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Monday, July 7, 2014

Mt Shasta

View from camp
Mt Shasta Hike/Mountaineering
Shasta-Trinity National Forest
Mt Shasta, California
Mileage - 12.92
Time 12:12
AEG - 7,209ft


Climbing Mount Shasta has been on our radar for a couple years now, and all the pieces fell into place this weekend for Matt and I to make a one-day ascent to the summit.  His trip to Mt Hood was cancelled once again, and I had planned on visiting Lassen Volcanic National Park on Saturday and Sunday, when he pitched the idea of doing Shasta at me and I said let's do it!

A great deal of planning went into making this trip possible, the complexity of the climb had us going over a number of scenarios these past couple weeks until our plan was finalized.  Logistics, gear, permits, camping, mountain conditions and everything in between came together by Thursday, July 3rd when Matt arrived in Oakland.  After breaking camp at Castle Crags, we drove into the city of Mt Shasta to check off the last few needed items at the Fifth Season before setting up shop at the Bunny Flat trailhead.

Climbers entering Red Banks
An "Alpine start" put us on the Avalanche Gulch trail at approximately 12:30am Saturday morning.  We would be hiking from 6,950 to 14,179 feet in a matter of 6.5 miles, loaded down with enough clothing, water and mountaineering gear to reach the peak.  We had our work cut out for us that's for sure.  The first two miles to the Sierra Club Horse Camp were a breeze, it was the next two miles of steep, loose scree to base camp (Helen Lake 10,443) that really got the heart rate up.  Seeing the stars and Milky Way pour over the mountain was a spectacular sight, enough to keep me occupied as we pounded out those switchbacks. At 3:00am we took a short break to don our crampons and ice axes in unison with everyone else at base camp.  We followed the lead headlamps up the snow field for a grueling couple of hours to crest the Red Banks at 13,000 feet. This had to be my favorite part of the climb, especially getting in the rhythm of "axe, step-step, axe, step-step."  Early reports had warned climbers of rock falls and we had a scare just before going through the chute in Red Banks. A basketball sized boulder cut loose and rapidly descended into the path below and screams shot out as we watched a group of five almost take a hit as the rock fell into the abyss below.  Fortunately no one was hurt!

Shadow of Shasta, an incredible sight at daybreak
On we went, cresting the major hill where we were able to shed the crampons and headlamps to hike up Misery Hill. Daybreak was upon us and the peak almost in sight.  At this point we knew a successful summit was within reach, less than a mile and just over a 1,000 feet to go.  The view is hard to put into words, simply magnificent.  From the glaciers on the North side to Mt Shastina to the West, it was hard to take it all in at once.  Matt and I reached the peak at 8:00am with two climbers ahead of us to offer congratulations of a job well done and share the photo opportunity.  Conditions were ideal and we enjoyed our time at the top of Northern California.

The work wasn't over yet because those who go up, must come down.  Granted it was less physically taxing on the aerobic systems, the technical element of descending presented even more challenges.  The snow field was tricky, and it wasn't until we hit softer snow that glissading down the mountain became possible.  At 10:00am Matt and I were back at base camp eager to shed layers and put our hiking shoes back on for the last few miles to head out.  Elevation quickly dropped and so did the miles.  A quick break at Horse Camp allowed us to regroup, fill our empty bottles and mingle with those headed up the mountain.  Reaching the trailhead was a total sigh of relief, and an overwhelming feeling of accomplishment shared between the two us knowing what we had just put ourselves through.  Another major trek is in the books and something we will certainly be talking about for years to come.    

Slow going up Red Banks


Mt Shastina and the Whitney Glacier below

Matt working his way up Misery Hill

Finally free of the crampons above 13,000 ft

Crossing the snow field to the peak

Boone and Matt at the summit of Mt Shasta - 14,179 ft


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