I would have to say the big highlight of my summer was hiking South Sister. People have been telling me for your years to do this hike, and I’m stoked to finally tick it off my bucket list. It sure did impress. Two of my friends and I summited together. This was our third attempt, but we had to abandon our previous plans because of scheduling conflicts and forest fire smoke that would have obscured the good views. Thankfully, when we finally made it out there we had wonderful weather. Leading up to the hike, I made sure to get in some solid training, including summiting Mt Thielsen and Mt Defiance earlier in the summer. Fortunately, this hike didn’t brutalize me as much as Mt St Helens did last year. Even still, South Sister comes in at about ten thousand feet, and to summit it you have to scale five thousand feet of elevation, so I still walked away from the adventure with pretty sore legs.
All three of us are photographers and we like to hike during the best light, so we drove out to the trailhead the night before so we could catch sunrise. We intended on camping, however, we unfortunately arrived past sunset and the campground was so packed that people were sleeping in their cars. Like everyone else we slept in our van but not before enjoying a few beers and late-night conversation. I wish I could say that I got a good night’s rest, especially with the assist of a couple drinks, but the anticipation was killing me. As a result, I’d estimate I got a solid two hours of shuteye, but my adrenaline was pumping and it carried me through.
We woke at about 4:30 am and got onto the trail by 5:30 am. The sun just started peeking over Broken Top by the time we exited the forest at the base of the mountain about two miles in. From there we had a mile and a half of open rolling hills before beginning the grueling accent cutting through scree fields alongside melting glaciers. The scenery at this point was just amazing, with clear views of mountains in all directions and the remains of lava fields that had bubbled up and solidified in undulating waves. By the time we made it to the top we were well into six hours of hiking. We might have been able to do it a bit faster but I’ll admit to lollygagging while taking photos. Soon enough, clouds started coming in pretty quickly encompassing the summit, and we only got about five minutes of unobscured views. But those views were totally incredible, and I’m already thinking about going back again next year. 🙂 — Kyle