Matt and Joanne’s Page

June 4, 2005

South Sister

Filed under: Climbing — Matt Stamplis @ 12:00 pm

South Sister (10,358′) is one of the easiest glaciated mountains to climb in OR. Not surprisingly this is one of the first mountains we climbed when we moved to Oregon. The first time we attempted this mountain was back in June 4, 2005. Matt’s plan was to hike into Green Lake, set the camp there, climb South Sister, come back to camp and then climb Broken Top the next day. Well, we got to Green Lakes easily but we got lost trying to link up with the standard South Side route from there. We ended up on a ridge adjacent to the standard route on a section of loose scree and boulders. By 3pm, we decided that we were not even close so we turned around especially when I got stuck in a scree section and got completely freaked out.

Joanne, playing in the snow? At this point I’m pretty sure we’re off-route. Green Lake (our camp) can be seen below us. Broken Top is the peak behind her.

Who’s ready to get lost??

Now, here’s an interesting fact. Keep in mind I just came to Oregon from Michigan and I’ve never even climb any peak in my life greater than 3000ft. Immediately when I arrived in Oregon, Matt was like, “Let’s go climbing!!”. He was very excited because he just completed BCEP and was ready to summit anything. I, on the other hand, was a complete mountain idiot. Anyway, back to my story. We turned back to our camp and the next day got weathered out so we decided to bail on Broken Top too.

Hmmm…don’t think there’s gonna be a summit attempt today.

2 weeks later, we made another attempt to South Sister. This time we took the Devil’s Lake trail. The visibility that day was pretty lousy but we had brought along our GPS (complete with topo maps). Our navigation relied fully on our GPS. We made it to the summit in a complete whiteout. A couple of people were following us on the way up but eventually they turned around upon reaching the crater rim. We continued on around the crater rim until our GPS indicated we were on the summit!

Summiting in a near-whiteout. Thank you GPS.

Here’s the real reason for an early season ascent – a quick (and painless) descent!

We came back again in Oct 2005 and quickly learned that this mountain is much more fun when it is snow covered. In late season, it becomes a nasty scree-slog. The visibilty this time was marginally better (still no great views) but the wind was incredibly strong. We were both wearing 3-4 layers of clothes and it was still cold. I didn’t want to stay on the summit for too long but Matt kept insisting on taking a bunch of pictures. The route itself is OK and probably worth doing once…if we do it again, we’re bringing skis! Do yourself a favor and do it before the snow melts.

Although, if you summit in late season you might get a glimpse of Teardrop Lake, the highest lake in Oregon, sitting in the summit Crater. Here, in October, we can just barely see the lake (frozen over). That’s a thunderstorm in the background: time to head down!

This is a shot of the upper section of the standard South Side route. The climbing route ascends the easy sloping ridge on the left. Compare this picture (taken in June) to the next one (October).

There’s some pretty big crevasses on the glacier. South Sister in October.

Mysterious Orange Man…

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