Alright, I’m not gonna lie, I haven’t been on a serious hike since May when Steve, Angie, and I did the Pinnacles trek at Gunung Mulu National Park in Borneo. So naturally, summiting a 10,358 foot mountain would sound like a good idea. Why, oh why, do I do this to myself…
Steve and I usually hike alot, but we just got back from our 6 month trip to Asia, so the last month has been spent looking for a new home, a new car, and a new job (for yours truly). And we moved to the other side of the Cascades…hello sunshine!!!
Distance: 12.23 miles roundtrip
Time: 7-10 hours
Difficulty: Very challenging, but nontechnical (ie. you don’t need climbing gear)
Season: All year (mid-summer to mid fall for hiking; the rest of the year it’s wise to carry crampons, snowshoes, ice axe, etc.)
Permit: Northwest Forest Pass required; Wilderness permit required, fill out your party’s details at the trailhead
Dog Friendly: Hell NO!!!! The volcanic rock would eat their little paws up; the trail to Moraine Lake would be fine though.
Pros: Views of the Cascades, summiting the third tallest mountain in Oregon, bragging rights, you could camp at Moraine Lake
Cons: SCREE, it’s exhausting, trail can be crowded
We were hoping to make the summit for sunrise, but quickly realized that there was no way we were going to be up there in time. We arrived at the trailhead around 3/3:30 am on Labor Day weekend….silly kids. Luckily, most people don’t want to hike in the dark, so we hit the trail and only saw two other groups ahead of us…..on the way down it was a different story; we probably saw close to 100 people on their way up. I’m so happy we started early.
The hike itself is just over 12 miles roundtrip from the Devil’s Lake Trailhead and gains approximately 4,900 feet in about 6 miles. It’s a doozy. The hike from the Devil’s Lake trailhead up to Moraine Lake (about 1.5 miles up the hill) is easy enough and the trail is well packed, which you will definitely appreciate after hiking to the summit and back. If the trail up to Moraine Lake is tough for you, you might just want to call it a day and enjoy the lake. It looked beautiful from up above and it would be way more relaxing than a summit attempt.
I love scree!!! Oh wait, no I don’t. I hate it. It freaks me out! And the summit trail is mostly scree…loads and loads of loose volcanic rock. I definitely had to suck it up and resist the urge to turn around. My fear of falling was overpowering…I’m not truly afraid of heights; I’m afraid of tumbling down a hill. Anyway, I eventually made it to the top, probably 20 minutes after Angie and Steve. They patiently waited for me while there fingers, hands, limbs, and faces froze. The view was beautiful from the top, but it was bitterly cold and even operating the camera was a challenge.
Anyway I’m happy to check the South Sister off of the list, but I’m not exactly jumping at the chance to do it again. Will I do it again? Probably, but I need to forget about all of that scree before I even consider it…lol. Maybe they could build some stairs and a put little hot chocolate shop on the summit? Just kidding….it was beautiful, it just so happens that it was really challenging too.
Notes: Pack your layers. I wore a tank, a Smartwool Midweight top, a vest, a lightweight jacket, leggings, thin gloves and a fleece headband. Honestly, I wish I had brought my Patagonia Down Sweater too. I was fine in boots with no gaiters, but I went fairly slowly. My trekking poles also came in handy, but like I said I was going slow. I saw some people running down in tennis shoes. Pack your sunscreen and sunglasses too. You will definitely need them as there isn’t much shade on the trail until below Moraine Lake.
Everytrail.com provides a play by play trail guide