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South Sister, south route


The South Sister is often climbed to test one's legs before carrying rope and harness up some other peak. That was our reason. The weekend before, Ben, at the age of fifteen, finally made it off the big rappel at Horsethief, a prerequisite for heading up some of the more fun peaks. Ben and Peter have been to Horsethief so many times that in running shoes they can climb smooth rock with no holds, at least no holds I can see. They have more than a half dozen peaks behind them, but their pace on the last single-day climb two years ago was still slow compared to a typical adult pace. And, after taking a season off, I was curious about my own legs. It was time for another pace test.

This was the third time the three of us headed up South Sister. I was surprised how easy the easy the climbing seemed and how light the pack felt. Of course, the previous times I carried an 80-pound overnight pack for myself and two kids. One of those trips we camped on the caldera rim. The overnight pack created a formidable memory. Compared to my mental image it was easy as pie. How did I rank? On the way up I came in second place, on the way down, I came in first. The nitty, gritty details of how I came in first are not really important.

Okay, okay, the nitty gritty details: Ben is the strongest climber up and down. Peter is right behind him going downhill. After we were below timberline on the way down Ben was impatient with my pace and offered to take my pack. He got it. With Ben right behind me we jogged the remaining miles to where the trail crosses the Cascade Lakes Highway. At the road while Ben and I waited about two minutes for Peter, I got my pack. When Peter arrived I took off running again for the car. Ben was too tired to pursue at a matched pace, so I reached the car first. Ben gives a slightly different explanation, but unfortunately his version is too lengthy to repeat here.

And the climb? So windy and cold we didn't even stop to see the scenery. Although it was August the goose down was out. In the summit photo I am not pointing but holding the hat's chin strap.

The trail up to the caldera rim has been moved since we were there last. It used to go straight north up to the rim. Now it angles west at a more gentle slope. The route is much improved.

After reaching the caldera, we dropped down into a protected area in the sun and took about an hour lunch break. Most of the time I enjoyed scenery was right there looking at the interior of the caldera. We made a short visit to the windy summit only long enough for a photo, then headed down. In all we were away from the car for ten hours, a typical adult pace. The boys headed up their first peak, Mount Adams, when they were five and seven years old. Now they're ready to climb with adults.



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