South Sister

Summit: 10,358ft

Native land of the: Molalla and Grand Ronde

12m 4,930ft gain

South Sister also known as Charity is in central Oregon in the Three Sisters Wilderness with its two other major volcanic sisters Middle and North. They are the third, fourth and fifth highest peaks in Oregon, South Sister being the tallest. It is also the youngest of the three, holds the largest glacier in Oregon, Pouty Glacier and the summit crater holds the highest lake in Oregon, Teardrop Pool. The standard route is a long but straightforward hike year-round. The Three Sisters Traverse would be a blast with Middle being the only one that’s technical.

Left to right: North Sister, Middle Sister, South Sister and Broken Top
From Sparks Lake

1st Trip: 6/27/20

Ellie and I set off for a quick weekend adventure now that Bend is only three hours away! We had dinner in town and then slept in the truck at the Devil’s Lake Trailhead. We managed to get a flat tire on the paved road between Bend and the trailhead, but we were prepared with a spare. It was time to replace all the tires anyway.

We started at 4am and after a mile and a half in a dense hemlock forest we emerged on a plateau just in time for sunrise at 5:10am. Mount Bachelor had the coolest lenticular cloud or cap cloud on its summit and the color over Broken Top was all time. South Sister and the peaks to the south were surrounded by cotton candy.

The next mile and a half were almost completely flat and over looked Moraine Lake and numerous other lakes, mountains and volcanoes!

South Sister looking windy
Mount Bachelor
Cultus Mountain and Maiden Peak
Cappy Mountain (Real and on my to do list, obscure peak with no trail), Howlock Mountain and Mount Thielsen
More interesting cloud features on Bachelor

The next mile or so gains 2,000ft to the current terminal moraine of the Lewis Glacier and the pretty Lewis Tarn.

From there it’s 8/10th of a mile and 1,000ft of gain to the lip of the broad summit crater at 10,200ft.

We followed the rim half a mile to the true summit but first stopped at a little bivy site with rocks built up to shield us from the raging wind. We had an early 8am lunch and warmed up our hands before enjoying the views and taking pictures from the true summit.

It was incredibly windy but so incredibly gorgeous we stayed about 30 minutes before our hands froze.

Looking out at Middle and North Sister was jaw dropping and so clear. You could see all the way to Mount Adams in Washington!

Middle, North and Chamber Lakes
Mount Jefferson and Mount Hood beyond North Sister
Mount Hood and Mount Adams
Middle Sister
Three Fingered Jack
Cute babe and volcanic rock
Honoring my ancestors with my late Grandfathers horn.

By 9am we began our descent by going straight across the summit crater. Looking down from the rim at the Lewis Tarn, Sparks lake, Mount Bachelor and the red volcanic rock on South Sister is something special!

Clouds started to clear as we got closer to the Lewis Tarn.

Shortly after passing the tarn Ellie took a break while I ran up Nipple Point. It was super windy but worth another gorgeous view east. Seeing a lot of people heading up made me appreciate the early start.

We were able to do some glissading down some steep snowy sections until reaching the plateau above Moraine Lake.

By noon we made it back to the trailhead with plenty of daylight to get back home. This was an amazing trip in central Oregon!

I don’t think Moose missed us much. He had a great weekend too!

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