After an afternoon spent fishing the upper Deschutes, I found myself at the Devil’s Lake trailhead cooking dinner and making the necessary preparations for a climb of South Sister the following day. With camp situated, I enjoyed my freeze dried meal and gazed through binoculars at the upper mountain in the evening light. A bit later, Adam pulled in, as did Jack, and we settled in for the evening. We hit the sack around 10:00pm, and woke early to get going while the snow was still firm. Dan pulled in as scheduled around a quarter after 5:00 am, and we were on the trail before 6:00 am. The hike up Hell Creek is always pleasant. This year we booted on dirt for quite a ways, finding somewhat continuous snow in the trees around 6200 feet. Soon, we ascended out of the trees and up to the large flat below South…
At this point, it was time to don skins, and we skinned across the large flat above Moraine Lake. The snow was firm, and a high overcast to the east kept it from softening. Around 7,500 feet, we switched over to crampons for the remainder of the ascent. Just past the saddle above Lewis Lake we elected to take a break, eat a quick lunch, and soak in the views.
The final push to the summit went quite easily, and I was stoked to be standing on top of South for the second time in as many weeks. As usual, the views north towards Middle and North Sisters and beyond were outstanding.
Amazingly, on the Monday of Memorial weekend, we had the summit all to ourselves for over 45 minutes. So, I snapped several pictures. Looking back towards Dan, I could see Broken Top and the upper portion of the route we’d skied two weeks prior – the Prouty Headwall.
Since we had a little time to kill waiting for the upper slopes on the south side to corn, we headed over to peer down the Lost Creek Glacier side of the mountain and gain a bit of beta for future aspirations. Looking down the Lost Creek, I could see a set of tracks glistening in the sunlight (I found out later they were Amar’s and made the day previously). The view off the west side of South Sister’s summit crater is indeed beautiful….
The wind was blowing slightly and quite cold on the summit ridge, but a few feet off the ridge the sun was nice and toasty. After soaking in the views and re-hydrating, we enjoyed corn turns off the western summit ridge back to the south side. For the ride down, we chose the always fun Clark Glacier route, which is steeper and holds better snow than the standard climbing route. Dropping in off the summit plateau, we were greeted with excellent corn snow.
I snapped photos of Dan and Adam as they rode down, and was able to get some decent shots of the riders with Broken Top in the background. The below photo of Adam in black and white was one I liked….
Above the Clark Glacier, but below the summit snow slope, we traversed hard west and found some great untracked corn waiting to be ripped. Dan dropped first, followed by Adam….
The snow remained excellent as we dropped down onto the stagnant snowfield of what was once the Clark Glacier. Jack was ripping up the corn, clearly enjoying his first trip to South Sister. Above the flats, we found a steep headwall to ski, and I held back as Adam, Dan and Jack all dropped in….
We continued to milk turns down the left of Little Broken Top, skiing as far down as we could before traversing over to the plateau above Moraine Lake. From there, it was a skinning show across the flats in the mush, and everyone was stoked to reach the trees and try to “ride” back down Hell Creek as far as we could. With a bit of work, and after riding over several dirt patches, we made “turns” to the end of the snow back down around 6200 feet.
With boards back on our packs, we made quick time down the trail, and were soon enjoying a cold beer and chips and salsa in the parking lot, reflecting back on another excellent day of corn snow in the Oregon Cascades. Though this season was pretty miserable in terms of snowpack, the spring riding has been great. The snow sure is disappearing fast though — on a normal Memorial Day, there would be a few feet of snow at the car, but this year it was nearly a mile up the trail. Nevertheless, it was a great day, and one I won’t soon forget. Here’s a parting shot from the summit….