South Sister – 10,358 ft
Devil’s Lake Trailhead to Summit and Back – 12.5 miles
Total time hiking – 7 Hours
I woke up at 5:30am on the day of my South Sister climb. After gulping down some Greek yogurt with hemp and chia seeds, I loaded the truck up and was on the road before 6:30am. For once, I managed to leave at a respectable hour! I reached the Devil’s Lake trailhead by 10:30am and started North on the summit trail. The first couple miles were rough, steeply uphill and quite the shock to the system of someone who has been crammed in the truck for 4 hours.
Before long, the trail opened up and leveled out, providing an excellent, enthusiasm-boosting view of South Sister, Broken Top and Moraine Lake. After another couple miles, the real climb started. I was weirdly drained at this point. My legs and body felt heavy and my mind was cloudy. I think I spent too much time doing mundane normal activities and sitting on the computer the last couple weeks. My cardio and strength were slightly disappointing. The thought that I had become weaker annoyed me, made me angry. My mind instantly became sharper and focused on the goal. My mental strength had returned; there would be no more breaks until I gazed upon the summit.
During the last 2 miles, I entered the real alpine environment. The sun was hot; the wind was strong. Pumice and volcanic debris littered the ground. I passed the small glacial melt lake formed by the Prouty ice field, Oregon’s largest glacier. A bit further up, I climbed by the highest alpine lake in Oregon, Teardrop Lake. Nearing the crest of the summit, I felt unstoppable. Feeling a high that only comes from being in hostile outdoor locations, I started to run.
For the first time in my life, I stood upon a volcanic mountain. The center was a circular plug of ice and snow that looked like it could have been a frozen over lake. I found a spot to sit on the eastern edge of the rim. There I heated up a nice celebratory summit hot toddy and ravenously ate tuna, cheese and granola bars. The slight rest had given my legs time to contemplate their situation; apparently they did not like what they were doing. My thigh muscles immediately seized up. I’ve never felt such intense muscle cramping in my life. I laid still and popped a super b-complex vitamin and 1000mg ibuprofen, washing it down with my hot drink. Within minutes the pain had subsided. I sat for over a half hour, taking it all in while listening to Bonobo and Thievery Corporation on my XBoom portable IPod speaker.
There is no grander feeling of accomplishment than pushing your body and mind to do something that it just does not want to do.
With my body and mind recharged, I started the decent. The setting sun provided a calming presence as the bright colors of the day turned to the dark oranges and reds of the shadowy twilight. My legs felt tired but strong. I ran most of the 6.25 miles back to the truck. The last half hour, I raced through the dark woods with my headlamp providing a dull spotlight in front of me. Just before 7pm, I returned to the red Silverado, happy and full of enthusiasm for life.