I looked at that mountain almost every day for the 10 years I lived in Bend. The house we lived in had an incredible view of South Sister from a large window in the living room.
|View from the living room|
|Mcloughlin summit 2009|
|Mcloughlin summit 2010|
In fact, during that first climb there was snow covering the trail and we got lost. We ended up on the mountain for 12 hours and I could barely walk the next day. So that was pretty incredible. But Mcloughlin wasn't the mountain that was looming over me each day.
Fast forward to 2017. After battling with depression for 10 years and seeing little improvement from the 6 different antidepressants I had tried, I decided I needed to take my health into my own hands. I was willing to do major lifestyle changes to ease the burden of the problems that were left unsolved by pills. What does this have to do with climbing a mountain? Well, I realized that I cant wait around for a pill to solve my problems. My life is in my control and I need to act rather than waiting for good things to happen to me. I have spend so much of my life held back by fear of failure. Even though sharing music with others is my passion, I was afraid to teach piano again because I didn't feel like I was very successful the first time and didn't believe that my teaching could be worth anything to anyone. I'm pretty mediocre at playing the piano as it is. I was afraid to lead the toddler music group at church because I didn't want it to interfere with Ammon's nap schedule and deep down I was afraid that I would be terrible at it. There are so many instances in my life where fear has guided my choices. I want to be guided by faith, passion, and persistence in the face of adversity.
I decided I was done with excuses. I decided to teach piano, lead music makers, and to finally climb South Sister.
The trouble was, I couldn't climb it alone. I'm terrified of hiking alone because I don't want to end up like Aron Ralston or Annie Schmidt. Here I was being motivated by fear again. My mom was adamant about never climbing South Sister again because of how hard it was. I asked Michael if he was interested and was surprised to hear that he was. So we started training on the weekends together. We ordered fancy hiking gear and were very excited to attempt the climb. My mom was happy to watch the kids and stay here at 351 feet elevation. When the day loomed near we panicked and decided we needed a few more challenging hikes under our belt before attempting South Sister. So we hiked Mary's Peak the first weekend of September. Then, I came down with a bad cold September 16th and there was no hiking that day. September 23rd was the day, but we changed our plans when my mom showed me to weather forecast of freezing temperatures and snow. It looked like September 30th would be the day, but that is the day of a special church broadcast and Michael really didn't want to miss it. As we watched the weather we were discouraged by more bad weather on the weekend. Thursday looked good, so Michael quickly got the day off work and we headed out to climb the mountain.
We left home an hour before sunrise and arrived around 9:15 AM. We spent 45 minutes trying to figure out how to pay the day use fee, and finally got a hold of the Forest Service who said we don't have to pay a day use fee. (?!?!?!!) Whatever. I left a note on the dashboard just in case because I really didn't want a ticket. We started out pretty late but it was a gorgeous day and our hopes were high.
|Onward and upward!|
|1.3 miles and 1000 feet to go|
I learned a lot from this experience. I truly feel that I came down from that mountain a different person. If not making it to the summit constitutes failure, then I failed. I don't care. I am so proud of myself for how far I was able to go. Maybe this is a paradigm shift that needs to happen. There are so many summits that I am gazing at. I feel like when I don't reach them, that I am failing. Summits like the mountain of a perfectly clean house, mt. perfect mother, perfect wife peak, and fully magnifying my church calling climb. I can't physically, emotionally, or spiritually make it to the top of all these peaks by myself. Because of the atonement I don't have to. But I have to try, and more importantly, I have to be proud of myself for how far I was able to make it.
I respect my mom for not allowing me to come on that climb 14 years ago. It's not likely that I would have been able to summit then and I probably would have held her back. She made the right choice. And we made the right choice turning around when we did. I don't know if we will ever attempt the climb again but I don't feel the burning need to do it anymore. It was a wonderful, difficult, unifying experience that brought us closer as a couple. I'm so grateful Michael was willing to do it with me.
Life Lessons I Learned From This Climb
- Choose your mountains wisely and climb as high as you realistically can
- Don't measure your failures against other people's successes
- Don't judge. You might be climbing the same mountain but that doesn't mean the same experience or even the same difficulty from day to day
- YOUR BEST IS GOOD ENOUGH!!! Accept what you are able to do and be proud of yourself
Tips for climbing South Sister
- Go in August
- Watch the weather. Don't go if it has snowed recently, even if it will be a warm day
- Download the AllTrails app before you leave home
- The night before, spend the night as close as you can to the mountain. Bend or Sisters are great, camping near the trail head is even better
- Start climbing with head lamps at 6 am
- Bring 2 trekking poles!
- Wear long sleeve UV protective clothing made of nylon
- Bring a lightweight jacket that will protect against wind
- Bring at least two pairs of synthetic socks and two pairs of liner socks
- Wear a UV protective hat that covers your neck
- Bring sunscreen, hand sanitizer, toitet paper (!!!), a first aid kit, a compass, good knife, and an emergency blanket for each person
- Bring more water and food than you think you will need