Ascent of South Sister on 2003-08-30

Climber: Patrick Shannon

Others in Party:Lugnut
Date:Saturday, August 30, 2003
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:South Sister
    Elevation:10358 ft / 3157 m

Ascent Trip Report

From my Pacific Crest Trail journal ( I was planning to meet Lugnut at seven. He had camped a little way back, so we had decided on this time last night, since we had to take an alternate route off the PCT to climb South Sister. When he didn't show up by 7:30, I started on my own and reached the point where we were to leave the PCT. I repacked while I waited for him, so I would be ready to stash my main pack when he arrived. He soon did, and we continued on, now off the PCT.

We soon stashed our packs and began heading up to the peak trail. It was still cool under the trees, but already it was getting hot in the plains. South Sister rose high above us on the northern horizon. It is a beautiful mountain. We soon reached the peak trail and began climbing. There were huge crowds of people. Lugnut and I started complaining about the steepness of the slope, but we soon shut up when about halfway up we passed a boy, no older than four, happily making his way to the top!

We finally reached the crater on top. It was covered in snow, but the trail traversing around it to the actual peak was clear. We hung out at the top for a little while. It was quite crowded up there. I saw one guy talking on his cell phone to his friends and got an idea. It is my mother's birthday today, so I decided I would try to go against my outdoor ethics and ask to use this guy's cell phone to call Mom. I offered to pay him for the call, but when he found out what I was doing, he just let me use it, which was pretty cool. I left a message for my mother wishing her a happy birthday. Just as I did on my father's birthday a few days ago, I would like to thank my mother for her role in this hike. Her biggest role has been being my transcriber for my journal. It is incredible the amount of work she puts into this. Not only does she edit everything, she even spends time figuring out who or what are in my pictures, using maps, my journal, and other clues. Besides that, whatever I have needed on the trail, be it gear, or whatever else, all I need to do is ask her, and it appears shortly after. It's like having a genie with endless wishes! Thanks, Mom, and happy birthday!

We took the other way around the crater on the way down. I stopped by one of the little snowmelt lakes in the crater to get some freezing, crystal clear water. Once I left the crater, I practically skied down most of the steep, sandy slope. I stopped about halfway down to empty out the sand dunes that had formed in my shoes and then continued on.

After having completed the steep section, we ran into a ranger who had worked the South Sister area for over 20 years. He told us that this was actually a quiet day and that he has seen as many as 300 people peak this mountain in a single day. He then talked with us about the mountain itself and about his belief that there may be a hot spot forming in the crater just below the lake where I got water. He added that the mountain is expanding on its west side, another sign of volcanic active below the surface. He then had to discipline a few other hikers without permits, though, so we went on our way.

It was well into the afternoon by the time we returned to our packs. We stopped and snacked under a huge pine for a bit and then continued the hot but gorgeous trek through Wickiup Plain back to the PCT. It was a beautiful, unique landscape. The golden meadows and now the red brush (fall is beginning to set in here) of the plain stopped abruptly at a moonscape-like lava flow, with South Sister providing a dramatic background.

Summary Total Data
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail
    Gear Used:
Ski Poles
    Weather:Hot, Calm, Clear
Ascent Part of Trip: Pacific Crest Trail 2003

Complete Trip Sequence:
1San Jacinto Peak2003-05-09 
2Mount Baden-Powell2003-05-22 
3Mount Jenkins2003-06-09 
4Owens Peak2003-06-09 
5Mount Whitney2003-06-182898 ft / 883 m
6Half Dome2003-07-01 
12Mount McLoughlin2003-08-20 
14Mount Thielsen2003-08-25 
15South Sister2003-08-30 
Total Trip Gain: 2898 ft / 883 m    Total Trip Loss: 2898 ft / 883 m

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