I am just getting back into peak bagging after a four year break. Having driven the I-5 more times than I care to admit I have always been awestruck by the sheer beauty of Mount Shatsa.
The original party was to consist of four people and scheduled for the Weekend of April 23... unfortunately, weather was not on our side. During that week Shasta recieved about 12" of new snow fall. We decided to play it safe and postpone the trip for a week hoping that the weather would cooperate. Even though the party was scaled down to just myself and my girlfriend we were not disappointed by the weather in the slightest.
We got out of the bay area late and I soon remembered my first lesson... Shasta is pretty far from San Francisco! We got to Shasta City at 11:45 pm and to our displeasure, no hotels seemed to be open in the town. Eventually we found a place at 1 am. Settled in for a good sleep.
Hit the trail at 9 am fully loaded. Hard snow immediately out of bunny flat made for a fairly pleasant hike to horse camp by 10:30. Weather was incredibly hot 80's and I was glad that I had decided to go with only a longsleeve shirt and no jacket. The hike from horse camp to helen lake was a lot slower than the trip from bunny to horse camp as the snow had really softened up. I was extremely glad that we brought our snowshoes.
Got to Helen lake at around 3 pm and started to boil water. Helpful hint #1 - if you have a MSR stove that is malfalfunctioning before the trip make sure you check the pump too! I simply assumed it was a clog, cleaned the stove and wham-O! Had no working stove! Fortunately the people next site over allowed us to borrow a stove so we could boil water a eat.
Woke up around 1:45 and prepared for the climb. I slept like a baby (a first for elevation) and was well rested and ready to climb. Unfortunately my partner was hit pretty hard by the elevation at 10'000. She was a little slow out of the gates but was a champ in the end. Started our climb under an almost full moon at 2:30.
I was suprised by how long the snow field between helen lake and the red banks was. The maps and books did not do it justice. After almost 2 1/2 hours of toiling we finally made it to just over the heart when the moon set. We continued our climb under power of headlamps. Route finding was pretty easy and we had the benefit of being the second group up so we could follow the first party through the banks. I was seriously expecting the banks to be a little more challenging than they were. All books had said a scramble... which to me means hands needed; this was not the case. We were through the banks at about 5 am. The sun was rising and so was a nasty wind.
We were pretty well buffetted by wind for the remainder of our climb. After the banks we climbed along the ridge to the far right instead of heading up the snowfield to the left. It was steeper and more exposed but I feel we shaved a good 20 minutes by our route. Eventually we made it to the foot of misery hill. Its a long trudge but the angle isn't that bad and we made it up in pretty good time 30 - 40 minutes. As soon as we hit the summit plateu the wind all but stopped. We took some photos and turned around following the same route down.
I'd say the most eventful part of the trip was the descent. It was amazing the number of people starting the climb from helen lake at 11 am (when we were coming down). There were so many examples of inexperience and just plain stupidity that it really pushed us to get down to camp as fast as we could. Some of the things we saw coming down.
1 - a climber with skis not properly attached that popped off and went shooting down the hill towards other climbers.
2 - a climber chipping away at the red banks with his ice ax waiting for his friends
3 - a climber hiking through the heart and kicking up tons of stones.
4 - somebody deciding to make a picinic lunch 300 yards directly under the heart while rocks are whizzing down the mountain.
5 - too many people simply watching rocks cming down instead of warning climbers below (a toaster size rock came mere feet away from a climber who was descending).
All in all it was a great trip but I would recommend anybody who goes to start early, summit and come down early. There are just too many rocks and inexperienced climbers doing stupid things to fart around and come down late.