Part 1: South Sister Run 7/11/2015
July marked 12 consecutive months of unique mountains, exciting routes, learning experiences, exceptional challenges, and overall, epic, unmatched beauty and awe. This month, we elected to climb Broken Top with a couple of our friends in celebration of the completion of our first year as mountaineering partners. Both Andy and I are pretty motivated individuals so as a way of not only adding a level of difficulty to the climb, but also as a way of keeping us emotionally in check but physically destroying ourselves prior to the attempt, we elected to run up South Sister on Saturday morning from the Devil’s Lake TH. Our friend Brittany got on board to join us so we gave her the run down, left Portland with our friend Maddee in tow (she was heading up Broken Top with us on Sunday), and got mentally prepared for one of the more challenging goals we’ve set our sights upon. By the time we laid our sleeping pads down on the ground next to the car on Friday night, it was after 11pm and I had set our alarm for 2:30am- we would rather be slightly sleep deprived than run the risk of getting stuck behind one of the massive parties of yahoos that trek up south sister in the summer time.
The next morning, we did our usual coffee drain/oatmeal gulp/jump around freezing in the crisp, desert morning air, dance, started our respective GPS systems and began pounding dirt. We made great time to the flat section of the trail and let ourselves open up a little, stretching out our legs and cruising across the landscape by headlamp and starlight. It was absolutely incredible.
The major player this morning, at least for me, came when we hit the final section of climbing- the scree field that was THANKFULLY slightly damp and holding good traction for us. In my excitement over the run, I hadn’t properly fueled during the initial section of climbing and began to bonk… HARD. Never during this entire project, aside from the final push up Shasta, have I felt so low energy than I did when we hit that section on this mountain and I was beyond pissed at myself for struggling so much- especially after the initial sections had gone down with relative ease! My lack of traction (I still haven’t purchased trail runners…) and cold fingers aside, this was the real barrier to success for me. After a fair amount of bitching and kicking myself for being such a NOOB, my bars kicked in and I found the energy to push up the last section- even if it was at 50% of my normal energy level.
The summit yielded little to no visibility (for the second time in a row for me), so we contented ourselves with getting out of the wind long enough to eat a little food and checking out the small but neatly feature snowfield in front of us before we headed back down. We kept it casual on the run down- stretching out during sections and stopping to chat briefly with the groups of climbers that began pouring onto the trail during our descent. It was pretty hilarious watching their faces as we ran by them- I felt like such a badass!
There were a couple of neat things about this trip up South Sister, one was that we had, once again, found a way to make something routine into a challenge, and the second was that it gave me an additional gauge of my skill level from a year ago. South Sister was the mountain that kicked off the “A Mountain A Month” project and I recall being more than a rookie at that point and certainly much less fit than I am today… that was really, really cool to discover.
We ended up running into Maddee on our way down- she was going for a swim in Moraine Lake while we took our late morning nap- and chatted excitedly with her about her wonderful morning and our killer experience. When we finally hit the trail head, we gobbled down a box of Triscuits and took a 2 hour nap by the stream that borders the Devil’s Lake TH. It was magical.
That afternoon, after stopping for some unbelievably overpriced food/beer at Elk’s Lake Resort (okay, their fry-game was ON POINT!), we drove to the Green Lakes Trail Head and began prepping to head up Broken Top the next day.