I’ve done everything imaginable when it comes to climbing the Three Sisters in Oregon: one at a time, two at a time, all three, all three and Broken Top, Mt Washington and the three of them, etc, but I had never run around them in a single push until yesterday. Known locally as “The Big Loop,” the distance is somewhere between 45-47 miles with about 8000+ feet of climbing and descending. The high point is almost 7000′ at Opie Dilldock Pass and the low point is about 5300′. It’s entirely in the Three Sisters Wilderness Area and the diversity of terrain and vegetation is impressive.
Scott Diamond wrote a good description of the route on his volcano running website. If you plan on doing it, do check it out. While there are lots of people doing various activities, keep in mind that this is entirely in a wilderness area so plan accordingly.
Water sources were good, but be careful on the PCT to fill up at each source. I made the mistake of filling up too early heading north, skipping several good creeks, only to run dry in the very exposed plains south of Obsidian Falls during the heat of the day. I was reduced to a slow walk, catching rests at each shady spot I could find. I had started at 3am so I had plenty of time to sit and hope that some trail goddess would magically appear with a big glass of Tejava Ice Tea and chips and salsa and guacamole, but it never happened. When I did get to Obsidian Falls I thoroughly enjoyed two bottles of the ice cold water while watching some 60 year old female hiker mack out on cheese and crackers and wine and what looked like enough food to feed five people. Nope, she never offered me anything and I never asked. But a little while later I came across a sister and brother who must have recognized the look on my face: “Are you running around the sisters in a day? Do you need any food or water?” I immediately sat down and ate the food they offered. Not quite ice tea, chips and salsa, but the bag of trail mix they gave me was awesome and propelled me the last 10 miles.
While I didn’t set any records, and never intended to, my 15 hours total time is probably a very conservative time. I figured on being out 12 hours. I started at Lava Camp off of 242 at 3am and ran clockwise. I took lots of pictures and talked to anybody that would engage me. I spent time sitting at the beautiful locations and of course all the shady spots south of Obsidian Falls. The fastest time I have heard of for the Big Loop is Rod Bien’s 8.5 hours starting at Green Lakes TH, counter clockwise. Pretty sure I couldn’t run that fast if there were aid stations and trail goddesses with ice tea, and I was wearing a bib number.
I did take lots of pictures which you find below. Enjoy.