Broken Top/South Sister

September 12-14, 2003

Friday, September 12 — Picked up John Jacobsen at his home at about a quarter til ten. We then drove to the Amazon Community Center parking lot where we met Miles Hollander and Lori Tierney. As Lori wanted to drive, we piled all our gear into her rig and headed for the Fall Creek trailhead. The construction on Hwy 58 east of Oakridge slowed us, so it was after one by the time we finally reached the trailhead.

With clear skies and cool temps, we made good time on our hike, arriving at our campsite by the Broken Top springs in just a little over two hours. Bits of TP scattered under bushes around the area indicate that this campsite is no longer a secret.

A cool, stiff wind picked up, so we hunkered down in the partial protection of some trees, cooked our dinners, watched the stars come out, and then crawled into our respective bags to the sounds of flapping tent cloth.

Saturday — We were on the trail to Broken Top a bit after 7:30 a.m., with the temperature in the low 40s, the wind still blowing, and not a cloud in the sky. It must have gotten a bit cooler a short ways up the mountain than it had gotten at our camp—there were patches of ice crystals over parts of the trail. John commented on the state of the climbers’ trail—much more heavily used now (and more distinct) than it was a decade and more ago. Our way up the ridge was made a bit more difficult as the sun was in our eyes much of the time. There were patches of crusty snow from a recent storm in shaded places on the north side of of the ridge. We met two climbers coming down the ridge a short ways down from the summit. They had started from the trailhead at about four that morning.

I climbed the crack at “the wall”, then belayed the others up, John choosing to go around to the easier, slightly more exposed spot around to the north after a couple of handholds proved to be “portable”. Attempts to protect “the ledge” were abandoned after Lori decided that she had reached her summit for the day at the belay point, and Miles decided he’d rather go across without. Seems rather pointless to protect just “the ledge” anyhow—after all, “the catwalk” to the top is even more exposed! A solo climber who came up after us said that the Chemeketans had recently discussed the proper way to do a club-climb of Broken Top, and had come to pretty much the same conclusion.

From our respective high points, we all drank in the view: still cloudless skies, fairly haze-free north and south, smoke from the B&B fires just hugging the ground to the north-east of Santiam Pass. After about a half hour, we reversed the process and headed on back to camp. Most choose to down-climb on the rock around to the north, instead of dealing with the crack at the ridge. A short way down the ridge, we crossed over to the scree, and in a short time were back at our camp for a late lunch.

John and I took a 1½ hour stroll around the larger of the Green Lakes to scope out the trail for the next day—I had never been up the Green Lakes climbers trail before, and it had been quite a while since John was last up it. The wind dropped off to just a gentle breeze in the evening, and it seemed just a tad warmer than it had been the night before.

Sunday — We were on our way shortly after six. We cut cross-country down to Green Lakes. The grass in the low-lands was frost covered—evidently it had gotten pretty cold down by the lakes. We had a bit of confusion at the start of the climbers trail—it is not very distinct at the start. Once we had climbed the ridge up to the level of the first waterfall, it became much easier to follow.

While we had the stretch below the Lewis Glacier to ourselves, above that we entered the usual South Sister “freeway”. By that time high clouds had come in. Big patches of snow added interest to the usual slog up the red ridge.

While the level of snow inside the crater was unusually low, the tear-drop pool was covered from the recent storm. From the top we could see from Washington to California. Some thought they could make out Rainier to the north, and Shasta to the south. To the west we identified Marys Peak. After the obligatory hour on top, we retraced our steps, exiting the freeway down below the Lewis Glacier.

The trip back to Green Lakes was fairly fast, though not as fast (nor as fun) as the trip down the scree on Broken Top. After a long hour to pack, we hiked back to the car in less than two more, this time sharing the trail with a far larger crowd than we had coming in on Friday. The trip back to town was not delayed by the construction on Hwy 58 as the workers were taking Sunday off.

While the spring is a nice place to stay at, being away from the usual hoards at Green Lakes, and having a wonderful supply of clean, cool drinking water just bubbling up from the ground, it does mean having to climb back up an extra 400 feet after coming down South Sister.

— Wayne Deeter, leader.

Broken top from the spring, showing illusion of south peak being higher

Closeup of summit from the spring

Bachelor Butte and the south peak

John, Wayne and Miles on Broken Top

Moon over moraine

Lori and Miles on South Sister

Blue Pool already snow-covered

Near to far — Middle, North, Jack, Jeff, Hood and Adams. (St. Helens could be seen behind Jack, but doesn’t show in photo. Some thought they could see Rainier between Hood & Adams, also doesn’t show. Washington is hiding behind Middle.)

— photos by Wayne Deeter

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