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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!


Pre-Event Forum
[View Post-Event Forum]

Rayna asks:
Yay!! But I have to ask... why is the chin strap for the shady hat so very important that () were necessary?? :P

Fritz (leader) answers:
Because without a chin strap, your hat will blow away! It can be quite breezy up there.

Michael asks:
Could I also bring a friend?

Fritz (leader) answers:
Yes, if friend is physically fit enough to take it on.

Michael answers:
It'll be Kirsten, who you met on the Ruckel Ridge hike. She's a fitter hiker than I am so I don't expect her to slow us down. Thanks.

Fritz (leader) answers:
Yep, no worries there...

Fritz (leader) answers:
Michael, can you have Kirsten sign up here? It helps me to keep track of everybody...

Fritz (leader) says:
Open for verification! Please drop by and check in...

Rayna asks:
Would I be able to jump into someone's carpool from Salem? *crosses fingers*

Fritz (leader) answers:
Sure, I'll pick you up. Friday night after-workish?

Rayna answers:
Ooh yay, sure sounds good to me, thanks Fritz. I can meet you somewhere off I-5/Hwy22 like Costco so you don't have to drive into West Salem?

Fritz (leader) answers:
If you're comfortable leaving your car somewhere. It doesn't sound like a big deal to come and pick you up, I dunno.

Rayna answers:
Well... I'd rather not leave my truck somewhere - was just trying to be helpful. I'd love it if you would pick me up from my place! Just take the Salem Parkway off I-5 and it will take you over the bridge & into West Salem. Address is [redacted]. THANK YOU!!

Fritz (leader) answers:
(ok, got the address - I redact personal info here for security reasons; these messages are open to the world wide web)

Rayna answers:
Oh :P ok. Thanks Fritz!

Nicole asks:
Can you please tell me how the climb was? How was the route and how low did you encounter snow? I would like to do the climb in early August, but heard there is still tons of snow. Thank You! Oh, sorry, I just realized this is July 30 not June 30! :o) Let me know when you are done. Thanks! :o)

Fritz (leader) answers:
We were just up at Broken Top on July 15, right next door to South Sister, and there were several feet of snow, right down nearly to the trail head. See report and photos here. I'm expecting walking on quite a bit of snow this weekend. We'll report more when we return...

Katherine asks:
Hey Fritz, can Joe and I join your carpool too?

Fritz (leader) answers:
Yes... it'll be a bit of a squeeze to get four of us in the Soob with all our gear, so we'll have to minimize.

Fritz (leader) asks:
Michael and Kirsten, are you going to be camping with us, or driving down crazy early?

Michael answers:
We will drive down Friday night. Do we need to reserve a campsite at Devil's Lake?

Fritz (leader) answers:
Nope. I don't think it can be reserved, it's not that civilized.

Katherine says:
great, thanks Fritz! When are you planning on leaving Portland?

Fritz (leader) answers:
Would a target of 6pm, my house, work for you? I'm going to try to get off work early (usually 5pm), and get mostly packed tonight, but we'll have to be in communication tomorrow. I'll send you my address.

This forum is closed at this time.

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