The plan was for Tina and I to climb Mt Shasta via Avalanche Gulch in 2 days; camping with Kathy at 50/50 to avoid the majority of the crowd with the relief of not carrying our homes on our backs any further. That WAS the plan.
As I watched the weather forecast deteriorate for a Sunday summit, my mind began working a plan to adjust the schedule up a day for a Monday summit, which promised to be a glorious day. Now I only needed to convince Tina, who was a bundle of energy, that we needed to hold off an extra day. Fat chance of that!
When we finally joined up in the rental car in Sacramento and nervously navigated away from the airport territory to find the REI; we were all a jabber since we hadn’t seen each other for a couple of weeks when we had climbed Mt Gould. Armed with directions and maps of everywhere we needed to be that weekend, I was belting out instructions as much as I was bitching that a quick trip for stove fuel was more like a historical tour of downtown and various road construction sites. Boy, do I love MapQuest! By the time we reached REI, both of us are frustrated and just plain anxious to get up north to Shasta for some good food and rest.
With Tina still at the wheel, we finally got our acts together and spent the next couple of hours on I-5 heading north in search of food and mountains. Out of desperation, we pulled into “Lumbar Jack’s” restaurant in Redding. An unfortunate choice, we will soon find out; nothing more than an incognito “Denny’s” with a waitress whose morning ritual surely consisted of showering herself in the most wretched cheap perfume.
As we forced ourselves to push down the grub and hold our breaths each time the waitress passed, we discussed weather and tactics for our ascent. Tina then made the most astounding suggestion by softly whispering across the greasy table “IF WE TAKE 2 DAYS TO DO THIS BITCH, I WOULD BE MOST SERIOUSLY PISSED!!” Ah-ha, day hike! I begin to tremble. My old carcass hasn’t done more than 14 miles on the Desert Divide this year and that doesn’t include a whole lot of elevation gain. We’re looking at 7000’+ in a day and a 14’er hasn’t even SEEN my butt in well over a year. Thank goodness I at least made 12,500’ the week prior when I climbed Bloody Mountain. Tina was good for a 14’er any day of the week, so guess who the weakest link was.
Agreed, we will day hike Shasta, donate the stove fuel at the trailhead, rest poolside on Sunday, and then tag Lassen and Brokeoff on Monday, fly home on Tuesday. Nice how the plan quickly changes and we amicably adapt. Tina bagged her chunk of leftover beef, I think I left 19 cents for a tip and we’re back on the road. Once in Mt Shasta City, we could not take our eyes off of the Mountain. I’d see her only once before; 18 years ago while on a trip to Washington. As awestruck as I was then, I never once thought that people would be climbing all over her, and now, almost quite suddenly, it was my time to experience her first-hand.
Simply magnificent, with a crown of soft white clouds on her head and velvety green forested carpet below; albeit lacking major snow coverage. The Heart and Red Banks were easily identifiable, I pointed them out to Tina and my chest tightened just thinking about having to make that grand ascent in one day. Could I do it? The snow looked dirty from down in town and visions of post-holing through filth and pumice while dodging lava baseballs came to mind. I did find a great sense of relief from not having to carry 35+ lbs up to camp, as well as missing the cruddy weather that was predicted for Sunday. I just had to keep up with Tina and not disappoint her too badly with my pace; there would certainly be no complaining tolerated on this trip.
As we changed clothes and repacked our daypacks near a softball field sufficiently outfitted with mosquitoes searching for an evening snack, our moods became quite jovial and the excitement mounted. I called Kathy and left a message about our change of plans, feeling guilty that she may be lonely and looking for us on Saturday but she would surely have plenty of company with the throngs of climbers that will cram on to Shasta on Sunday. Up to the trailhead we drove, chattering and giggling about how we’re going to day hike and not waste 2 days on the same mountain so we can bag some other peaks and go home heroes (in our own minds).
It really was after 10PM by the time the action and the giggling stopped and we were nestled in our sleeping bags with seats reclined. The parking lot looked like a Star Wars episode with all the swaying headlamps and muffled voices between parked cars and the “poop palace.” Sleep eluded me for the most part; Tina was in slumber land and I think she was trying to tell jokes in her sleep. Eleven PM. I had to pee AGAIN. Midnight. Someone farted. Zero one-forty-five. The alarm went off. Moods were solemn as there was business at hand. By 0215, we were on the trail from Bunny Flat and I was anticipating the suffering ahead. We made Horse Camp in 45 minutes, filled water bottles, fooled with gear, whizzed and back on the trail. Ridiculously, I asked some shadowed campers which way Avalanche Gulch was…always a boost in confidence to know you’re going the right way in the dark since I knew there were two trails leading away from the hut. On to the summit boulder trail….now I was glad I read Steve Lewis’ book on Shasta and had some landmarks to identify.
By 0530, we had passed Helen Lake. Not sure what I thought it was going to look like but we didn’t realize we had passed it until we were a few hundred feet up the gulch. It was still fairly dark and our minds were completely focused on our feet.
The frozen snow was pleasant and for the most part it helped to have a set of pounded boot tracks to step into. At this point, the terrain had not been destroyed by mobs of boot glissaders and post-holers. Nothing substantial to report along the way except that we experienced the most chill just before 0600. Considering we were wearing nothing more than soft shell pants, jackets, gloves, and carrying about 20 lbs of “stuff,” I thought we toughed it out pretty well.
As the sun rose, we took in the scenery and eventually donned crampons, helmets and hard shell pants. The real business of climbing was about to begin. Lone, dark figures were becoming more human-like and some small conversations took place between us all; it was a pleasant ascent to Red Banks.
Headed to Red Banks.
Our pace was consistent and reasonable, we had enough breath and energy to laugh and cut-up and pass my camera back and forth since Tina’s camera batteries were dead. I could hear her puffing behind me every so often; it was comforting to know that she was close by. We eventually switched positions and Tina took the lead through Red Banks.
Once over Red Banks, I began to feel some altitude issues but the day was beautiful and smiles were abound and I couldn’t get in enough of the scenery. Astounding! We rested and ate for about 30 minutes, which seemed to be our normal resting time. Tina was patient with me, but she’d never miss a chance to double-fist some Goldfish or Teddy Grahams in her face, so the rest stops suited both our needs…..mine for oxygen, hers for food. At about 0915, we pressed on, and I began to feel heavier and heavier as we ascended. Other climbers were suffering too. Where I had been French-stepping up the Gulch and stopped infrequently, now I was reduced to 10-15 steps before needing to catch my breath.
Over 13K' and kickin' my butt.
Tina plugged on ahead for the most part and would kindly wait for me to catch up. I felt bad and offered to let her cut loose and hit the summit without me, but she insisted that we will summit together.
Tina has lots of energy left for summit bid.
I greatly appreciated her sensitivity and kindness, but I sure was feeling like a lump of shit and had a few fleeting thoughts that I may not even make the summit. How humiliating would that be?
As we neared the summit, there was more of an atmosphere of happiness and cheer. People were waving at each other for no other reason than to express their joy. We stopped briefly to drop our jaws at Whitney Glacier’s bergschrund.
Neither of us had seen anything so horrifyingly beautiful before; we really had to tear ourselves away to continue on to the summit. Clouds were forming on the north side of Shastina and I wondered how much longer our clear day would hold. Having only briefly glazed over information about Shastina, I was intrigued by its cone and how simply close it was to Shasta; not that I had any silly ideas of hitting it THAT day…..maybe some other time.
Clouds forming around Shastina.
Tina crested out on the summit proper and was “accosted” by a ranger requesting summit permits. She yelled down to me inquiring if I had them… “puff, puff, …HUH?...pufff!” My mind just wasn’t registering and thankfully some young dude carrying only an axe and a water bottle pulled up alongside me to chat, which gave me complete justification to stand still for a minute or two. I stair-stepped the rest of the way and Tina grabbed for me when I reached the proper to escort me to the summit block. On top of Mt Shasta at 1142.
Sistas on the summit!
Together we were positively thrilled. Deep inside, I was amazed that I made it and thankful for her patience and cheering me on. Obligatory pictures were taken, Tina started a party, there was no wind only sunshine. I whipped out my sushi, there were yellow lacey panties on the register box…..the hard part was over.
About 12 people milled about or rested on the summit; I suppose that’s not too many people for a popular mountain on a holiday weekend, but it was too much for me. I just ate my day-old fish and amazed myself with the view and wondered what routes these climbers in double-plastics and harnesses had done. True, we summitted via the “tourist” route, but hell, I never climbed the hardest route on Tahquitz either. Our mission was to experience the mountain and that we did, as well as gaining much wisdom and dreams of a more technical route in the future.
After a 45-minute summit celebration, it was time to slide down. We made a side trip to peek over Thumb Rock at Konwakiton Glacier. After seeing the ‘schrund on Whitney Glacier, Konwakiton didn’t impress me much but Tina had to take a ……well, we made this little side trip to look at the glacier.
Through Red Banks and it’s glissade time. There were plenty of people trying to glissade who apparently didn’t know how and some dude yelled over at us “Come on girls, show us how it’s done!” Somehow, we’d been watched during the trip and I’ll guess that we looked like we knew what we were doing. Sure, one foot in front of the other…..or sometimes NEXT to the other; what’s the big deal? I was anxious to get away from Red Banks as some small stones were leaping to their deaths. Besides a moderate rock slide off Casaval Ridge right at sunrise, we didn’t see any other serious rockfall all day.
We hopped in a ready-made glissade trench and went for a fast ride for probably a couple thousand feet. Couldn’t help but to scream and laugh on the way down. Tina was quite a ways in front of me and stopped; here I come screaming down and ram my boots into her ass without realizing that there was a man in front of her that she was assisting with his wayward trekking poles. Oooops!
Don't forget your flip-flops!
Butt glissade, boot glissade…..we were headed to 50/50 and looking for Kathy’s blue tent but nothing stuck out; in fact we only saw 3 tents….or maybe we were just retarded from the long day and too much food. I swear we laughed and joked so much that my throat hurt. Trying very hard to not snicker and sneer too loudly at poor souls slogging up the Gulch that afternoon in plastic boots and with gargantuan packs was tough. We did a fair amount of pointing and even stopped in a shaded area to shed our hard shell garb and watch a fledgling mountaineer class simulate self-arrest techniques on a 15-degree slope. Tina’s leftover meat came out and I thought about a hyena quite briefly. Nothing was more important at the time than how freaking wet my ass and crotch were from glissading. I was jealous that Tina wasn’t bitching about her not-so-waterproof waterproof pants, but I’ll bet her ass was as wet as mine.
Once on the trail below Horse Camp, we picked up the pace and carelessly splashed in the mud when passing anyone wearing cotton. I was starving and my crappy pack was really past the point of annoying me. What to eat upon arrival to Ground Zero? In just over 15 hours, we were back to the car and tearing away our soaked and stanky socks. I felt very fortunate to have summitted beautiful Mt Shasta with a wonderful friend whose passion and tenacity for mountaineering equals my own. We worked well together and didn’t annoy each other once; our friendship bonded even tighter. Filled with joy and sense of accomplishment, we were downright ecstatic. I couldn’t have asked for more.
What's for dinner, Tina?
Nappy heads and scrappy attitudes, we stepped into Billy Goat Tavern. Someone scorched my burger. Tina OD’d on cheese. One thousand calories and a beer later, I planted the seed…”Hey Bitch, you know what would be dope? If we climbed Shastina tomorrow……” History repeats itself, the Plan changes and friends stay fluid.
Great TR and photos, thanks for sharing. You really captured the sense and spirit of a great day on Shasta with great company. Congrats to you and Tina on your Shasta DIAD (done in a day), great stuff!
Deb..I very much enjoyed reading your adventure story! I can sure hear the happiness and excitment in your words how you felt that day!:)
How nice to have a good friend like Tina to share it with!
Congratulations to you both!
Thank you for sharing your story here...very nice and enjoyable to read!
...Danny's is the fucking pits -- yet somehow we find ourselves ending up in those quite often due to lack of options in the sticks. Always reliable: burnt pancakes and mysterious curly, thick hairs in the hashbrowns. But I digress...
Sounds like you had a great time with a good friend. Thanks for sharing.
I was planning on doing Avy Gulch in 3 weeks time but from all accounts it sounds like there's no snow and it's going to be fraught with rockfall. (Two years ago at the same time we went up from Bunny on snow right from the car!) What do you think?
Had to laugh at your account of the incognito “Denny’s”. Here's a tip for next time. About 5 minutes off I-5 in Willows is the Common Grounds sandwich/coffee shop. Excellent place to grab a coffee and pastry; and a sandwich to-go for the next day's lunch on the mountain. The shop always seems to be staffed by a crew of ... well, lets just say I always leave way more than 19 cents tip.