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 Mount Shasta summit attempt
Runworks 2005 5M Racer
San Francisco, CA
Joined: 26 Nov 2004
Posts: 1157

Mount Shasta summit attempt Posted: Thu Jun 30, 2005 10:49 pm 

A few weeks ago, I dragged my sorry non-running butt out of the house, and decided to try to climb Mount Shasta. I teamed up with a friend and his workmate to arrange the trip. At something over 14,000 feet, this was definitely the most ambitious climb I'd ever attempted, and also the first one I'd ever done that you couldn't just "hike up" without preparation. With the route we unwittingly chose, we were doing a full-on mountaineering expedition. Even in June, the route was snow and ice the whole way, and we carried skis, ice axes, and the whole bit. This friend of my friend was the only one of us who'd ever done anything like this before, so me and my friend were like lambs led to slaughter.

Well, Shasta kicked my ass completely. I used to think I was in strong physical shape, but this was definitely too much. The road to our trailhead was snowed in, so we had to park at about 5600 feet and hike an extra 5 miles and 2000 vertical feet just to reach the start of the trail. The snow was intermittent for the first several miles, so we were constantly putting the skis on and off. I also hadn't counted on the weight of all the alpine equipment. With my standard "summer" backpack contents, plus skis, crampons, ice axe, shovel, and avalanche gear, the pack weighed a tremendous amount. By the time we reached our base camp site (at about 8600 feet), I was completely wiped out, exhausted, with 5500 feet more yet to climb.

We awoke at 4:30am the next morning, and made our way up the steep icy slopes using crampons and carrying our skis. It was dreadfully slow going, and I was exhausted. The slope we climbed all day was ridiculously steep, at least a 40% grade. It took ages just to cover 100 yards. After a few hours of maximum exertion, I was reduced to taking only 5-10 steps at a time before stopping to rest and recover. Step-step-step-step-step, rest, over and over. Around 11,500 feet I was getting wobbly and at the end of my strength, and knew I couldn't make it. We were on track to reach the summit by 2PM, though, and my friend's coworker simply would not let me give up. In fact we got into kind of a long argument about it. Finally I pushed on for about another hour, to about 12,400, where I collapsed behind some rocks to shelter from the cold wind. My friend stayed with me, while his workmate went on to the summit and came back to meet us a few hours later.

I don't think it was really the altitude that did me in-- I climbed 12,000+ foot Mount San Jacinto in April and didn't have much trouble. Still, I sure the altitude didn't help when I was already pushing my physical limits. After skiing back down and out (and then hike/skiing the final 5 miles back to the car), I found a new definition of exhaustion. I definitely won't attempt that climb again any time soon!

Some photos:
Shasta in the distance: We're going all the way up there???
Climbing on skis is slow as hell
Way, way above the clouds

Runworks 2005 5M Racer
Kansas, OK
Joined: 14 Dec 2004
Posts: 100

Re: Mount Shasta summit attempt Posted: Tue Jul 05, 2005 12:33 pm 

Dang! That sounds pretty hellish. Never say you won't do it again. You would be sure never to do it again so unprepared. People skilled in one thing (e.g. running) often think that they are in good enough shape for another sport. Not always true. When I wrestled, we would sometimes get a new guy who was in great aerobic shape (basketball player or some such) but they would seriously be sucking air after a few minutes of grappling. Different muscles recruited and used at the same time, etc. Anyway, I'm sure if you did some serious cross training you could return and kick Shasta's butt. But your running would probably suffer for it, natch.

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