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South Sister Climb

July 30, 2011

Coordinator: Fritz Capell

Summit Altitude: 10358 feet
Elevation Gain: 4986 feet
Round-trip Distance: 12.4 miles
Excursion Time: 11 hours (car-to-car)
Carpool ratio: 3.0 (people/cars)

Photo Gallery

A Santiam Alpine Club team reached Oregon's 3rd-highest peak on July 30, 2011!

The team consisted of 2011 Climb School students Katherine, Joe, and Michael; 2007 student Rayna; guest Kirsten; and myself.

Our first challenge was camping the night before - I had no idea those campsites would be so crowded! And not just the climber's bivy at Devil's Lake, but every campsite everywhere around. We hunted for nearly two hours, until everybody was exhausted and crabby, before finally settling on an undeveloped flattish area to the side of the road, for a few hours of shut-eye. We weren't entirely sure our spot was legit, but a ranger drove slowly by in the morning, and although he eyed us suspiciously, he didn't say anything.

We cleared out at 7am, drove down to the Devil's Lake Trailhead, prepped, and hit the trail shortly before 8am.

Of course, this being the crazy-snowy year that it is, it wasn't long before we encountered snow. The first substantial snow drift we found, we used as a refrigerator for two beers - oops, one beer - due to my mismanagement of the marker stick. Who knew those cans were so fragile?

The trail was fully snowed-under before we were even out of the gully, but the footing was solid and navigation not difficult, since you just follow the gully until you top out at the plateau. We reached it at about 9am, with several feet of snow under our feet, and though the trail was buried, we just headed toward the obvious mountain. On the plateau, about 60% of the ground was visible, so we were able to follow some of the normal trail, some snowy footprints.

As we came up to the foothills of the mountain proper, the ridge edges were clear, but we were able to walk almost entirely on snow, avoiding a lot of the mixed scree that can make those mountains a drag. Almost everybody wore regular shoes, and though they were wet, they weren't cold. The last thousand feet or so, in "the big C", we ran out of snow and just had to face the scree.

It was nearly a perfect day for weather; down in Bend, it was forecast to be near to 100F. It cooled as we ascended, and we had a fair breeze, though not the gales that one can encounter up there. It was quite nice.

We reached the crater rim right around 2pm. There was no Teardrop Pool, just a field of snow. Some of us went around the crater rim, and some of us headed straight across the snow. We didn't stick around there too long; by then it was probably 40F, and very windy, so everybody was a little cold. We took our summit pictures, checked out the awesome views of all the mountains and valleys around, and made our way to one of the stone wind shelters for lunch.

We began our descent about 3:30. Below "the bottom of the C", there was ample snow and good chutes for glissading. Unfortunately, I hadn't considered that glissading might be available, so hadn't recommended the gear, but those that wished were able to improvise, and get in some pretty good slides!

The rest of the descent was fairly normal. It was a bit of a challenge to find the trailheads again at the other side of the plateau, but ultimately you just head for the saddle and go down the gully, so it all worked out just fine. We enjoyed our - one - nice cold beer on the last few minutes of the trail, and reached the cars again shortly before 7pm.

Congratulations everybody! Other than myself, none had reached the summit of South Sister before. For Kirsten and Katherine, it was a first summit! For Joe, first summit in Oregon, and first with SAC. For Rayna, a third summit, and the highest so far... and Michael is practically a veteran now. Everyone climbed like professionals, for an awesome climb!


Post-Event Forum
[View Pre-Event Forum]

Fritz (leader) says:
Some pictures are here, see Photo Gallery link above! Also near the top of the gallery page is a link to some clues for submitting your pix.

Fritz (leader) says:
The best I can tell, there's no particular difference between "acclimate" and "acclimatize". Some people use each. British use "acclimatise".

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