Corie: So, we’ve decided to attempt to summit one mountain each month for a year- weather conditions being a primary factor. The project will be called “A Mountain A Month” - The first mountain was Oregon’s South Sister. At 10,358’, it’s a good starter summit and my first experience at any sort of proper elevation. The first part of the hike was through the forest- fairly steep and amazingly silent. I worked up a bit of a sweat by the time we reached the ‘plateau’ - okay, I had to de-layer because I was pretty damn warm… Andy and Patrick playfully (but seriously) chastised me for not drinking enough water yet (but really, I needed to drink more water) so I started working my way through water and patiently coaxing my stomach to digest the first of the many bars I consumed on the trail.
We reached the summit at 930am- 4 hours after we left the car. The only downside on the climb ? The smoke from fires in central Oregon clouded our views with increasing density and by the end of the hike, my eyes were watering freely. The view from the summit was lovely BUT not nearly as clear as it could have been, which means that, oh darn, we need to climb her again.
Andy: South Sister holds many memories for me. It’s the first mountain my dad and I climbed together (when I was 12), it’s the first I’ve spent the night on top of, and it’s the first I’ve done solo. So, it seemed fitting to the start this project here, with this peak called “Charity”. It’s also pretty neat to begin this journey with one of my old climbing buddies, who was home while taking a little break from traveling in Asia.
This journey up South Sister was relatively uneventful, with only a handful of others filling their shoes with red scree and clogging the trail. We made great time and summited in the smokey cloud that filled most of central Oregon that day. Despite the lack of views it was all laughs and good memories up top. And a few peeks at Broken Top and Middle Sister to spark the stoke for the next few summits!
This is a great first mountain for anyone looking to get into mountaineering in the Cascades. It offers taste of the lovely scree so often found on these volcanoes. South Sister is a very popular climb in the summer and honestly offers more of a hike than true mountaineering, due to the lack of snow and any technical travel. However, this summit still sits at over 10,000 feet so altitude sickness can be a concern for some. It’s also about 12 miles round trip with 5,000 feet of elevation gain on the way up; most parties should plan to spend the majority of the day on the mountain. An early start will allow hikers to escape the worst heat and beat the crowds.
Equipment List - South Ridge (For summer climbs)*
- 3 liters of water per person
- Food for a day (at least 1,500 calories)
- Rain shell
- Insulation layer (fleece, down, synthetic)
- Supportive and sturdy hiking shoes
- First Aid Kit + Fire Starting Kit
- Wicking (non-cotton) base layers are highly recommended
*A map and a compass are always a good idea when climbing or hiking in the backcountry. The trail up and down the South Sister is well-marked but, as a precaution, it is always better to be prepared in case of inclement weather or early season conditions that could cause detours off the main trail.