South Sister summit

September 14, 2014.

11 mi. | 4900′ ele. gain | 10:25 hr.

It was a beauuuuuutiful day to be in the mountains. Team JessBFit began hiking just around 6:30 am from the Devil’s Lake Trailhead. Destination: South Sister.

Our team had been training together for the past three months to tackle this hike. It would be the first trip up the mountain for a few people and a somewhat familiar jaunt for others. Compared to last year’s trip, the conditions looked absolutely ideal.

Our group of nine charged up the initial uphill segment in about an hour, stopping at our first South Sister view to have a snack break, get hydrated and put on sunscreen. Once we broke out of the trees, we would hardly see any shade again until we got back to this spot.

An easy cruise across the plateau brought us to some more uphill climbing, this time on sand and scree. The unfamiliar terrain caught a few of us by surprise and slowed down the pace. We had all day to get up the mountain, so everyone took it at their own speed.

In the distance, thin hazy clouds cast a mystique across the surrounding hills. Up ahead though, there were clear blue skies.

By 10 am we reached the little lake at the foot of the Lewis Glacier. It was here that we took a substantial break to assess the last major uphill climb. There were some cranky feet, tired bodies and hungry bellies. With much encouragement from the team, the single hiker who wanted to stop there was convinced to forge ahead. And so we did.

That last section was a killer. By that point we were already tired, the ground was unstable, and each step feltĀ  exhausting. But just stop and look around you, there’s the spectacular skyline of Broken Top, the majestic cone of Mt. Bachelor and views that go on forever. A cooling breeze blowing over the snowfields, bright sunlight glistening off the alpine lake and that feeling of coming so close to accomplishing a goal that motivates you to just take that next step and see what happens.

Around noon, the entire team had made it to the crater rim. Just a spitting distance from the summit. Another long food break rebuilt the morale stores for that last push to the top.

With tired smiles, the team completed the partial circumnavigation of the crater to the little rockpile with the summit marker. We made it!

Now it was time for puffy coats, selfies, and all the snacks. We savored every last second we could squeeze out of the time here before packing up and descending. It took about half the time to get down as it did to get up. Everyone settled into a pace and made it down in their own time.

At the bottom, we met one of our hikers’ parents, who’d brought watermelon and water and other snacks to fill our depleted energy stores. It was a lovely way to end a long day.

Climbing this “beginner” mountain still takes a lot of effort and mental reserves. I was glad that everyone there was able to rally whatever they needed inside to keep moving forward. Mountains challenge us to rise up and push through discomfort in order to achieve a goal. And today, we all took the challenge.

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