South Sister 2010


Eight decades and still going strong (we should all be so lucky)

Note: click images to see a larger version in a new window

Dad turned 80 in March. To commemorate his 8th decade, he decided to climb the South Sister one more time. This is the story of that climb.

The South Sister is a giant Cascade volcano. The standard route is very popular, depite the 12-mile hike required to gain 4900'. I've done this climb with Dad two other times:

Our group camped at the Little Fawn campground on Elk Lake. This picture is at dawn from our campground. The route climbs more-or-less directly up the middle of thie picture to the summit crater, the flat area on the left. The actual summit is on the right side of the crater rim.


We left camp in three groups: Dad and Daniel, the old slow guys, left at 4:40. Myself, Tom, Susan, Mack, Elaine, Jasper, and Rowan left at 5:40. And David, Cathleen, Jenny, and Nathan left just after that. We all parked at the Devil's Lake trailhead, but in the dark Dad and Daniel followed the Wickiup Plains trail around Kaleetan Butte, a long cut.

Just past the intersection to Moraine Lake I looked back and there they were, behind us despite the hour head start. So much for planning.

This is looking up the mountain with the first two groups hiking together.


Pumice trail
It was a very pleasant morning. At the trailhead it had been 37°, but above the basin and in the sun it was probably about 55 or 60 with a light breeze. I was in shorts and short sleeves. Even so, I preferred the cooler, shady areas. Mid-mountain

After that initial trail, it turns to scree and the tread wanders and interweaves. By this point we were pretty spread out, with Tom's family up ahead with Rowan. The third group was not yet visible. The lake at the bottom of the Lewis Glacier is just over the horizon here.

Gray scree

I make reference to being slow, but this picture seems to show otherwise. It's 10:20 and we're at 9110'.

Ignoring the first group's long cut and only paying attention to my stats, that's about 3700' gain in 4:15. Not bad.


After you pass the lake (at the terminal moraine) the scree turns into this classic red stuff. At this point Elaine and Jasper had also moved ahead, leaving the old guys to soldier on.

I'm 54, Daniel (left) is 57, and Dad is 80. Team Geritol.

At this point our third group was in sight behind us. Then Jenny came up, running, to catch and pass us old guys.

Red scree
The groups were congregating on the crater rim. Here the crowd applauds for Dad's effort. Crater rim
With the majority of the work over, Dad was looking lively and feeling better. That's the summit on the other side of the crater. Crater

At 12:08, Dad and Daniel crawled up onto the summit rocks.

We had a regular photo frenzy with different combinations of folks on the rocks, different photographers, etc. For those so inclined I have lots more photos. But we'll leave it here with Dad and his first son.

We made a big fuss about Dad at 80, but Daniel also did a remarkable job coming basically off the couch from sea level at 57.

Job well done, you old farts!

Dad and Daniel on the summit

By this time the third party had completed our gathering on top. Then it was lunch time. We pretty much took over the place. I felt a little bad about our big crowd blocking the trail, but when you are ready to celebrate your 80th, I think a person deserves a few extra privileges.

One combiniation we forgot to do on the summit rock was Dad and his four kids. But here we are in the crater with the summit in the background. Despite the overall juvenile appearance, the average age of this group is 58. Family

After all that fun, we knew we still had some work ahead of us. We put on gloves and gaiters, adjusted our poles and headed down.


Down, down, down. Knee braces and ibuprofen. Taped feet. More sunscreen. Dad was still looking chipper when we got down onto the final 1000' of the descent. He even started talking about this 14-year-old bottle of wine back at camp....


"They also serve who only stand and wait."
John Milton

Far from standing around, Shelley and the other support crew had a massive feast ready for us and we all sat around the campfire partying before finally hitting the sack well past 9 o'clock.


Mr. Natural Home | 2010 | Back to top of page | Questions :: e-mail to splattski