Even the best laid plans are apt to be altered by unforeseen events. This is especially true of hiking – all the more when it involves a mountain.
Last Sunday, a group of friends invited me to hike to the top of the Middle Sister. I jumped at the opportunity. I’d hiked the South Sister hiked the South Sister five times, the North once (didn’t summit), and this would be my chance to complete the triad.
But, sadly, it wasn’t meant to be. A week prior to the hike, a wildfire started at Pole Creek Trailhead the week prior – forcing us to approach instead from the West along the much longer Obsidian Trail. Despite the length, however, we still encountered some incredibly beautiful terrain.
I never thought you could see so much obsidian in one place – or, rather, all over the place. There were full rock walls full of the black, shimmering volcanic glass (Sorry, I was armed only with my shoddy phone camera. No pics of the obsidian. Even so, you really had to be there.) What’s more, the wind was blowing the smoke from the fire away from the mountains. We had a blue sky with a clear view all morning… but the curtain rolled in by noon. Still, we pressed on – determined to get as high as possible before time or the weather forced us to turn back.
We traversed up a ravine, which eventually gave way to shale, then boulders, and eventually an expansive glacier. By the time we came to the latter, the smoke from the wildfire below was starting to obscure the summit. We were also racing the clock, and a few of us knew we had to get back home for work the following day. So, we picked our goal: the saddle on the northern slope – one hour’s climb from the summit. Some of the group stayed behind while the rest slogged up the icy slope toward our stopping point.
I think this is the first time I’ve posted a picture of myself on my blog… Anyway, the picture shows the road to the summit behind me from the north saddle. The view would have been spectacular from here had it not been for the haze. Even so, the rocky crags and sheer cliffs around us were still breathtakingly beautiful in there in own right.
I know at least a handful of us were looking up toward the summit and thinking, “Gee, that doesn’t look that much farther…” It’s hard to stop short after coming so far – 9 miles from the trailhead in our case – but, hey, it’s just a big pile of crumbly rocks anyway, right? It’s not going anywhere anytime soon. There will be other opportunities.
We glissaded down the glacier, met up with the rest of the group, and thus began our long trek back home. It was about 7PM by the time we got back to the cars. 9PM before we actually got around to crossing over the pass. I pulled into my Portland apartment just after midnight…
I hate Mondays.
Looking back on it, that was an awesome hike. Sure, not everything went according to plan: having to take the long way around, the smoke, not reaching the summit – but it was all still worth the effort. An adventure like this with good company doesn’t come along very often – so I cherish each one.
Before I wrap up this post, here’s a shot of the Middle Sister I took from close-to-the-top of the North Sister in 2007. I highlighted the saddle where we turned around on this most recent hike:
God bless, and good night!