November 2, 2014

Climbing South Sister

We had planned to climb to the top of South Sister on Saturday September 20th. Andy experienced a few delays and travel mishaps on his way back from Alaska and didn't arrive home when expected. He ended up riding a bus part of the way back and met me in Bend-- in someways this worked out better than we had originally planned.

The South Sister.

We met up Friday night, grabbed a bite to eat and headed to bed. The next morning we got up, got our gear situated, ran to the store to grab some hiking food and headed off to find the trail head. By the time we made it to the trail head it was about 11:00 am. We had previously been told that it takes about six hours to complete the hike but soon learned from other hikers that this information wasn't accurate. The hike typically takes ten to twelve hours. We were determined and decided that we were going to do the entire hike anyways--good thing we brought headlamps.

We started out hiking in a forest and crossing some small streams, we both thought this was great and that we were in for a real treat. It wasn't too long before the trees and the shade ended. We soon found ourselves hiking up hill in the sun-- it was in the mid eighties that day.
Inside of a fallen tree.
Andy & I.

During our hike we came across and man named Ben. We would pass him and he would pass us--we seemed to be hiking at roughly the same speed. Eventually we started talking and became hiking buddies.


It wasn't too long before the "hill" became a mountain. Up, up, and up we went. Just about every time we came to a tree (they provided just a little bit of shade) we would stop, catch our breath, and take a drink of water. Before we knew it the trees had all disappeared and we found ourselves hiking quite literally straight up the side of a mountain. This wasn't just an ordinary mountain though, it was a volcano.

Andy headed straight up the mountain.
Almost to the top.

The sides of the volcano were were formed from crushed pumice. We would take a few steps and slide backwards. Andy and I started using our trekking poles to keep from sliding back down the mountain-- this was quite the arm workout.

Eventually, we made it to the top. There were definitely a few times where I wasn't sure if we would make it. At the top of the mountain there is a trail that goes around the crater. The crater has a glacier in the middle of it. Andy and I both walked out on to the glacier. Not sure how many people can say they have been on a glacier before. It was kind of a cool experience.

On top of the world!

The view from the top was stunning! They say you can see half of the state of Oregon from the top of that volcano-- I believe it. South Sister is the third highest mountain in Oregon with an elevation of 10,358 feet. The hike is 12+ miles round trip with a 5000 foot climb in elevation.

The South Sister's shadow.
Middle Sister & North Sister.
Andy & I.

We didn't stay on the summit for too long because the sun was starting to set and will didn't want to climb down the loose pumice in the dark. We saw a lot of people fall on their way down when it was sunny out, we could only imagine what it would be like going down in the dark. We brought Snow Trax with us and they were put to good use. Even though there wasn't snow, they helped us dig in and keep from sliding down the mountain.

We made it down the "scary" part of the mountain just as the sun was fading. Upon talking with Ben we learned that he didn't have a headlamp. We decided that it would be best if I led the way, Ben followed, and Andy followed behind him--this allowed Ben to see as much as possible.

The setting sun.

As we hiked with Ben and got to know him we learned that he is a religious person. It felt like we were meant to meet that day, a lot of different things came into play that allowed our paths to cross. Andy was able to share his testimony with Ben and we hope and pray that his heart was touched. 

Hiking out in the dark was a different sort of experience. It wasn't a bad experience but it was harder in a lot of respects. I sure did enjoy looking up at the night sky though it was absolutely beautiful! I think that was my first time seeing the Milky Way-- that is definitely something to see!

When we arrived at our cars we exchanged contact information with Ben and said our good byes-- it was about 10:00 pm at this point. Yeah, it took us eleven hours to climb that mountain. South Sister is probably the hardest hike we have ever done. South Sister was a lot harder to climb than Mt. Timpanogos. Would we climb South Sister again? You bet!

We decided that it was too late to drive home that night and headed into town to find a hotel to stay in. Unfortunately, October Fest was going on and all the hotels were booked. We called around at got the last available room in the next town over. We were so grateful that we didn't have to sleep in the car or drive home super later. Taking a shower before climbing in bed was also a plus.