South Sister- 9/27/14
This climb was an adventure from the start. The weather was forecasted to be optimal- Friday night at the trailhead would be a balmy 50* and the summit would be somewhere below freezing including windchill. This was all lies. As we drove closer to the Devil’s Lake Trailhead, the temperature began dropping…. and dropping… and dropping… until it was hovering just above freezing- NOT 50*!!! Snuggling up into our sleeping bags (I was thankful that my bag was rated for 20*), Andy and I fell asleep around 11pm, ready for a 430am wake up. Britt and Geoff stayed up to celebrate Geoff’s birthday (which was 9/27/14), and Kaley and Joe rolled into the parking lot (where they slept in their car) around 1am. I felt like a bit of an old person- but only for the 10 seconds it took for me to fall into a deep, mountain-shadowed sleep.
Upon waking, we all dressed in the semi-dark by the light of our headlamps, and packed away the tent and gear systematically. I filled bladders and shoved bars into our packs while Andy expertly boiled water for our much needed cups of coffee. Yogurts, granola, and peanut butter down the hatch, coffee warming our bellies and opening up our sleepy eyes, we began our march up through the forest, 6 sets of lungs warming up together as we found a steady hiking rhythm. We chatted, rotating around the group in cycles of pairs or trios, no person left alone, no voices left unheard, as we climbed up the trail as the sun began rising.
I set the record for number of potty breaks on this trip as I intentionally downed the 3L of water I was packing. This is an important thing to note… since it has been and will likely continue to be the precedent for all future trips: Corie Pees A LOT.
As we climbed out of the trees and onto the flat section of trail, we saw what lay before us- not clear, chilly conditions- but snow, and a heavy arc of fog cradling the sister in the morning light. And then… the wind. The lovely, amazing, never-pausing-for-more-than-a-minute-or-two wind. The bright side to the conditions was grounded in the fact that the moisture was making traction AWESOME- no battles with scree fields on this trip! However, as we climbed higher and higher, the wind grew colder and colder. Britt’s dog, Jamie, eventually was packed into a backpack- his fluffy white head sticking out of the top.
Kaley, being sick, and the conditions being what they were, we decided to turn around after reaching the false summit. Summiting was definitely possible but with new climbers, potentially VERY icy conditions further up the trail, the risks outweighed the benefit of summiting- and there really was only one considering that visibility was very limited.
We hiked back down the snow covered trail, some of us (OK maybe just me) clutching at boulders on occasion when the wind gusts became extra fierce, and watched a growing string of yahoos and hungover A**holes begin their ascent. <- yes, I mean this- we spent the night before listening to a drunk ASSHOLE shouting “SHUT THE FUCK UP!” at the top of his lungs over and over and over and over again until each and every one of us had expressed our personal, and very violent thoughts.
^^ this is why we start climbing at 530am ^^
Anyway, it was a lovely climb with interesting weather, shared with great friends, and it left me, once again, with an increased respect for the mountains, and a realization that you don’t always have to summit- that mountain isn’t going anywhere.