Anyone been up South Sister via Devils Lake Trail in the last few weeks? Looking at heading up Monday, but hoping for at least half the approach snow free. Thats what killed me on McLoughlin, 5.5 miles to the summit and snow for the whole approach when it was warm out and I was over geared. Since I have to drive several hours to get there, just want to see about a heads up for what to expect. Thanks in advance!
Philo, I was up two weeks ago, (on the 11th, I think), and yeah, you're gonna have snow for most of the way. Sorry to disappoint. Snow begins, or began for us, probably a quarter-mile or so from the road. Beginning section, through the forest, is not bad, as there is a fairly solid trail/bootpack, through the snow. I'd imagine a bit of that has now melted out. . . Once out of the forest, the fun begins, as you will encounter what looks like a lunar-polar landscape of deep suncups as well as runnels. Very tough going, and it lasts for awhile. However, up high, the upper part of the mountain, I think is in good shape. I don't know for sure, as I had to turn around; I wasn't feeling it that day. But, my son and cousin plowed ahead and were successful, even skiing off the top. Suncups and runnels are no fun, though. And, on the descent, as one approaches treeline, route-finding can be a little difficult, what with the suncups, etc. Take some compass marks along the way, look at the landmarks, etc. and you should be fine. Early start would be best. You most likely won't need crampons, but should take trekking poles. Definitely will be softer on the descent. Go light. Good luck.