Finally! I wanted to finish the "scramble sisters" (Faith and Hope) this year and I just managed to squeak this one in as the fall scrambling season moves to a close. I don't think this is a good winter option considering some of the avalanche terrain toward the upper reaches of Stewart Creek.
Right off the bat I want to say, Ignore all information regarding accessing the Stewart Creek trail except the following advice!!!! We got lost right off the bat because we were missing some very basic information and it was still dark when we got to the parking lot so we missed THE SIGN. Once you've turned onto the Three Sisters overpass, turn left (east) at the first junction. You will be on a gravel road. Once you've gone a short distance up a hill there will be a gate straight in front of you and the road will turn right. STOP AT THE GATE. (ie Do NOT go to the overflow parking lot for the golf course - don't even go anywhere close to the golf course - you don't have to.)
Upon further examination you will notice that the gate has a sign on it. Read the sign and you will get instructions on accessing the Middle Sister trail. My take on it is as follows: Do NOT follow ribbons. There are hundreds of blue, orange and white ribbons all over the place. Following them will get you lost. Trust me. You should be on roads all the way till you reach the creek. Once you get to the creek, go right, over a 2x6 across the creek and then up another road (yes a road - very obvious!) up the right hand side of Stewart Creek. From this point the way is obvious. If you find yourself on a trail that is very narrow and wild / overgrown you are not on the right trail. Back track and find the road!
[This is the gate I'm talking about.]
Now that we've got you on the right trail let's look at the actually scramble! I was really looking forward to this one. For two years now I've wanted to add it to my list. How did it hold up? Well to be perfectly honest it was a bit of a disappointment at first. However, I now realize that most of the disappointment was due to the weather, not the scramble. After spending almost an hour getting to the darn trailhead we were more then ready to start hiking! Throughout the day we switched lead with a group of 5 from Calgary - the only other people on Middle Sister that day.
I found walking through the creek quite fun actually. The terrain ranges from short stretches of solid path to longer stretches through the actual creek-bed. When you finally get to the top of the creek you are surrounded by huge mountain walls and there really is no option about where to go! If you just follow the creek till it runs out you will not get lost. There was some interesting ice formations on some of the cliffs coming off of Rimwall and Big Sister. On the way down some icefall off of Middle Sister was a bit of a concern but missed us by quite a bit.
[The Upper reaches of Stewart Creek before turning right and ascending the summit of Middle Sister.]
[The route is fairly obvious from the upper creek.]
[Looking back at Little Sister as we approach the turn to Middle Sister which is just out of sight on the left here.]
[Ted comes up the steep, loose trail behind me.]
[Looking back at Big Sister from the ascend slope.]
[Cliffs on Middle Sister as we ascend oos to the left of them.]
[Big Sister with the Goat Range in the background.]
[Looking along the Rundle Range towards Ha Ling, Miner's Peak and Rundle from the summit of Middle Sister.]
[Vern on the summit with the much more difficult, Charity Peak in the background.]
[A frozen waterfall in Stewart Creek on return.]
There is no 'crux' on this trip unless you count the mental 'crux' of a 8km hike one-way to her summit! We had rocks blowing off the steep walls of Stewart Creek that kept us alert but other then that we just slogged it up to the summit. You can't actually see the true summit until you're almost there - so remember that if you think you're almost there you probably aren't! 4,500 ft is a lot of height gain. The views from the top are good but not spectacular. I don't think I would repeat this trip any time soon but still highly recommend you try it. The creek is pretty neat and anyone with good cardio should be able to do it.