Thursday, July 25, 2013

South Sister - 7/25/13

Trail Terrain near South Sister Summit

Lee Peak (L) and Mt. Charleston (R) from Ridge line Trail

The Balance Log on the Crossover
Eleven hikers started out from the Lower Bristlecone Trailhead parking (the Old Mill Picnic Area is still off limits due to construction) off of Lee Canyon Road in the Spring Mountains NRA this morning for a 5.5 mile hike up and down South Sister. By the end of the 4 hour hike, we had ascended and descended 2077 feet in elevation. We started up the Lower Bristlecone Trail until we saw the manhole cover on the right side of the trail that indicates the beginning of the crossover trail.

Climbing to South Sister Saddle
 At the bottom of the crossover trail, we found a fun log crossing over the wash. We tested our balance for the morning then started up the South Sister Trail which starts by forking off to the right of the rock lined trail above the log crossing. We passed the old foundation and the spring surrounded by concrete and the trail became more sloped. By the time we reached the South Sister Saddle, the trail had become very steep and it was time for a small rest.

Climbing Phase II

Lee Peak and Mt. Charleston from Phase II Climb

Approaching the Second Saddle
With Phase I completed, we turned to our right for the Phase II climb. This climb balances atop the ridge. There is a very slight trail but the best approach is probably a little bit of zigzagging unless you are very strong as several of our hikers were today. This phase of the hike is the most difficult to navigate on the way back down. Taking note of what the rear view looked like, we climbed with beautiful views to our right of Lee Peak and Mt. Charleston. We gathered again at the next saddle before turning right for Phase III.

Ridge line Trail

Phase III takes the hiker around the ridge line to the right as the trail undulates among the limestone rock. South Sister comes into view up ahead with steep rock cliffs divided by a tree covered dirt and rock slope. Here's where the faster hikers and the slower hikers divided as the ascent (Phase IV) stared at us in the face for the final climb. There are trails made by previous hikers and they all lead to the same place; the left side of the long peak above.

Starting Up the Final Climb (Phase IV)

McFarland Peak from Final Climb

Nearing the Last Saddle
The views from Phase IV are magnificent. McFarland Peak, Mack's Peak, Mt. Charleston, Lee Peak and almost all parts of the Mummy Mountain anatomy were there in the near distance. The climb was steep and slow but the trails had improved over the last three years. As we neared the saddle at the top of the climb, huge bristlecone trees showed off their twisted branches and roots. We placed our trekking poles among the roots then turned to our left for a final scramble up to the long peak above.

Up Scramble to Peak

When the first hikers reached the peak, there was another group of hikers starting down the other side. They were on their way to do North Sister as well. We all signed the book then motivated by the dark clouds hanging over our head, we started back down. Just a few sprinkles wet our arms as the descent went smoothly. We stayed together for the duration of the hike.

South Sister Summit Under Dark Clouds

Going Down Phase IV

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