Hiking to summit of South Sister, Oregon

I hiked to the summit of South Sister, Oregon (altitude 10,358 feet) in 2003, 2007, and 2009. I do not expect to hike to that summit again, because my balance is no longer good enough to hike steep unstable scree slopes - but I still hike often on good trails.

In 2003, I thought that my Parkinson's disease was progressing fast enough that I feared that by 2004 I might no longer be able to backpack or even go on difficult day-hikes. I expressed my fear to my good friend Larry Harris and asked him to hike South Sister with me.

We backpacked into the wilderness on July 25, 2003, then the next day we left most of our gear at camp while we hiked to the summit. I wore that neon green and yellow tie-dye t-shirt because one of my daughters had given it to me - but I regreted wearing that because it seemed to attract swarms of mosquitoes.

This was 6 years after I had been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. In 2002 my doctors had suggested that I consider starting to take levodopa, but I was afraid of potential long-term side-effects of levodopa, so I did not start taking it until 2005. In hindsight, I would have benefitted from better function if I had started taking levodopa the first time my doctors recommended it.

DHB at summit of South Sister 2003-07-26


In 2007, Larry and I returned to the summit of South Sister ibut this time we day-hiked. I was in much better condition this time because taking levodopa improved my function and enabled me to exercise at a higher level.

David and Larry on trail to South Sister 2007-08-07


David at summit of  South Sister 2007-08-07


In 2009 I day-hiked to the summit of South Sister with Mark Smith (my workout buddy who was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 2003), my older daughter, two of her friends from the ski racing team, and the father of one of her friends.

We camped near the trailhead, and started hiking by 6:00 a.m. I took my first dose of meds when we woke up at 4:00, a second dose at 5:00 because my left hand was shaking more than usual, moving slower than usual, and making it hard to pack my gear. I took a third dose at 6:30 because tightness in my left arm made it harder for me to use the hiking pole. By about 7:30 a.m. I had enough meds on board and I hiked at a good pace from then until we reached the highest moraine lake on the mountain, about 1 mile from the summit.

The steepest part of the hike is the scree field of lava rocks above that lake, At that point I was hiking very slowly so Mark and John unloaded gear from my pack into theirs and carried my gear to the top. The photo below shows me struggling uphill carrying an almost empty backpack. The mountain really is as steep as it looks in this photo.

I rehydrated at the summit, regained energy, took back my gear, then I kept up with the group at a fast pace all the way back to the trailhead. My experience illustrates that people with Parkinson's are especially sensitive to dehydration. in addition, I should have trained harder to prepare for this hike.

David near the crest of South Sister 2009-07-25


Services provided

Exercise training: classes, individual training

Counseling patients and families on how to cope with the many challenges of Parkinson's disease, and how to progress toward thriving in spite of these challenges

Public speaking: to patients, health care professionals, and students

Links to photos and videos

Boxing speed bag


Alpine skiing

Hiking to summit of South Sister, Oregon (altitude 10,358 feet)

For more videos, go to my YouTube channel www.youtube.com/user/davidhblattmd

Exercise is something we have to do for ourselves. No one else can exercise for us and no pills can do for us what exercise does for us. There is no such thing as an exercise pill.