South Sister – 10,358 ft
~Devil’s Lake Trailhead to Summit and Back – 12.5 miles~
~Total time hiking – 8 Hours~
I’ve been feeling stuck lately, with work, dating, the normalcy of life. I tend to start feeling that way more and more if I haven’t adventured or “experienced life” in a while.
A couple weeks of just working, eating, sleeping and riding the bus day in and day out is enough to drive a man insane with the regularity of it all. I decided I needed a change, to spice things up a bit. Another climb of South Sister sounded like the perfect way to decrease the insanity meter back to healthy levels and prepare me for my climb of Mt. Shasta next month!
It has finally become the rainy season here in Portland and endless rain in the lower elevations means guaranteed snow in the mountains. I hoped this would give an experience opposite the one I had on my climb a few weeks ago. I desired the cold, the snow, and the wind. I wanted the “walk” to be arduous and worthy of a solid, long lasting memory.
After a 4 hour drive from Portland, I reached the Devil’s Lake TH and started the long climb just after 10am. The mist, fog and clouds obscured the views but the closer I got to the mountain, the more the air cleared. South Sister showed itself, a white giant getting closer and closer with each passing second. I admit, I had a bit of doubt; I was cold and the summit looked still so far away. But, there was no turning around.
Once the dirt gave way to snow, there was no more trail, except for some foot tracks. I loosely followed their paths. Cresting the high ridge that overlooks the Prouty Glacier, I felt alive. The wind suddenly started to whip at a frantic pace. I quickly layered up and for the first time, looked out over the top of the clouds.
The last half mile stretch was a thigh burning, slightly nerve racking climb up the steep, snowy slope to the top. I was glad for my Kahtoola microspikes and Black Diamond ice axe. They provided a sense of security and control over the angled ice.
At the summit, I felt alive. I absorbed the energy of being on a volcano above the clouds, the exhilaration of looking out at the blue sky and knowing nothing is normal here.
The wind and cold were on another level at the top. My gas stove would not light so I had to settle for a summit cold totty, instead of having my celebratory hot drink. I frantically moved my toes and rubbed my fingers as numbness started to set in. At 3pm, I started the decent. It warmed considerably as I climbed down over the Prouty Glacier ridge. I was filled with a near unlimited energy so I picked up the pace. On level ground, I ran. My legs would not stop. I kept going faster and faster until at 6pm, I reached the trailhead and my way back to Portland.