South Sister Traverse

September 2-5, 1988

Although three of the South Sister traverse team left the Sparks Lake parking lot early Saturday morning September 3rd, they found the heat having an adverse impact on their abilities to carry heavy packs past Green Lakes and on up over the divide into Golden Lakes country. Once on this divide, the packs were stashed and the hikers headed east to the “Golden Ponds” which afforded fantastic photography of the South Sister. Walking northeast and dropping 500 feet, Bob and Ken enjoyed a very brief swim in the ice cold “Golden Lake” and delighted in feeding grass hoppers to the hungry trout of this beautiful meadow lake. Back up on the divide overlooking the Green Lakes, a fourth hiker had arrived and was waiting for the swimmers to return to their packs. Once the group was together, they enjoyed a long nap until 5:00 p.m. when the intense summer heat had faded away for the day and they could once again enjoy backpacking. The group proceeded northwest upward across alpine terrain and across many rampaging silty creeks fed by Prouty Glacier. The hikers first caught glimpses of Carver Lake which was just about at the same elevation as the hikers and the sun glaring off its surface made the lake appear as a river flowing rapidly northward. However, following a very difficult traverse along the canyon sides, the hikers found Carver Lake to be a large muddy natural reservoir similar to something you’d expect to see on Mars, the landscape devoid of any vegetation. To stand on the natural moraine dam which holds in the waters of Carver Lake and imagine it bursting, which is a possibility, is overwhelming. Racing against darkness, the group hiked up and away from the lake over a divide and downward along some snow fields to a small plateau overlooking the three large alpine, deep blue Chambers Lakes. Here, camp was set in the dark and the group enjoyed a windless peaceful night near the alpine crest of the Cascade Mountains.

Sunday morning found the group traversing along the deep steep crater-like walls of a deep unnamed group and then up and over the Pacific Crest. Here on the Cascade Divide, the party felt intimidated by the South and Middle Sisters, giants of the Chambers Lakes region. Now, the two western members of the Chambers Lakes could be viewed, both in the shadow of a massive unnamed solid rock ridge running north to south. The hikers dropped down into the basins of these two lakes finding them to be shallow lakes with no visible outlets. As the party descended down Separation Creek and back into forest lands once again, they were reintroduced to large meadows and warm temperatures. Finally, at the halfway point of the trip, the hikers enjoyed a swim in Heart Lake which borders beautiful meadows along Separation Creek. The group then hiked southward several miles on the Pacific Crest Trail until they arrived at Mesa Creek. Here the group traveled along the northern fringes of Rock Mesa to a camp site along a small stream.

On Monday morning, the group broke camp, first exploring Rock Mesa, then hiking to the unique lava cone of Little Broken Top. After extensive investigation of the caves and chasms of this interesting outcropping, the group traveled once again to the crest of the Cascades, this time on the south of South Sister and on a huge area of pumice plateaus overlooking Moraine Lake. A surprisingly comfortable swim in Moraine Lake followed, then a quick trip on out to the cars. The difficult but exciting trip was shared by Jeremy Adams, Mari Baldwin, Bob Foster, and Ken Ball (leader).

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