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 Mount Shasta summit climb adventure #2
Runworks 2005 5M Racer
San Francisco, CA
Joined: 26 Nov 2004
Posts: 1157

Mount Shasta summit climb adventure #2 Posted: Sat May 05, 2007 9:28 pm 

Some of you may remember that two years ago, I attempted to climb Mount Shasta during a two-day mountaineering adventure on skis. Long story short, the mountain chewed me up and spit me out, and I left humbled without reaching the summit. You can read the story here:

Jump forward to today: I was feeling in decent shape, and a mountain-minded friend of mine was looking for a summit to scale, so Shasta summit climb adventure #2 was born!

We drove up from San Francisco to Mt. Shasta City on Thursday, arriving around midnight. Friday morning we got out of our hotel early, and visited the Fifth Season, Shasta's main mountaineering outfitter. I left decked out with snowshoes, ice axe, crampons, mountaineering boots, and a helmet, in addition to all my regular camping gear and tent. From there it was a quick 20 minute drive up to the Bunny Flat trailhead to the start of the Avalance Gulch route at 6900 feet, where snow closed the road beyond.

We did the first couple of miles out of Bunny Flat on snowshoes, and it was fairly manageable going, although the extra weight of our packs kept us to a pace of about 1 mile per hour. The day was warm and sunny, and with snow everywhere and little tree cover, we baked like we were in an oven. We slogged onward and upward through the afternoon, finally arriving at Helen Lake at about 10000 feet, where we set up camp for the night. We were both pretty beat, although I felt better than I remembered feeling after day 1 of my 2005 Shasta attempt. After a quick dinner, we used the stove to melt enough snow to make 6 quarts of water, and went to bed at 7:30pm.

The next morning we heard other people breaking camp around 3:30am, although we didn't get up until about 5:00. My water bottles had partially frozen, and even with every single article of clothing on, I was still cold. Looking up slope in the pre-dawn darkness, we could see the lights from the headlamps of the group that left at 3:30 snaking up the mountain above us.

With our crampons attached and our ice-axes at the ready, we left camp about 5:30am. There's really no trail up to the summit, and even if there were, it would have been buried under the snow. Instead, you just head uphill in the general direction of your desired route, and make it up as you go. Fortunately there were plenty of other sets of footprints to follow.

Not long after leaving camp, the slope became very steep, about 40-50 percent grade, and we slowed to a snail's pace. The altitude, cold, and ice didn't help much either. It was step... step... step... rest, over and over and over again. We climbed at about 1000 vertical feet per hour, or maybe half a mile per hour horizontally. It was exhausting going.

About two hours in, we reached the main summit ridge around 12000-ish feet, and passed a couple from the 3:30 group. That made me feel a little better. From there we did a small amount of traversing before starting up another mercilessly steep section called Misery Hill. It was slow, steep, and seemed to go on for an agonizingly long time. If I hadn't had all those steel points on my boot to grab into the ice, I would have been very freaked out by the steep exposed face.

Finally we reached another plateau around 13000-some feet, and after a short hike, reached the base of the final climb. It was as steep as the others, but thankfully shorter, and by that time summit adrenaline was kicking in anyway. Before I knew it, I was dragging my leaden legs up and onto Shasta's 14162 foot summit, where a hundred-mile view down the mountain's backside suddenly yawned wide. I spiked my ice axe and did a fist pump for joy before calming down, and signed my name in the summit register.

The summit was wind-blasted and we quickly got cold when we stopped moving, so we started back down again after about 20 minutes. I'd expected going downhill to be a piece of cake, but not so. Walking down an icy 45 percent grade is tricky, crampons or not. Later in the day after we repacked our tent and started the hike out to Bunny Flat, the snow had warmed to the point where every step caused a mini-avalanche. Going down was actually much more exhausting than I'd expected, and we arrived back at the car totally spent physically, but elated at having conquered Shasta at last.

Some photos:
Day 1, Rickshaw on the way to Helen Lake
View from our camp site
Day 2, so very, very slow
Traverse at Red Rocks
Buddy and a view to infinity
Joy at the summit
That first step is a doozy!

And videos!
Gaining the summit ridge(28MB AVI)
Top of Misery Hill (34MB AVI)
Buddy at the summit (22MB AVI)


Joined: 14 Dec 2004
Posts: 225

Re: Mount Shasta summit climb adventure #2 Posted: Tue May 08, 2007 4:17 pm 

Fantastic, Rickshaw! I'm SO envious - those pics and videos made me itch to do it myself.

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