South Sister

August 23-24, 1980

Three separate ascents of this popular mountain were scheduled in August and one in September, so what was unusual about the 24 August climb? For one thing, the approach. Since my last stormy ascent in snow in Sept. 1979, a new parking area has been constructed at the Falls Creek trailhead, and with it a new trail (unmarked on the wilderness area map) which intercepts the old Ditch trail 3½ miles north of the new trailhead, then contours around the southwest flank of Broken Top at the 7000 foot level to Green Lakes 4 miles farther.

Ten faithful followers blithely followed the fearless leader, unaware of the circuitous route ahead. At the three mile point four fuming hikers, backtracking to the car lot, informed us that the new trail was a dead end. Obsidian wisdom prevailed, and we had no trouble finding the Ditch trail shortly beyond the alleged dead end.

The camp site was reached by 5 p.m. in glorious weather, with time for a swim in the upper (isolated) lake, for some. Mosquitoes cooperated by their absence. A full moon reflected magic radiance from the glassy facets of the obsidian flow above the lake outlet (to the west).

On 24 August we departed camp at 7:15 a.m., arriving at the south crater rim about 11:15. With a captive audience it was difficult to resist the opportunity to geologize as we moved along. Descent to Green Lakes camp took half the time of the ascent through the expedient of 1500 ft. of exhilarating glissades down the soft (but safe) afternoon snow. Leaving camp at 5 p.m. we reached the cars about 6:40 via the no-nonsense direct approach down Falls Creek.

The silhouettes of the Sisters, as we drove through Bend in the evening twilight was spectacular. One could speculate on Dr. Hodges’ (U of O geologist) hypothesis that Mt. Multnomah, a 16,000 foot peak, spanned the gap including Broken Top and the Three Sisters and filling the late pleistocene air space with spectacular glaciers as expansive as Mt. Blanc. Unfortunately that speculation is now laid to rest, and we now know that the range is four distinct volcanoes — five if you include Mt. Bachelor.

Climbers included Dick Hildreth, Rick Grosscup, Sally Grosscup, Gladys Grancorvitz, Thomas Johnston (leader), Helene Johnston, Carole Kompanik, Bonnie Ledford, Mark Lewinsohn, Karen McIntyre, and Ernie Rimmerman.


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