Saturday, September 24, 2011

An Eye Opener: attempting to climb South Sister

We left for the South Sister trail-head at 6:45AM expecting a 20 mile ride.  As it turned out, Mapquest was wrong and it was a 47 mile ride to Devil's Lake.  That put us behind schedule on what turned out to be the second hardest climb I've ever done (Hurd Peak is number 1).
The South Sister is the 3rd highest mountain in Oregon and encompasses 10,000 feet of elevation change over the 12.5 miles to the summit and back.  I think we realized in the first 1.75 miles that this was going to be harder than we imagined.  By the time we had hiked up the first forested mountain, we were 1200 feet higher.  Since we started at over a mile high, we were really feeling the elevation.  Our legs ached and our hearts were pounding.  South Sister loomed in the distance.

We stopped for a short break and then headed out toward the mountain on the only fairly level part of the climb.  As expected, there was beauty in all directions.  To our right was the drop to Moraine Lake (with Mt. Bachelor in the background), what many people consider a good day hike on its own.  

A look back from further up the trail.

It wasn't long after we started the next hard uphill climb that both of us realized that getting to the top was probably out of reach on this day.  Between my repaired knee, recently sprained ankle and Val's knees, we knew that the trip back down, always the hardest on the joints, was already going to be painful.  By the time we got to around 8000 feet on the rocky slope we had had enough for one day.  In our defense, we only saw one person our age or older the whole hike, and there were a lot of folks on the trail.  Almost everyone seemed to be college age.  Did it make us feel old?  Maybe for me, a little.  But it also made us feel fortunate to be able to be out there.  But it was definitely an eye opener for me.  I realized that 10 years older and 10 pounds heavier makes a difference.  And I must admit that I'm not in the aerobic shape I was when I climbed Mount Washington and Mount Dana. That was my marathon time.  Time to work harder.
Anyway, it was a great experience and worth every minute of the 9 miles we hiked.  Next time we'll make it.

Looking west toward volcanic rock.

A couple of short breaks on the trail.

Looking down at the flatter part of the hike.

The harshness of the high mountains, and the beauty of the forest streams.

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