The trip came together when a friend from church emailed some guys about doing South Sister, a volcano in the central Oregon Cascades whose 10,358′ summit can be reached by a trail in the summer. It was a group of 7 guys, including the senior pastor, Ryan, and my dad, Charlie. The plan was to hike into Moraine Lake on Thursday evening, hike to the top on Friday (August 13), have a leisurely evening in camp, and then hike out Saturday morning.
At this point I should explain why this was a special trip for Charlie. When he was in his teens, he went on some memorable backpacks in his home state of Idaho that were led by members of the Mazamas. Ever since, he has wanted to join, but he’d not met the main prerequisite for membership: to have reached the summit of a glaciated peak. In the mean time, life became busy, and the dream of standing on the top of such a peak was set to the side for a long time. One year, he attempted to summit Old Snowy, a peak in the southern Washington Cascades with a small remnant glacier on its flank, but was turned back by sketchy conditions. He now had another shot at reaching another summit.
Since most stuff I do like this is with Mazama groups, I’m used to EARLY starts. The rest of the group was planning on starting for the summit around 9:00 on Friday morning, but my plan was to start with Charlie at 5:00. Our actual start time ended up being just before 6:00. We enjoyed the early morning light, the lack of crowds, and the opportunity to summit before the scorching midday and afternoon heat set in. The trail was snow-free except for a couple small patches below treeline.
On our way up, we passed a Mazama group led by Ken Searl, the same leader with whom I had attempted South Sister in May! It was a crazy, fun coincidence for us to run into each other on the same mountain several months later.
Charlie and I reached the summit just after 9:30. The summit of South sister is a large crater, and the true summit is a point on the northeast part of the crater rim. The summer trail tops out on the south end of the crater rim, and from there it is a short walk along the rim to the highest point. We were among the first to summit that day: we met one guy who had spent the night on the summit and was just heading down (a meteor shower and a clear night sky had made it a great night to bivy up there), and one hiker passed us just before we got to the highest point.
We spent a while enjoying the awesome views, got our summit photos, exchanged congratulations with Ken’s group when they got there, and started down. By the time we left, there were already more than a dozen people at the true summit, and more were on their way from the point where the trail reaches the south end of the crater rim.
At about 11:20, as we had descended to around 8500′, we finally met the rest of our group hiking up the trail toward the summit. It turned out they had left at about 9:45, the same time we were on the summit. Charlie and I got back into camp a little after 1:00. The rest of the group returned around dinnertime after reaching the summit. The wind kicked up in the afternoon, and it was blustery all night until about 8:00 on Saturday morning. The wind blew dust and grit all night, which got into tents and sleeping bags—even tents with the rainfly set up.
On Saturday, we made it into Bend in time for a fantastic lunch and beers at the Deschutes Brewery restaurant (the elk burger was awesome). A nice way to end a great trip.
Congratulations on reaching the summit, Dad.
Photos I took from the Pacific Crest Trail (and the Paradise Park Trail) near Mt. Hood this July.