hike South Sisters mountain near Bend, Oregon - part 6The trailhead for South Sisters mountain is located about 25 miles west toward the cascades mountain range from Bend on the secenic highway that winds around past Mount Bachelor.
South Sisters mountain is as pretty as they come, and as wild as they come. Along the trail as it leaves the trailhead is a wonderful wild mountain stream.
As you continue up the trail, it winds up to a plateau that's a little more than a mile long, with a small lake on the right, looking down from the plateau.
There are lots of wonderful views of broken top, and an obsidian flow to the east. To the south, you can see Mount Bachelor in the national forest.
When I hiked this trail it was a nice cool day for the first 2 miles in the trees, in the lower 70's with a nice breeze, but for the next two miles on the plateau, there was little or no shade, and it was just a little too warm for hiking in full sun with virtually no shade.
Interestingly, there were literally hundreds of butterflys that I passed as I hiked up the trail. I also saw some honeybees, that landed on my pack and investigated when I stopped for lunch.
I stopped hot and tired for lunch at about 2PM, and sat down on a log, and I could tell that it was time to turn around and head back down the mountain. At this point I had made it about 4 miles and up about 2,200 feet, so I knew that I still had another 3,000 feet of elevation and 2 more miles of distance to cover.
The 2 miles wasn't a problem, but the 3,000 feet absolutely were a problem. I figured with the steepness, it would be optimistically foolish to think that I could make about 1 mile per hour for the last 2 miles with the steepness of those last 3,000 feet of trail, best case it would be about 5PM when I reached to summit.
But that would only be if I still had a pretty good energy level. Plus It would probably more realistically be after 6pm when I reached the summit, and I would have missed my opportunity to take pictures, which is one of the main purposes of the hike, besides the exercise.
Unfortunately, I was fairly tired and although I really wanted to get to the summit, I just didn't have enough energy. I felt that I would have to stop several times on the way back down, so I didn't dare go further up the mountain, hence I turned around at that point at 4 miles and about 2,200 feet elevation gained one way.
After resting for about 20 minutes and eating, I started back toward the trailhead, and soon my concerns were confirmed about my level of fatigue. I had to stop several times per hour on the way back down....which is something that I don't normally experience on my mountain hikes.
Having come from the coast ( at sea level elevation of course ) only 2 weeks earlier, and after thinking about it some, I have concluded that an attempt on 10,500 was just a bit too ambitious for a day hike, especially with the most difficult 2 miles of a 6 mile hike up the mountain being the last 2 miles before the summit.
The last 2 miles are a very steep sloped (1,500ft/5,280ft) average trail grade, which is why this trail is rated as extremely difficult. In Arizona, I've hiked steeper trails for longer distances, but the difference is that those trails start at 3,000feet, not 5,500feet, and those trails top out at 7,000feet, not 10,500 feet. Big difference in oxygen amount per unit air between those two scenarios.
After thinking about it some, I've concluded that a better approach with all things the same, would have been to hike 3 or 4 miles up the mountain and set up camp. The next morning get up early and reach the summit and take pictures, and then come back down.
If I ever attempt South Sisters mountain again, I will camp overnight, and make it a 2 day project instead of a day hike. I did a little reasearch, and found that is the approach that about half of the hikers use to get up the mountain.
The other approach is to start very early and make a long day of it. I didn't get to the trailhead until about 11:00AM. I probably should have been there at about 6:00AM to make it a day hike. That would have provided more time to stop and rest on the way up and back down.
Of course, I was dissapointed that I didn't reach the summit, because it was a clear day and the view is supposed to be spectacular (pictures too!), so I'll probably try again some time.
The total route was 8 miles and 2,200 feet of elevation gain, which is a respectable
showing for someone not fully acclimated to the elevation.
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Last Update: November 14, 2017
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