View Full Version : TR South Sister, OR 7/15/09

Tar Heel
07-22-2009, 05:16 PM
I wanted to share my week out west hiking and didn't know where to put it. It isn't a whites hike so I figured general would work. Still to come Panorama Point (on Mt Rainier) and Mt. St. Helens.

Check out my blog for the pictures and a 360 degree video at the top of this young volcano

South Sister - Bend, OR 7/15/09
Third highest peak in OR 10,358ft (of torture)

This hike really beings on Tuesday the 14th when I woke at 3:30am EST to get to the airport for my 6:00am EST flight to Seattle. I land in Seattle at a little after 11:00am PST, have some lunch, visit with my friend Amy, and get dropped at the train station. Next I have a 2:20pm PST train ride to Portland. Three and a half hours later I finally arrive, 5:50pm PST (8:50 EST). My friend Dawn picks me up and I throw in the towel at 8:00 and go to bed. At that point I had been up for almost 20 hours, traveled thousands of miles, and by various modes of transportation. Alas my early morning traveling was not done. Wednesday the 15th we got up at 3:00am and were out the door by 3:30 to drive the 3+ hours down to South Sister, which is just outside of Bend. Needless to say I am tired (and possibly a bit dehydrated) before I even start.

We are taking the southern route to the top so we park at the Devil?s Lake Campground, which starts around 5000ft. It looks almost like the parking lot is next to an old lava flow, kinda cool. A little after 7:30 we are finally on the trail walking through a Douglas Fir Forest. Way different from what I am use to in New England. I notice there are a lot of down, dead trees but we have no explanation to why. This portion of the trail is not difficult by saturated with mosquitoes, annoying. We took our first break next to another apparent lava flow right before the end of complete shade. We rounded the lava flow and got our first good glimpse of our destination.

Now this part of the trail seemed easy (on the way back we despised it). It was relatively flat and almost completely exposed. Earlier in the woods there was some snow, now it was becoming more frequent. We didn?t have to walk in a lot of it but it was reflecting the sun. On a cloudless, 90-degree day this is very bad. On we went taking our next break in a little shady patch. This appeared to be our last quality shade and the start of steep climbing. As we headed up we encountered more snow. Although hot, the snow crossings were not hard and we had no problem bare booting. As we went upward the exposed ground became much more loose. It was not bad at first because there were enough larger rocks around to get footing but it was becoming more of a challenge. Along the way we met a family from VT and had a brief discussion on how this weather was nothing like what it has been at home. They took off; obviously in better shape then Dawn and me who were starting to suffer more. At this point we couldn?t go every hour before break. One minute ?oxygen breaks? were becoming the norm.

During one of these we stopped and watched as some people running down. Running, on loose screen. We marveled at how they could do that so confidently. At this point, all shade was pretty much gone except maybe a little behind a rock. We were eating, we were drinking, and boy were we hurtin. Right before 9000ft we took a break and the rock I sat on faced down. I felt miserable and then looking down a steep slope, I really didn?t think I was going to make it. Popping some Advil I told myself that I came all this way I had to get to the top. It was mind over matter. I told myself I was struggling because I was so tired from all my traveling. I also figured altitude had something to do with how I was feeling. Although looking down was a bad idea it was hard not to because there appeared to be another large lava flow and dome. It looked so cool. We pushed on to up over a small lip to the base of Lewis Glacier. The small lake that had formed sure looked nice for a swim but it was too far down. We had no extra energy to waste.

Now we came to the part that was all loose screen from here up. Over 1300ft of it. Everyone around, include us were taking about 5-10 steps and then stopping. I kept checking the altitude on the GPS as a way of seeing how much we had left to go. We gave a little cheer when it hit 10,000ft but we still had over 300more to go. Finally we made it, but not really. We had reached the south side of the crater but couldn?t see anything to the north because the north side is higher. Following some other people we headed left. Bad idea, it doesn?t connect. We got a picture and then headed around. At one point the trail brought us down onto the glacier sitting in the crater. Now at the start of the trail I had some issues with mosquitoes, the next section I had bees following me and my bright yellow LiveSTRONG shirt, and now we were being swarmed by thousands upon thousands of butterflies. Here we are standing on a volcano, a symbol of fire and destruction, and surrounded by beautiful butterflies. There are so many I am afraid I might accidentally hurt one as I walk. We managed to make it over to the true summit without knowingly hurting any butterflies. Now we can see north. We have a great view of Middle and North Sister. Although a bit hazy we can see Mt. Jefferson and way off in the distance Mt. Hood.

After spending some time on top we headed down. The screen is even looser now with all the people who have been coming up and down before us. This means we have to go slower then anticipated. We also realize we still feel miserable and are getting quite low on water. Oh, and the day is getting hotter. I ask Dawn if she will ever listen to a hiking suggestion of mine and without hesitating she says no. We find a little shade from some rocks around 8000ft and take a short break. We are afraid if we sit too long we won?t be able to get up and moving again so the break really is short. The trail is sort of difficult to follow as there are no posts or cairns but this isn?t really a problem, just an occasional nuisance. I can?t tell if I hated the snow at this point because it was so hot and slippery or liked it because I was getting it in my boots and cooling my legs a little. At this point Dawn has gone through 3 32oz Nalgenes. I give her mine, which is half full because I had a 100oz Camelbak. We hit the flat and feel like we are doing ok. That is until I take the last sip of my Camelbak water and all we have left is 10oz of my other Nalgene. The flat took forever now, we hated it. All we could think about was shade. How desperately we needed shade. We were approaching 8 hours of strenuous activity in the sun. I don?t know if I have made myself feel so miserable before. Finally, we reached the shaded woods. At first I was so relieved to not be in the sun but I was practically attached by mosquitoes. I was way too tired to stop and but bug spray on. I wanted out. I wanted the car. It was like adding insult to injury. About half way through the woods I needed to have some of the water. Dawn managed to make it back without having any more. I don?t know if I was ever so happy to see a car. I tried to clean off the ash/screen that had collected on my legs but some just wouldn?t come off. Truthfully I didn?t care. I also didn?t care that we had a 3+ hour drive. I cared that I was sitting and that once we stopped for gas I was going to have some nice, cold chocolate milk.

Thoughts: If it is going to be hot and you are going to be exposed get out earlier if possible. We both drank 3.5 liters of water/Gatorade and essentially ran out. This would have been a lot more enjoyable if it wasn?t so hot out and maybe if I hadn?t flown out the day before. I got blisters again and am on a mission to figure out how not to get them (I would later have more success on Mt St Helens with this). Although this was a pretty miserable day I climbed over 10,000ft and had some great views!

KD Talbot
07-22-2009, 07:55 PM
I'm stuck in the Whites for now, but intend to see some western mountains when I retire in a few years. Looks awesome, thanks!


07-22-2009, 09:44 PM
Wow - looks awesome! We're hoping for a bit of western peak hiking as well someday. Hopefully Yosemite next summer. Your TR makes me even more anxious to get out there. Thanks for sharing.