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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