Thursday, July 31, 2014

South Sister - 7/31/14

South Sister Twin Peaks (from south peak to north peak)

Mt. Charleston from north peak of South Sister

 South Sister consists of twin prominent rocky peaks that can be seen from many perspectives in the Lee Canyon vicinity. For hiking, South Sister is a nice concise peak with a direct route that circles up to a saddle and around the ridge leading up to the final steep climb. It is the southernmost of the family of sister peaks. The meanest of the sisters, North Sister, rises just behind South Sister as you arrive at South Sister's peaks. Usually, the south peak of South Sister is ignored due to the impressiveness of the north peak. But, today, eleven hikers reached the summit of both twin peaks.

Laszlo's Back!
 We started at the Lower Bristlecone trailhead since the Old Mill picnic area is still being reconstructed. They were working today and we were careful to stay well away from them. We dropped down at the manhole, as usual, and turned left at the orange fence.

Climbing Phase II Ridge Section

 Cutting through the woods below, we merged with the rock lined trail and turned left. The feint trail forking off to the right was our trail du jour, then we began to climb. Phase I was well underway. This is a beautiful small trail that passes an old home foundation and a spring. Eventually, the trail takes off to the right at a wash fork where there are many fallen trees. This is where the real hike begins. Up!

Following the Trail in Phase III
 After much sweating and puffing, we reached South Sister Saddle junction. We rested. We drank ... water. Then we turned to the right for Phase II of the climb. There is no trail in Phase II to speak of, but the object is to stay on top of the ridge until you reach a turn to the right and a view of your target, South Sister, looming across the canyon.

Phase IV - Need I say more?

 When you turn to the right, staying on the ridge, the trail appears again. Phase III takes the hiker around to the base of the scree climb of the twin peaks. After dropping a tad, we started up the steep scree filled with beautiful limestone and bristlecone decorations. There are a couple of trails leading to the top. Recent rain eroded the trails so that the soft dirt beneath the scree was exposed. This made the climb a little ... a little ... easier.

Phase IV Fun
 Gathering at the top of the climb, we ditched our sticks and scrambled our way up to the peak on the left, the north peak of South Sister.

Mt. Charleston from the Saddle Between the Twin Peaks of South Sister

 The scramble is short but it is hands on. There is still small rocks within the scramble that can be loosened and sent flying. Be careful. At the top of the first part of the scramble, North Sister appears ahead and the north peak of South Sister is on your left. At this point, the peak is a long narrow wall. Finish your climb up to the top of the wall and walk along the wall to the other end. We took our break here. Photos. Sign the log book. Enjoy the cool weather.

Photo Taken from Halfway up the Scramble
 In the past, we have dropped down on the other end of the wall to make our way back to the bottom of the scramble or to fight our way over to the North Sister peak. Both are difficult endeavors.

View from Top of Scramble Along the north peak of South Sister

 The smoke from California forest fires could be seen from our perch. It wasn't smog. That direction, as seen in the photo to the left, is the middle of the desert ... the middle of nowhere! Las Vegas was behind us. So, yes, smoke from fires. We passed around yummy chocolate candy then began our trip back across the wall and down the scramble. At the bottom, someone mentioned that he would like to visit the other of the twin peaks.

The Scramble Down
 Many of us had never been over to the south side of South Sister so off we went.

Hiking Over to the south peak of South Sister

 We climbed up the ridge passing a bristlecone shelter among the trees, then the ridge opened wide. There was another 360 degree view from this other peak and we continued along the ridge until we dropped down to the edge of a high cliff. New stuff! New photos! Fun, fun, fun! The first photo of this entry was taken from here of the first peak we were on, the north peak of South Sister. (Hey. Just trying to be perfectly clear.)

On the Cliff of the south peak of South Sister
 We could see all of Lee Canyon Road from this side of South Sister.  -  Too soon, it was time to start down.

North Sister from the south peak of South Sister

 First, the big drop of Phase IV. Then came the up and down traverse of Phase III. Next came the most difficult part of the hike to navigate, Phase II in reverse. Just stay on the ridge ... easier said than done ... but we did it just fine. Finally, the drop through Phase I back to the construction zone. Not wanting to raise any construction worker's eyebrows, we decided to take a little used trail that started earlier from the rock lined path. It worked perfectly! We would recommend this route over the manhole route. Finding it will be the tough part!

5.7 miles; 2100 feet elevation gain; 3.75 hours.

Descending Phase I

Eleven Hikers Feelin' Good

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