“Savor the solitude,” reads a PCT sign board as we entered the wilderness last Thursday evening. It was aA simple reminder that the most important things for the next few days are, in fact, not things at all. Starring Staring square at us was a vast wilderness full of abundant opportunity to explore and experience in any way we chose.
Three high alpine adventure dudes got together for a weekend in the Central central Oregon mountains and there was no doubt something big was going to happen. Something that will change the way they see life; at least for a few important moments.
My friend Ben rallied the troops including Henry, (Ben’s dog), Jon and memyself. We met at Big Lake on Thursday afternoon for a few days of peace in the mountains.
Thursday evening welcomed us with a nice warm- up hike into George Lake. George Lake, near Mt Washington, was roughly 10 miles from our rally point at Big Lake. Stack that on top of the 12.5 milesM that Ben, Henry and Jon hammered out earlier in the day and you have yourself a respectable number of miles.
Our peaceful walk on the PCT to George Lake was littered with through- hikers walking Northnorth. All with the same question: “Are you guys Southsouth- Boundingbounding?” No! No! No! We must have answered the same question ten or so times. There were that many people through- hiking the PCT, a 2,665 mile hike trek from Mexico to Canada. Yes! I have been considering this suffer-fest. I don’t know why yet. Maybe it sounds cool. Maybe there is some deeper meaning to it like there are to most abnormal adventures I do in life.
After roughly 9 miles on the PCT we hopped off the trail and bush whacked toward Mt. Washington to George Lake. We were happily welcomed with a stellar view of the mountain, one other camp party and a pristine mountain lake. Ok! Honestly, the lake was a bit of a challenge to find. We wandered around in the woods for a little over an hour, fiddled with our iIPhones, maps and eventually found the bugger just before night fall.
Dinner was great! Noodles, tuna and Sriracha. Ben, was thankful that I threw in the Sriracha. You can truly make almost anything taste really good with the stuff. Maybe because it is just hot enough to kill your taste buds.
After a great night of sleep we awoke to a beautiful day. A day that would bring stories, laughter, pain and a true test of what we were capable of. We grubbed some oats, packed our gear and began a 26 mile march.
The first mile was a bush whack back to the PCT and the next few miles pleasantly rolled through a forest that had been destructed destroyed by fire.
We entered the lava field near McKenzie Pass and travelled through some of the most barren country that Central central Oregon has to offer.
As we neared the McKenzie Pass road crossing, a large and rather colorful trailer came into view. A This trailer that provided some relief to PCT through- hikers. At this point, we had covered close to 10 miles and still had many more ahead.
We settled down for lunch at South Mathew lakeLake near the intersection of the PCT and Scott Pass trail. It was beautiful, humbling and a great chance to just be.
After lunch we saddled back up for an additional 14 mile march to where we would be camping for the night. It was a long walk in the woods. Just as dusk was settling in I felt the first of many raindrops to come. The last 4 miles welcomed us with a refreshing steady mountain rain shower and wonder. Was it going to poorpour? The Central central Oregon mountains are known for periods of rain storms that come without warning. Luckily, just before dinner, the rain and clouds broke to provide a magnificent star filled sky. It was a A wonderful way to end a day with 26 miles of hiking.
The next day, (Saturday,) we awoke to a view of South Sister and Middle Sister towering above Camp Lake. Today’s goal: Summit Middle Sister. A, a 10,000 foot peak in the cCentral Oregon Cascades.
After breakfast and tending to our battered blistered feet, we were off. Two and half hours later we were on the summit; . Dogdog and all! We sat on top of the mountain and just soaked in the solitude;, unlike my past three or so summits this summer. Ben made a comment that I will not soon forget - “I just love being on top of mountains.” If you do not know why one would enjoy the top of a mountain then I suggest you rally on up one. The view will surely delight.
That evening we rested heavilyslept soundly. After close to 45 miles in two and half days for me and 55 for Ben, Jon and Henry one could honestly say we were beat.
Our final day brought the usual anticipation to get back into the reality of our busy day to day. Each passing mile meant we were closer to our car at the Pole Creek Trailhead, cell phone service and the noise that life off the trail brings.
I will always appreciate the time I get to spend in the mountains. This trip reminded me that the greatest things in life are in fact not things at all. They are experiences and the people you meet along the journey. They are freedom to choose your own destiny. They are happiness.
On to the next adventure :)
Summit as friends!
The north side of South Sister Mountain in the Three Sisters Wilderness is downright dangerous. It does however offer some incredible views of the Three Sisters, cascade range and one angry looking mountainside. To put it lightly the mountain looks like a pile of loose rocks that magically stay in place.
My friend Blair and I camped at Green Lakes Saturday with the intention of an adventure on Sunday.
Sunday morning we awoke around 730, took our time packing up, enjoying breakfast and then set off. We dropped our packs at 1030 near the Green Lakes and Moraine Lake trail junction. Our goal was to summit South Sister, climb off the northside and trek back over Prouty glacier to where we camped the night before and run back to our backpacks.
The next few hours were hard, but rewarding. We were crushing almost 2000 feet per hour.
I had an incredibly inspiring conversation with a guy named Willy from Portland, OR whom is training for the Lake Tahoe 200. A 200 mile foot race. Not inspiring, because I have personal aspirations to do that, but inspiring because he is running his own business Animal Athletics and living his passion. Rock on bro!
4000 feet of climbing later we summited, but the hardest part was yet to begin.
Do not forget to prepare for the decent. This is when most climbing accidents happen. People do not bring enough food, water, clothes or they use all their energy on the way up. This results in forfeited mental stamina for the way down. Remember with each step up you are one step further from where you started.
After spending 10 minutes on top enjoying a root beer that I found on the way up we began walking west on the summit ridge in hopes of finding someone elses foot tracks heading down the northside. Within minutes we found what looked to be the safest route down that few had braved prior.
There was a six foot vertical down climb before stepping on to a very steep slope of loose rock. The next 500 vertical were kind of fun. The rock was loose and granular so it felt much like skiing down a snow field in your shoes.
The 1500 vertical that followed were treacherous. Loose rock, tumbling boulders and rope lines help paint the picture.
Yes! We scrambled down the mountain with zero scratches.
I am not using this experience as a confidence builder, but rather an opportunity to remain humbled by the mountains. They are so big, so powerful and can change without warning.
I do not believe we were lucky, but do believe we made all the right decisions on the way down. At no time were we climbing on top of each other and creating the chance for boulders to come tumbling down on one another and each step was taken with caution. We remained aware of our surroundings and communicated frequently.
It felt good to be back on ground that was not moving, but we still had a crevasse littered glacier to travel around and in some cases over. It was incredible to stand within five feet of some rather large openings in the snow. I thought I could see the bottom, but it was likely just a ledge.
At one point Blair commented on how he really appreciated my communication and willingness to hear my partners opinion. A new character quality I have been working on. My girlfriend would probably say I still have work. I would agree. This did make me feel good and brought to mind another very IMPORTANT thing to be conscious of in the mountains and life. Group communication. Be open. Be heard.
There were times in which we were headed in one direction across and around Prouty Glacier and we simply decided to go another direction after mear moments of discussion. These moments may have saved our lives, but definitely made for a less gut wrenching travel home.
The view from the final ridge before dropping back down into the Green Lakes basin was incredible. We saw Green Lakes with Broken Top in the background and THE TRAIL :)
We celebrated with some hoots and hollers once stepping foot on the trail, sat on a rock very close to our campsite the night before and dumped our dirt / gravel filled shoes back onto the earth. After a few minutes of rehydrating and pounding more energy gel / bars we headed down the trail. We were finally covering ground.
The final few miles with our backpacks were hard, but enjoyable. We made it.
A creek bath, dinner and good night of rest were a few things to be grateful for. Amazing how my gratitude for these things truly changes after challenging experiences like this in the mountains.
Summit as friends!
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