South Sister (Oregon Cascades; 10,358')

South Sister (10,358') is the third-highest mountain in Oregon. The South Side route is an easy, although arduous (due to the almost 5,000' elevation gain from Devils Lake), hike that can be done in sneakers even in mid-June, provided the weather is good and you don't mind getting wet feet. Don't get intimidated by the hordes of people on the trail who carry equipment that would be adequate for K2, but don't hesitate either to switch to boots or turn around altogether if you encounter icy conditions near the crater rim. As on all high volcanoes, of course, bad weather can drastically increase the seriousness of the trip. The South Side also provides a superb ski descent. Contiguous, or almost contiguous, snow usually can be found from the summit to the flats at around 6,800' until early July. Later in the year the route is just an endless scree slog. The East Side (from Green Lakes) provides a nice variation that is much less traveled. Prouty Glacier (also approached from Green Lakes) is a technical climb, and an extreme ski descent.

South Sister from the south in early July (photo credit: Jörg Rollbühler)
Topo Map
Routes: S Side (I, Class 1, moderate ski descent)
S Side Variation (I, Class 2)

References: Jeff Thomas, Oregon High Keep Climbing Press (Portland, OR 1991)
J. Smoot, Summit Guide to the Cascade Volcanoes Chockstone Press (Evergreen, CO 1992)
N.A. Dodge, A Climbing Guide to Oregon , Touchstone Press (Beaverton, OR 1975)

Date: June 2, 2007

Party: DB solo

Route: South Side, ski descent

Equipment: AT skis

Time: Devils Lake - Summit 6 hrs 30 mins, roundtrip from Devils Lake 10 hrs

Trip report: Another year of low snow pack in the Oregon Cascades led to an early June trip under conditions that reminded me more of early July. I started from Devils Lake at 6am and made it to the flat area in a bit over an hour. At the top of the approach gully I ran into John and Lisa Manotti and friends. They were skinning, whereas I had opted for sneakers, carrying my skis and boots.

I noticed that I had not climbed anything in a long time: it took me six hours to the crater rim, and 6 1/2 hours to the summit. The weather was nice, and the thunderstorms did not start building until early afternoon. It was nice and warm, with calm winds, and I spent over an hour lounging on the summit.

When I started down I noticed that it was too warm for good skiing, though: the snow was too soft, but the skiing was still fun. I managed to ski about 2/3 down the approach gully, and the snow there was actually good, so zipping through the trees was fun rather than the usual survival skiing. While hiking out the last 15 minutes it rained a bit on me, and while driving south on Cascade Lakes Highway I got caught in one of the worst hail storms I have ever experienced. It was a good trip, and it was good to get out again after a long hiatus.

For earlier ascents, click here .