Featured Stories

Other Pamplin Media Group sites


Brothers climb South Sister

by: COURTESY OF JEFF MCDONALD  - Brothers Jeff and Doug McDonald stand atop the gusty summit of South Sister peak in Central Oregon. While the third tallest peak in Oregon, South Sister is considered an entry-level test in the mountaineering world.

For my brother Doug and I, it was a challenge, but one we had to take.

by: JEFF MCDONALD  - Hikers pause at a pool near the summit of South Sister in Central Oregon. We had failed to climb the 10,358-foot peak just two years earlier when his bad knees and my failure to pack adequate supplies had forced us to turn around with the summit in sight.

I had thought we would get up again soon after, but last year I had health issues that made me realize nothing is certain in life.

This time would be different. We would not be giving up this time, no matter what.

Call it a check off the bucket list for two guys around 40 who needed this one.

We started the day before dawn. My brother picked me up in his car. Few words were spoken, other than, “Let’s skip the coffee.”

Just a couple of brothers with a clear mission: We were going to stand on top of that mountain.

We took a back road to get to the mountain and a deer and her doe jumped out in front of us. It was a good omen, I thought.

Our car was not the first to park on the road near the Devils Lake Trailhead, but we were ahead of many others who would charge the mountain on this beautiful, late summer day. We started quickly with few words.

That was how most of the climb went. Few words were spoken and little rest was taken. The climb took effort, but technically amounted to a regular hike.

We got to the spot where we had stopped the last time, set near a beautiful reflective pool where many climbers stop and refill their water before making the final ascent.

We charged through this spot, skipping the chance to rest. We wanted the top and we were going to take it. by: JEFF MCDONALD  - Two climbers walk across an ice flow at the South Sister summit in Central Oregon.

The final ascent of South Sister is a bear. The footing is precarious with loose lava rocks called scree making every step a tumultuous one. Cold winds howl from both directions. Better not look down if you are afraid of heights.

A group of younger hikers caught us from behind and I said to myself, “Let them pass.” Their calf muscles probably weren’t screaming. They had a little more bounce in their step at this point of the hike.

But I caught my second wind going up that last vertical pass. No one else would pass us.

As 50-70 mph winds howled around us, I somehow caught my brother as we both fought through the pain.

We made it to the top in good form and found a rock crag that protected us from the winds. My brother called his wife. I ate the peanut butter sandwich that I had been saving for this moment.

There was a sense of victory that tasted so sweet at that moment. I wanted it again.

Diana Nyad, the 64-year-old American woman who completed a 110-mile swim from Cuba to Florida, spoke three truths that applied to me and my brother as well.

“One is, we should never, ever give up. Two is, you're never too old to chase your dream. Three is, it looks like a solitary sport, but it is a team.”by: JEFF MCDONALD  - Views from the summit of South Sister in Central Oregon.

While our climb of the Central Oregon peak was a tiny accomplishment compared to this historic effort, it was not insignificant – not least of all for my brother and me.

You can always do more than you thought possible. And when you complete your task, you wonder, what’s next?



Local Weather

Fair

51°F

Woodburn

Fair

Humidity: 86%

Wind: 0 mph

  • 2 Oct 2014

    Mostly Sunny 72°F 49°F

  • 3 Oct 2014

    Sunny 80°F 51°F