There are also a limited selection of campsites around Morraine Lake available.
I have climbed South Sister 12 times. Eleven of those times I have gone up the "standard" route from Devils Lake on the south side. The northwest ridge of the volcano is a nice change of pace if you are looking for more solitude. Approach from Pole Creek Spring, hike in about 7 miles to Camp Lake. Good overnight tent spots in this area (the name says it all). From Camp Lake I did an up-again, down-again traverse over snowfields and volcanic scree ridges to reach the base of the northwest ridge, which is approached by ascending the Eugene Glacer snowfield. Once the ridge is gained, it can be followed all the way to the crater rim. Anytime from July through September or early October is good for a climb of this route. No technical gear is necessary, just a little common sense.
Oh Good! i was wondering which route would be better between North ridge & North west ridge on South sister. i am starting at Pole creek Th, Summiting all 3 sisters 2maro morning & going to do a PSR Solo & after doing the technical climb/Summit on North & then moving on to Middle i didnt really wanna go up the North ridge of South with less energy so i think i'll loop around a lit bit & go NW route. Thx this was helpful. hoping to complete all 3 in 10-12hrs, Fast & loose gets the job done quick =)
There are also a few camping spots on the top of the mountain. I'm not sure about the availablity of the spots, but I know it gets very windy during the night.
There are several (3-4) man-made rock walls with moderate clearings for an evening at the top. There is room for 2-man tents at 2-3 of the sites, but an overnight bivy is excellent with agreeable weather. It is indeed very windy, but if conditions are right the sunset views are totally worth it.
A group of us were planning on climbing South and Middle week of May 11-14 2015 but I see the Cascade Lakes Highway may still be closed (as well as the Devils Lake Parking area & others)...plus NO roadside parking. Suggestions would be MUCH appreciated.
We started this climb at 4am in the morning on a Saturday from Devils Lake. A great time to ascend with cooler conditions and minimal direct sunlight. The summit sits a little above 10,000ft so most people will feel a little altitude - shortness of breath, tight head.
Absolutely spectacular views at the top of the volcanoes looking north. We saw all the way to Mt Rainier. We were the second climbers to the summit that day shortly followed by a few others - saw the crowds on our way down so suggest going early!
We took crampons and ice axe. Only needed an ice axe for glissading though. Most of the walk is on crumby volcanic rock along the ridge-line with only a few patches of snow to cross. Definitely take jackets and warm weather gear as conditions can change quickly on the mountain.
Rock shelters to camp at the summit. Would also be a cool mountain to ascend via skiing/snowboarding.
I’ll be honest. This was the hardest hike that I’ve ever done. The elevation gain was killer with the short miles. The miles were not short BUT it was completely worth it. Every sweaty, hard, and lack of oxygen moment. The hike is about 5-6.25 miles to the summit, 10-12 miles round trip.
My first tip to all is leave very early and arrive early at the trailhead. The parking lot was almost full at 7am.
The first 1.5-2 miles are hard and goes through the forest. It goes steadily uphill with switchbacks. If you’ve done some of the more intense Columbia gorge hikes you should be fine on this section.
Once you emerge from the forest, you’ll come to a 4 way intersection. Straight forward is towards South Sister. Left is Wikiup Plain. Our group went to the right, towards Moraine Lake. This was about mile. This went through a plain/meadow. We choose to backpack in and stay overnight. We unloaded our backpacks and set up camp. Then had an early lunch and started back out of Moraine Lake towards a pathway to South Sister.
The following mile was pleasant since it’s a sandy plain and flat. This portion of the hike was my favorite as a novice mountain climber. After this portion, it is ALL uphill.
After the sandy plain, the incline to reach the lake and the Lewis Glacier is hard. You think you’re getting close to the summit and you are but not quite yet. It’s about a mile hike to this point but it is all boulders, loose gravel, and switchbacks. What got me through this entire hike was all the resting rocks as I got closer to the top. The elevation was getting to me at this point too. I had to take lots of pausing breaks to catch my breath.
But I did make it to the lake. I took a nice and decent pause at this point. The surrounding view was stunning and scary at the same time. I kept looking up thinking one more mile. One More Mile!
The final mile was soooooooo hard. For every step that I took in the loose red gavel, cinder, sand, scree; I slid back two. I was so frustrated at this point of the hike and had to take breaks where I could since the resting rocks seemed fewer and fewer. What got me through was all the hikers coming down encouraging saying it was only a “little bit more to go”, “You got this”, and “it’s so worth it”. I made a mental note to myself to do the same when I came down.
I really pushed myself to get to the top and I made it. It wasn’t the summit point yet but it was the top. To reach the summit, you need to follow along the right side of the rocky ridge. It was so clear the day we went but windy and cold.
My girlfriends and I made it to the top at 10,358ft. We were able to see Middle Sister, and North Sister as well as Mt. Washington, Mt. Jefferson, Mt. Hood, and Mt. St. Helens. My pictures don’t do it justice with what we saw. It was simply stunning. It was one of the hardest hikes that I’ve ever done but so worth the sweat, blood, and near tears.
I swore to myself that I’d write a review for all the various hiking websites since I read them avidly before my hike. Thank you to all who post their advice and experiences. Hopefully someone find this helpful. #hike4wine
Oh and coming down on that red scree was just awful. I brought gators but decided not to use them. I wish I would have. Also looking back now, gloves for the rocks would be a good idea. However going down was a piece a cake for me versus going up.