South Sister solo

August 2, 2013.

12 mi. | 4900′ ele. gain | 7 hr.

In a couple of weeks I intend on taking my very first training group on a hike up South Sister. I’ve hiked this peak a couple of times before, but I wanted it to be fresh in my mind as I led a bunch of first-timers up there. Leading a group and going by yourself (or with a buddy) are very different things. In order to refresh my knowledge of the route and increase my confidence in leading up there, I decided to venture out on a solo trip today.

I got started around 6:30 am under clear skies. The trail was just as I’d remembered it: steep and dusty. In just over an hour I made it to the first big view. The trail grade eased quite a bit and I followed the rolling trail across a gray plateau. Colorful wildflowers poked up out of the inhospitable landscape: paintbrush, heather and others. A layer of puffy clouds covered the lowlands behind me, but all was clear up ahead.

By 9 am I was looking down at the foot of the glacier from a rocky perch. It was windy up here, and time to add another layer. Now it was time for the infamous red cinder walking that everyone dreads so much. At least there was a trail up here.

I hurried to the false summit and then blasted along the rim to the summit marker, which I reached at 10:15. Not a bad run! Hiking alone meant I could go at my own pace, stopping when I needed to but no more. I still had the rest of the day ahead of me, that felt great! I lingered for 45 minutes, snacking, watching the clouds roll in and out, observing all the amazing things I could see from up here. Colorful alpine pools. Mountains, hills and lava flows. Stuff you can’t see in the city.

For giggles I decided to hike around the crater rim instead of retracing my steps back tot he trail. This was a fun little adventure, with narrow walkways, slippery snow and an ever-changing perspective of the mountains. The clouds that had been trapped down in the valleys were now billowing overhead.

I carefully made my way around to the south side of the mountain and dropped back on to the trail. The clouds were really rolling in now. Whenever I could, I picked up my pace into a jog, using my poles to help propel me forward. When I hit the flats, the clouds had sunken down to brush the tip of Mt. Bachelor. These clouds were dark, gray, ominous. I practically hit a sprint as I barreled down towards the parking lot.

I reached the trailhead at about 1:30 pm, raced to the car, got inside and slammed the door. Not 1 minute later I saw raindrops hitting my windshield. What timing! The mountain gods were on my side today.

It was a tremendous day in the mountains. I got a nice early start, made killer time getting to the top, enjoyed a restful summit, took the adventurous route down and tested my scree running skills as I raced ahead of a thunderstorm. Super fun times!

Here’s the video I made to show my team of climbers. Enjoy.

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