Depending upon the snow year, good turns can be found on the South Sister well into July. Regardless of the snow pack however, good views can always be found on the mountain. Below is one such view while hiking along the Lewis Glacier in July while an Oregon wildfire blazes in the background……….
My good pal Andrew was in town visiting from Idaho. Both of us had an itch to make turns, so we decided to head out to the South Sister and make the most of it, not really knowing what kind of conditions to expect. The drive over was a bit of a debacle, as we missed the Highways 58 exit off I-5 while jabbering and passing a semi truck. We had to turn around in Creswell and backtrack to the Goshen exit. Then, after turning onto the Crescent Lake Cutoff, we found the Cascades Lakes Highway closed due to a forest fire that was just flaring up, and this forced us to head into La Pine and then Sunriver. After driving by Mt. Bachelor, we finally arrived at the Devils Lake trailhead around 10:00, having hoped to be there by 7:30. Not to be deterred, we loaded our packs and started up the trail along Hell Creek. The mosquitoes in the trees were fierce, especially around the lingering patches of snow higher up in the drainage. Finally, we reached the large flat above Moraine Lake, where we met a fellow named Jeff who hiked up to about 8000 feet with us.
The weather started warming as we trudged across the flat, but the snow conditions up higher looked promising for some good turns, and the views were really scenic. Broken Top to the east still had a few good lines in the West Bowl, but the snow appeared to be going fast…..
Climbing up the higher snowfields, we reached the base of the Lewis Glacier around 8900 feet. At this point, Jeff, who was in tennis shoes, bid us farewell, and we continued moving up. We did stop for a brief rest part of the way up the Lewis Glacier for some snacks and a few pictures. I snapped this photo of Jeff posing with Broken Top in the background…
We hiked on the ridge trail along the Lewis Glacier and past the large bergschrund. At this point, we decided to ditch our glisse equipment since the snow was petering out. Continuing along the ridge, the views back to Broken Top were excellent…..
Once we reached 10,000 feet, only a few hundred vertical feet from the summit, we decided to call it since the hour was getting late, we didn’t want to hike out in the dark, and I was pretty tired. The views of the wildfire from our vantage point were excellent however. Once we had hiked back down to the gear, we strapped in and enjoyed a few thousand vertical feet of mid-summer corn.
The snow quality was very nice, with only a few spots where the shadows had allowed the snow to re-freeze. The ride back down to the flats above Moraine Lake was smooth. Making nice turns on the corn snow felt really good -so good that we didn’t stop to take many pictures. I did, however manage to snap this photo of Andrew before we got down……
Once down to the end of the snow, we loaded the packs back up and hit the trail down Hell Creek, making it back to the car at Devils Lake around 7:30 pm. It was a pretty long drive back to the Willamette Valley, and when we turned in for the day I was dog tired. It was definitely worth it though for some good July turns!