, but as everything in the Rockies is nearly a month ahead of schedule this season, there was barely any snow remaining.

The route begins at an old quarry, on the east side of the Three Sisters Dam
Big Sister’s ascent route as seen from the west side road
Patches of low lying fog lingered as I started up the steep trail to gain the ridge
After around one and a half hours of climbing, you arrive at a point with a view towards Canmore (behind the clouds)
Looking back down on the Three Sisters Dam and towards the Goat Range
After a section of down climbing, a rock window provides a view of the Spray Lakes to the south
A view of the Ehagy Nakoda Range (and Canmore to the right of the frame) from the summit
Perpetual fog licked the south face of the mountain all day
One last view of Spray Lakes before heading back down the screen gully (I opted for the easier descent, rather than sticking to the ridge)
Two scramblers make their way towards the down sloping crux (dark band just above them)
Creeping Beardtongue (penstemon ellipticus)

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