June 25-26 with law partner Andy, son-in-law Casey and friend Greg, I summited Mt. Shasta.
Shasta is a volcanic cone, 14,179 feet high, in California near the Oregon border just off the I-5 Mt. Shasta City exit. In 1877, John Muir wrote an article about summiting Shasta with a surveyor, getting caught in a blizzard and surviving the night lying in hot sulfur springs near the summit.
We rented our gear in Mt. Shasta City – crampons, gaiters, ice axes. What a strange place; it seems the entire city is dedicated to New Age business – crystals, yoga.
We made it to the trailhead by 10:30 a.m. and within one hour had ascended to Horse Camp, a Sierra Club alpine hut, where we loaded up with water. The trail was crowded. Perhaps 200 people were on the mountain at any one time. The ascent to base camp was hot, and we ascended with shorts and short-sleeved shirts. The snow was slushy. It was not necessary to wear crampons for this stretch.
|From 2010 June Shasta|
Leaving the treeline, we reached base camp, Helen Lake, 41.3888°N 122.21°W, altitude 10,472 feet. We pitched our tents along with 50 others. The most notable feature of Helen Lake’s base camp was the urinal pit. Helen Lake might be a lake when the snow melts, but when we were there it was just a flat spot in the middle of Avalanche Gulch.
Later in the day, the resident ranger gave us a lecture about the summit, its weather and risks, and again more information about the urinal pit. We were advised to make an alpine start, i.e., in the middle of the night, so that the snow would be adequately set for crampon use.
Sleep was difficult. For one thing, the urinal pit was a long slog through slush about 100 yards away. For another thing, few people were really sleeping in tent city, with some leaving at 2:00 a.m.
We arose at 3:00 and left by 4:00. Andy and I had a warm breakfast. I am proud of my accomplishments as a water boiler. One last stop at my favorite site, the urinal pit.
The slope in Avalanche Gulch was much steeper than the day before, but we were leaving with weather in the low 20s and the snow was firm and suitable for crampon use. After an hour or so, we were treated to a lunar eclipse. One of my photos shows the latter parts of the lunar eclipse along with the shadow of the mountain.
We made excellent time. Although Andy told me to go slowly at first, that didn’t last long and all of us passed many climbers, catching up with many of the early risers. We then were faced with a ridge with several chutes, known as Red Banks (approx 13,000 feet) Ascending through the chutes was the steepest; going up was no problem but descending caused me stress. We then ascended Misery Hill, which really was an ascent along the summit's ridge. Cresting Misery Hill put us, again, on a narrow ridge, with the final push to the top. Here we rested on exposed rock face in the sun, waiting for team members to catch up.
A short push put us on the summit, where there was little snow. Walking around on crampons was clumsy, but the view was terrific. We could see several volcanic cones; Mt. McLoughlin to the east and Lassen Peak to the South, to name the ones we could identify.
On to the descent. The snow at the top of Avalanche Gulch was too firm for novices to attempt a glissade, so the crampon work was torture. Finally, the snow softened up and we were able to glissade some. We arrived back at Helen Lake, assembled our gear and returned through blazing heat on top of a blistering snow pack to the trailhead, around 2:00 p.m. or so.