12.5 miles of hiking • 5000' elevation gain •

Friday began with a hellish day at work. I wanted to leave early, so decided to skip lunch so I could try to exit and get an early start heading towards the mountain. The freight gods had other plans, and as truck after truck came in, I was stuck. I ordered myself a sub from grubhub, and ate half it while trying to get us caught up. I work for a very busy safety supplier in Portland, and our staff was minimal on Friday. I left at 4:45 pm, biked home, and quickly packed up my gear. I was feeling a lot of self doubt that I would have the energy for the task at hand. I pre-set up my bed in the back of my car, so that I would have zero set-up at the trailhead. My friend from BCEP, Belinda, met me at my apartment at 6:30, and off we went towards Bend. I ate on the way, and she took over driving duties in Madras as I was exhausted from my very physical job.

We arrived at the Devil's Lake Trailhead around 11:00 pm, and I set my alarm for 4:30 am, our plan being to start at 5:30 am.

Belinda and I met up with Katrin and Zsuzssana, on what would be a girl's only day on the mountain. All of us Mazama Mountain Dog grads from 2016 and 2017.

There was snow right from the start, and we had to do a bit of route finding to make our way out of the forest. The trail starts heading up right away, though in the shade. The snow was a little slippery from being smoothed out by skiers, but we didn't feel the need for traction. We came out of the forest, and to the only section of South Sister that is relatively gentle. The snow was still hard enough that we could walk across it with ease.

The rest of South Sister is up, up and more up. The way is pretty straight forward, and we kicked steps in the snow as we watched the skiers head up. We were in the minority as we were on foot, and the mountain was not crowded. We took our time as it was heating up, and enjoyed the freedom of not being on a tight schedule for anyone else. We knew the snow would eventually soften, but we had reached scree/pumice hell by that point.

While patches of snow remained, the rest of our objective would be on my least favorite mountain ground. We sweated, we cursed, and blue ran down my face. Slow and steady, we made it to the rim. First summit of South Sister for all but myself, and we enjoyed what truly is one of the best 360° views in the Cascades.

The way down was slushy, with very little glissading opportunities. We mostly trudged along, plunge stepping our way down. I got out my ice axe and helmet just in case I slipped, but otherwise it was a relatively easy but extremely exhausting descent.

After what seemed like forever, we ended up back in the forest. It ended up being the most slippery part of our day due to skiers smoothing out the snow on the trail. I actually slid on my butt with my ice axe for many sections, trying to outrun the mosquitoes.

Another summit, and a truly fun day with a bunch of badass ladies.


nuizontann and Father Guido Sarducci heart this trip.

Father Guido Sarducci
June 20, 2019

Most excellent! I have never climbed any of the Sisters. Looks like I need to take a trip down that way.