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  • Kelley Bayern

Summit Sistas!



The last few months have been a whirlwind of excitement and fast-paced change. I recently packed my life into a 5'x8' UHaul and trekked three hours west to the city of Portland, Oregon. A new job opportunity brought me here. And what feels like a homecoming back to the Northwest is actually a whole new adventure in another city beneath the peaks. I have new summit goals on my mind across the Oregon Cascades, and a never-ending list of food trucks and vegan diners to hit. I am elated to call the Rose City my new home.

After an adventurous spring, my weekends since have been dry and filled with errands. However, this past weekend, I checked off my first alpine summit in Oregon with a trip to the top of South Sister. I decided to put my tasks on the back burner to take advantage of a solid window of haze-free sunny weather. My close friend, Lauren, from Seattle, was of course in for the challenge. Her and I go way back to the days of tossing pizzas for $10/hour, to a Mt. Baker summit trip together just last year. As an experienced ultra-runner, her endurance and knowledge navigating trails were major advantages for the trip.


We headed out from Portland Friday afternoon and traveled down US-26 through Mt. Hood. The forest roads were refreshing to wind through with Mt. Hood towering above. The terrain soon turned dry as we connected onto US-97 near Madras and headed toward the Three Sisters Wilderness. By 7pm, we had navigated my Jeep to the trailhead and started our 2-mile hike to Moraine Lake for camp. The warm smells of the forest and giant peak looming in the distance kept my enthusiasm running high. And I was looking forward to cooking up some dehydrated chicken and dumplings made by Mountain House. (Sponsorship welcomed... Bears love dumplings.)

Our 3am start came quickly. The stars sparkled under a faint brushing of the Milky Way. After a satisfying meal of hot oatmeal and Stumptown cold brew, Lauren and I packed our bags as light as possible and clicked on our headlamps. It's always an eerie feeling when hiking in dark. But the feeling turns tactical with the mission at hand. Up in the distance, you could see the headlamps of more than a few groups working towards the summit.


Lauren and I hiked through a small patch of forest and then mostly on sandy scree as the morning light creeped in. By 7am, the surrounding peaks popped in pink and orange hues. We had hit the false summit and got our first look at the Lewis Glacier. The route crept left up a steep ridge that didn't seem too daunting. By 8am, we had made the summit crater and worked around the perimeter to the true summit. The views were endless. You could see northward all the way to Mount St. Helens. I was subconsciously mapping out the area as I looked north and south with the neighboring peaks showing off their best sides. One of my favorite things about this trip was becoming more familiar with this region. I've climbed at Smith Rock and skied down Mt. Bachelor more times than I can count. But driving a little further into the Three Sisters Wilderness and standing on top of South Sister really put the state into perspective.


We cracked open our summit ciders, posed for pictures, and headed back down to camp. I've always admired my badass female friends whose goals align with mine and also find hiking as second nature. We planned this girl's trip on a whim and made it up without a shade of fear. From Washington to Oregon, standing on a summit isn't the same without you. So cheers to you, Lauren, my summit sista! And cheers to all the other summit sisters out there planning their own wild adventures together.


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Follow my thoughts, ideas, and adventures as I prepare to summit the tallest peaks in the Pacific Northwest.

Hello. I'm Kelley and I'm a bear.
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