Deschutes County High Point Trip Report

South Sister (10,358 ft)

Date: June 27, 2003
Author: Dean Molen

Sister is not only the third highest peak in Oregon, it counts for two counties (a twofer) and that makes it very special to me. Since my goal is to get all of Oregon done, a twofer is sweet. Bob Bolton and I had gotten weathered off of an attempt the previous week so I had my eye on the forecast with the hopes of getting back down to central Oregon and getting this one taken care of. I caught an afternoon weather report on Thursday that was very rosy indeed and so I packed up my gear and headed south to Bend. Arriving at the Devils Lake trailhead at 10 pm, I snatched a few hours of sleep in the back seat of my cozy Honda Accord.

Dawn brought clear skies and I was heading up the trail full of enthusiasm. At the 6,200-foot mark, I encountered snow and my pace slowed as I did not want to get burned out early. I made a GPS way point where the trail left the woods and that came in handy later in the day. Foot prints led the way as I followed in the wake of several others who had beat me up the trail and thus I made my way up the mountain.

At around 9,000 feet, I got onto a ridge just above a small lake that sits at the foot of the Lewis Glacier. The only negative with the ridge was the make-up of it, loose volcanic materials that often made you take two steps to gain one. Nothing on this mountain is solid, it all moves under your feet so you have to watch your footing. The angle gets steeper as you near the crater rim and there was only one place where I felt an ice axe would have been a good choice. By the way, I did have my ice axe and crampons but could have done without the extra weight.

When I broached the top of the crater rim, I still had some work to do. I could see the highpoint a quarter mile away on the north side and it kind of reminded me of when I climbed Mt. Rainier, you get to the crater rim but still have a fair amount of work left to get to the highest point. I chose to trudge directly across the crater although I did encounter a small crevasse on the far side. I easily stepped over it and proceeded to climb up to what was obviously the highest point. I dropped my pack and grabbed something to eat and drink. While the wind was blowing pretty good, the view was staggering. I pulled out the camera again and snapped off some pictures. I was disappointed when I got home to find out that several of the shots I thought I had weren't there. I was using gloves when I took the picures and evidently missed the right connection.

Ah well, it was one of those perfect days when there is no haze and you can see forever. I had almost forgotten to take my GPS readings and so I proceeded to accomplish that but now realized that I didn't allow the elevation to get `caught' up. I photograph my GPS summit positions to compare at home with Topozone but the photo showed a difference in altitude. I then remembered that I probably didn't give the unit enough time to allow the elevation aspect to get up to the right height. It was photographed at 10338 feet, 20 feet low, but I had made very sure there was nothing higher around so mission fulfilled, South Sister was mine.

It was a real trudge getting back down and very tiring. The volcanic rock junk would slide at every footstep and you had to watch every single step. Occasionally I could get an exciting although unintentional boot glissade going on the volcanic duff but mostly I carefully made my way down. Now was no time to turn or break an ankle. I thought the snow would be easier but thanks to the intense sun and rising temperature, the snow was soft and I'd sink with every other step. Glissading wasn't worth the effort as I wouldn't slide very far on the very wet snow. Skis would have been nice. Anyway, it was a great day and I can stick a fork in two more Oregon counties cause they are done.

Tips: Take plenty of sunscreen, mosquito repellent, GPS way points (a white out would be bad), ice axe (optional), crampons (in my opinion, not needed at this time of year). Drink plenty of fluid and enjoy yourself. The top of South Sister is one of the premier viewpoints in the state on a nice day.

GPS-derived NAD27 coordinates for rock pinnacle at HP (44.10368° N, 121.76810° W)