Trip: South Sister - Prouty Glacier
Headed down to central OR for the past 3 days to make an attempt at traversing South Sister via the Prouty Glacier to the Green Lakes route... success.
Got to the Sparks Lake trailhead around 12, hiked for what seemed like longer than it should have been. That ended up being because we were off trail for fully half of it, as the snow is very unhelpful for routefinding. Also, the mosquitoes ate me alive. However, we got to the southern end of Green Lake by 5, and went to bed early.
We woke up at 4, tried to go the short way around the lake, and completely failed. We were forced to go all the way around the lake in the other direction, and while sort of a slog, it was no big deal. We got onto the E face at a scree/sand slope, and after 2 hours of slogging punctuated by staring at Broken Top, we were at a shoulder by a double-peaked moraine (wish I had a picture, trust me, it's obvious). Views of Middle and North Sister were spectacular as expected, and we got a glimpse of Hood and Jeff off in the distance, but they were quickly covered by clouds. After roping up, we headed up onto the Prouty, and switchbacked up for a while.
This is where things got a bit interesting. We took a break at the 'schrund, which still has a decent snow bridge, but with these warm temperatures it won't last long. There was a steady stream of rockfall coming down, which made the crux all the more...ah...interesting. It consisted of a vertical 2.5-foot-wide horrible snow/rotten ice/crumbly rock/bulletproof ice section for maybe 5 feet, but there were seriously no good holds. This was also my first time frontpointing, so that was a 'learn quick or suffer' situation. Oh, and there was a small waterfall running down it.
After emerging from that little slice of heaven, we took another break (it was exhausting, okay?). What we didn't realize was how close we were to the top. It's not more than 20 minutes from the top of the crux, so no need to stop. We reached the summit at high noon, and after some SPKs and salami we were ready to head down. We met another group coming across the crater, and were soon de-cramponed and ready to glissade. Oh man, was that awesome.
The snow was in perfect condition for glissading, and we were down in maybe 2.5 hours, including a rousing round of ice axe golf. What's that, you ask?
Ice axe golf is played on the descent of a gentlemanly peak with good friends. Pick a small tree around 40 feet away, and throw your ice axe at it. Repeat until you hit the tree. Extra points for hanging the axe in the tree. Par 3 is normal, but adjust to conditions. Extra extra points for doing a full 18-hole course, but we didn't have time for that.
Luckily, we found that elusive way around the short side of the lake, and were soon back at camp, where I promptly fried my leftover salami. Surprisingly good. We hiked out (on trail, would you believe it?) this morning, and after hallucinating for half an hour about Little Big Burger (I could taste the bacon), I was back at the car. We drove back to Portland, and all couldn't be better.
Route beta: on the approach, follow the creek, and hug the lava flows. It's quicker and easier. The 'schrund won't be passable for much longer (3 weeks?), and there isn't a good way around it, so keep that in mind. However, the crux will be passable for 2 weeks max. After that, it'll be a crumbly rock climb with no good pro and a waterfall down it. Follow the footprints on the way down from the crater if you're descending the E face, then cut onto the snowfield below the crater rim-wall-whatever when you're on the red scree slope.
DEET, holy crap.
Follow the creek, and everything will be well. Camping on the south side of Green Lake is fine, less distance with a heavy pack.