Route: Sisters Trifinity Loop (OR)

Submitted by Jason Hardrath… on Sat, 09/04/2021 - 03:40pm
Oregon, US
76.53 mi
Vertical Gain
25,315 ft

The "Three Sisters" volcanoes (also known as Faith, Hope and Charity), near Bend, Oregon, are one of the state's most sought after playgrounds for those who love big days on semi-technical peaks (to such a degree there is now a permit system).

Popular for many, many years has been the traverse of all three Sisters in what has been called the "Sisters Marathon" and the "Three Sisters Traverse."
- It has its own FKT route in recent years seen here.

More recently the "Three Sisters Loop" or "Three Sisters Circumnav" has become a popular test piece for local ultra-marathon athletes. 
- it has its own FKT route seen here.

During my pursuit of "Infinity Loops" in 2019 and 2020, the idea of creating an "Infinity Loop" type route with three volcanic peaks in the middle instead of one captured my imagination, so into my notebook it went. Recently the idea for the Sisters Trifinity Loop has been brought back to the front of my mind by conversations with Danny Fisher and Kyle Long where name and route design were refined. Apparently, it is low-hanging fruit when you have a glorious traverse surrounded by an incredible 50 mile loop. It is a similar concept to the Rainier Infinity Loop

The Infinity Loop is an unusual challenge dreamed up by iconic Washington climber Chad Kellogg, for Mt. Rainier, but which he was never able to complete due to his untimely passing. The essence of Chad and the Infinity Loop is captured beautifully in "To Infinity" by Dirtbag Diaries - a podcast responsible for spreading inspiring the for whole infinity loop phenomena - it should perhaps be considered essential listening for imparting on this FKT or challenge. 

This loop was first completed by Emily Keddie in 2022.

So without further ado, on to describing that route:

Sisters Trifinity Loop description:

- Start from Pole Creek Trailhead sign and complete the Sisters Traverse tagging the true summit of all three peaks.
- descend to where the South Sister Climber Trail #36 and Moraine Lake Trail #17.1 merge (at coordinates 44.05530, -121.77107) avoiding any prior shortcuts.
- turn either right or left onto Moraine Lake Trail #17.1, completing a half-circumnavigation on the loop trail back to where you cross your own track from your first traverse over the mountains (it is unnecessary to go down and tag the trailhead)
- complete the traverse again, tagging all summits a second time, descending again to the South Sister Climber Trail #36 and Moraine Lake Trail #17.1 merge (at coordinates 44.05530, -121.77107) avoiding any prior shortcuts.
- turn the opposite way as last time completing the other half-circumnavigation on the loop trail back to where you cross your own track,
- this time turn back down to Pole Creek Trailhead, timer stops when you tag the trailhead sign

Decisions left up to the attempter: 
- which direction you go,
- whether you do the traverse or a half-circ first or second,
- micro-route variations during the off-trail mountain portions of the route
- Starting/Ending at Pole Creek or Devils Lake Campground Trailhead 
- as of the writing of this route (Sept. 2021) you do need a special permit ahead of time for Devils Lake TH, while at Pole Creek TH it is self-issue at the TH

Things that would warrant an attempt being disqualified: 
- not tagging a true summit (photos on each summit is great evidence)
- shortcutting off-trail or on a side trail to shorten the circumnavigation loop (see this map with clearly marked "DO NOT USE!" markings on side trails)
- trail "cutting" during the trail loop

I recommend googling some of the history around efforts on and around these mountains, quite enjoyable reading.

The Trifinity Loop Challenge

Aside from FKT chasing, the first Infinity Loop on Rainier was originally done with each of the 4 parts taking roughly a day, this timeline itself is a respectable challenge for partners set out to complete to participate in this community, without chasing sleepless pushing through the wee hours. This sub-4 day - sub-96 hour - timeline feels like a meaningful challenge as a way to plan, execute, and experience this incredible mountain, allowing each part to be completed in daylight hours. A more audacious timeline would be to complete the challenge sub-48 hours, fitting the outing into a standard weekend. Infinity Loops and big volcanoes are aesthetically meant for one another, give it a try!

so, Who's Next?

~Submitted by Jason Hardrath (STRAVA, IG or FB)

Other established Infinity Loops:

Rainier Infinity Loop

Shasta Infinity Loop

Adams Infinity Loop

Glacier Peak Infinity Loop

Hood Infinity Loop


Podcasts and articles on the Infinity Loop Experience:

"Bringing a Vision to Life" by The Mountaineers on Gavin Woody and Ras Vaughan's establishment of the Rainier Infinity Loop

"To Infinity" by Dirtbag Diaries

First All Women's Team to complete Rainier Infinity Loop - Kaytlyn Gerbin, Alex Borsuk - interview on Ginger Runner

"Suffering and Serenity on the Rainier Infinity Loop" on Essential Strength Podcast





I intend to run this starting Thursday night, august 18th.

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I will be attempting to complete this route starting tomorrow morning 8/28. 

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I'm slightly puzzled why this route goes east from North Sister, and doesn't just continue to follow the ridge to join the trail further north? This would be more in the spirit of an infinity loop. Anyway...

The north ridge of north sister is an incredibly poor quality, gear required rock climbing route that is rarely climbed. I agree that it’s less in the spirit, but linking all 3 makes it a ridiculous infinity already. There is a clear climber’s trail that descents from North Sister east. The terrain is so littered with cliff bands and our poor starving but very open gaping glaciers that trying to make it resemble a figure 8 is not so possible. 

Also I didn’t name it, but if I had it wouldn’t have a publicly publishable name. So. 

Great question from a great FKT'er! I was of the same opinion early in starting to build the route, but I now like to connect with local athletes and clubs before posting a new route to their space. Every person I talked to preferred this standard route exit/entry as compared to the North Ridge exit/entry since it is the establish standard traverse for the three Sisters. As you know from your attempt to complete Oregon's Five Highest, the North Ridge exit off North Sister is neither fast, nor friendly.

Appreciate you bringing this up so readers here can get an idea of the process of weighing aesthetics and local community in the formation of new routes!

Congratulations on your recent exploits in the Arctic.

With stoke and gratitude,