It HASTA BE SHASTA: That old soft drink phrase may not be very original to others but it became the catch phrase of Bob Bolton and I as we plotted last year to go down to No Cal and get that big sno cone, you know, the one called Mt. Shasta.
As I was driving down through Bend Oregon on my way to the mountain, I thought, " how many times over the years as I was driving down the length of the state of California on I-5 has that big mountain been so solid in my front window viewscreen. With that big mountain staring down at me, it seemed to be really throwing down its challenge, almost shouting at me, daring me to climb to her summit"
I'd reply, "you're just a big rock and snow pile, you mean nothing to me. There is no reason for me to climb you". But I knew, I'd climb her some day. I'd stand on top and get her out of my system, then I could have some peace of mind and move onto something else. Damn mountains anyway.
Last year when Bob and I began our plans to knock that big snow pile off we couldn't find the time to spring for her, so we had to save our "hasta be shasta" chant for sometime in 2004. Imagine, here's Bob Bolton, a guy who has climbed the likes of the Grand Teton, Montana's Granite and Wyoming's Gannett peaks, Washington's Rainier, Baker, Glacier Peak, Buckner, Shuksan and plenty more, lusting after the big sno cone that sticks its lofty head up into the rarified air of No Cal. What is the attraction? want an answer, here is mine: The attraction is that she is a beauty, pure and simple. A magnificient remnant of an ancient volcano that had poured its magma out to such an extent that it towered over everything else for hundreds of miles. Glaciers on its flanks have been doing their best to tear it down but still, it is a magnificient peak, regardless of which route one chooses to climb it by. I told Bob last year when he indicated that Mt. Shasta was big on his to do list, " when you go to climb that sucker, count me in"
Going up the Avalanche Gulch route, there is no real technical challenge to climb her, just the desire to put yourself into a little suffering mode as you plod up the mountain, whether it is on snow or scree. The key to climbing her is not to get altitude sickness. Pacing yourself and staying hydrated are both key to success, not whether you can climb class 5 rock or do fancy ice climbing. It is just a slog up an ever steepening hill until you get past the danger of rockfall above the Red Banks.
So here we were finally, parked at Bunny Flats on the morning of July 2nd. We both had made our separate ways to the Bunny Flat trailhead, Bob from Vancouver Washington, myself from Kennewick, on the other side of Washington state. I had arrived in the late afternoon and had spent the remainder of daylight just looking at the mountain. Bob made it in from his place shortly after midnight. Upon wakening in the morning, we re-packed our packs a bit but feeling no need to hurry, we motored down to Shasta City to fuel up on some good breakfast food at the Black Bear Diner. We ate well and finally made it back to Bunny Flat to get this thing done.
We covered the trail up to Horse Camp in an easy hour all the while cussing the heaviness of our packs. "Stupid packs, why do they weigh so much" Bob asked as we took a break.
Opening his pack up and finding a huge rock in it he looked at me in a very accusing way.
"Honest Bob, I didn't do that" I lied.
I think it was a pumice rock anyway and he was over re-acting. Probably helped speed his conditioning along anyway, he should've thanked me After all, dayhiking this motha would make more sense to me than carrying your bedroom and kitchen up with you. Afterall, I had dayhiked Mt. Adams the year before and felt pity on those poor souls struggling up to the Lunch Counter with their heavy laden packs. Alas, we needed to have at least one good night of acclimatization on the mountain so we did the same dumb thing, we hauled our bedrooms and kitchen up the hill. (and Bob helped return a pumice rock to its rightful place)
Horse Camp is run by the Sierra Club and has a camp ground
and a famous spring with excellent water. A climbing ranger was there and he checked permits and kind of looked us over.
I could read his thoughts "These old dudes will never make it, look at em, especially the guy with the beard. I wonder why he was carrying that big rock I saw him dump from his pack. That was pretty weird. The other guy must be his son as they don't look very bright and will probably camp at 50-50. I'd better keep an eye on these two, maybe order some body bags now."
A local from Weed named Dave was sitting on a bench at Horse Camp looking up at the mountain and it was obvious that he was looking for somebody to tag along with. His full size Sub Way sandwich was a dead giveaway that he was doing his best to fuel up. We chatted for a bit and found him to be an ok kind of a fella so we invited him on the spur of the moment to go with us and he jumped for it with both feet. So together, the three of us hiked (trudged?) up to 50-50 and made camp (this is below Helen Lake). The advantage of camping 1000 feet lower is that we wouldn't have to lug our packs up there and would have the area pretty much to ourselves rather than the cramped quarters you get at Helen Lake. Then in the morning, we could flash up to Helen Lake without the heavy packs, feeling the freedom of light daypacks. It turned out to be a good move.
Early Saturday morning we started up with headlamps and the helpful extra light from an almost full moon. but soon it wasn't necessary to keep the headlamps on as you could see well enough by the moonlight. As the angle steepened near Helen Lake, we stopped to don our crampons and we joined about thirty other early risers and made our way up to the right side of the heart, the usual route on this side of the mountain. With all the rocks scattered over the route, I definitely felt safer with my helmet on (plus I looked so cool with it) but I noticed a few of the others had no head protection. My concerns about being able to keep up with the younger set soon faded away as I began to pass about half of those who had been ahead of me. Not bad for a guy my age (63 going on 25) I thought as I was going much stronger than I thought I would. Fortunately I am not one of those who suffers from the altitude. A few of the others were obviously feeling the altitude. As well as I was moving, I still couldn't keep up with the likes of Bolton. The guy just seems to crank it up a couple notches when he gets on a mountain and here he was recovering from a nasty muscle tear injury he suffered earlier in the season. Even injured he could outhike me. However, I could easily catch up with him though (he was stopping to give instructions to some Canadians who didn't understand how the rest step and pressure breathing worked) so we kept in contact as we cramponed up the route.
A guy flashed by us in running shoes and those little Camp 4 pointer crampons. He was an hour and 22 minutes up from Horse Camp and soon disappeared above us. I later found out that he wasn't the fastest guy on the mountain as some schoolteacher from Shasta City went from Bunny Flat to the summit in a little over 3 hours. Hmmm, must be nice to have
that extra methane power you can get from eating those Texas chili dinners.
We made our way through the Red Banks on a steep chute of snow where my crampons earned their keep and before long, Misery Hill came into view. (Misery Hill turned out to be poorly named IMO, I felt the stretch from the Heart through the Red Banks was tougher). I was able to take my crampons off as the snow had cleared from the scree trail and I soon made my way to the top of the hill. The ranger came up and joined us and after a bit he headed off for the summit. I noticed him looking at the cloud development and he seemed to be a little concerned. This HUGE cloud that had been forming to the southwest and getting bigger and bigger and was boiling over towards Shasta. It had all the earmarks of a thunderhead and that caused me to pick up my pace a bit. Bob was ten minutes ahead of me and I soon lost sight of him as summit fever had him in its grip (but he also noticed that cloud I mentioned).
A climber and two dogs suddenly appeared at the top of Misery Hill, having come up the Casaval ridge route but when informed that a climbing ranger was ahead of him, he sadly had to give it up. He claimed he didn't see the "NO DOGS" allowed signs but I don't know how he could've missed them. Had the ranger caught him up there, he would have had a nice hefty fine to deal with. But hey, those were good looking and well behaved doggies, they didn't even try to bite me. Sadly for him, he was only about 300 vertical feet from the summit.
Crossing the snowfield to the summit block was neat as I couldn't keep my eyes off of the summit. Just about at the base of the summit block, I heard this whoop and a hollar and
looked up to see Bob at the summit. I could just about see the huge grin spread across his face. I made my way up the crumbly and slippery last bit and soon found myself on the summit area of Mt. Shasta, one of my dreams come true. I made my way over to the exact highest point(s)
and Bob took my pic with me touching the highest point of Mt. Shasta's summit. (county highpointing requires the actual highest point be touched) We gave each other high fives and signed the register.
The ranger asked all of us on the summit to leave as he was concerned about the possibility of thunderstorm activity and that we needed to minimize our time on the summit. We signed the register and reluctantly made an early retreat, although the view had disappeared with the cloud totally enveloping the summit area. A few more clambered up to claim the summit, including our new friend from Weed, Dave, his 2nd time to summit this mountain but we wondered why there weren't any others. We found out later that the ranger turned everyone else behind us around and many of those unfortunate people, perhaps about 35 or 40 in number, didn't have the summit chance due to bad timing. Many were almost at the top of Misery Hill when they encountered the ranger on his way down.Bummer
We made our way down to the Red Banks where we hooked up with a glissade chute and had a quick return to Helen Lake, kind of similar to Mt. Adams great glissade path back to the Lunch Counter. Now if you could only go uphill that fast.
Helen Lake was filling up with tents and some of those who had been turned around would try again the next day. A line of climbers were coming up the hill and the line stretched out as far as I could see. We made our last glissade down to our camp spot and packed everything up. We continued to pass climbers for the rest of our trip down, probably 200 or more. All were heading for Helen Lake and I could imagine what a great restful place that would be. We wondered if our friends Tom and Shelby were in any of the groups we passed and both Bob and I kept scanning their faces to see if they were among the long line of climbers heading up. We most likely missed them at Helen lake as they were most likely in a tent already set up and resting, but still, we looked. All kinds of people were heading up but sadly, one couple even had a toddler with them who was screaming bloody murder. Unbelievable. I'm sure the camping groups up there had a restful night if that kid cut loose. What were they thinking? Dave left and we wished him well as we finished up our packing up. We had enjoyed his pleasant and amicable personality as we had shared some of our time on this mountain. I'm sure Dave will climb this mountain many times over the years as well as others. We needed to get off this mountain cause...................
......a nice Mexican dinner awaited us in Shasta City and we began our plans for the Mt. Eddy climb (errr, hike) we had planned for sunday and the Lassen hike on Monday as we headed down the snowy part of the trail that took us almost all the way to Horse Camp. I wanted my fill of that spring water and to get this pack off of my back for a few minutes. HMMMMM, who put the big rock in my pack? Must be a 50-50 souvenier.
As we sat in the Mexican restruant on the south side of Shasta City, Bob and I did the traditional toast with our water glasses "Stick a fork in it Bolton, we can cross the big sno cone off our list" Now tomorrow..................
Gear: Ice axe, crampons, helmet, headlamp, SUNSCREEN, water, camera and warm clothes. No rope is needed on the Avalanche gulch route at this time of year. Technically not difficult.
The next day Bob and I did Mt. Eddy, a county highpoint to the west and then headed for Lassen which we did the following day. Bob left for home after Lassen and I headed for Eagle Mtn, the highpoint of Modoc County which I climbed the next day with Dennis Poulin. The rest of the week saw Hat Peak, Ingalls Peak and Lola and North Lola get crossed off my to do list. A great week in sunny California.
More PicsI've been going through my pics on this new years day and found some pics I had overlooked. I've attached them to this report and I hope they'll add a bit to this trip report by giving more visual views. I didn't want to attach them to the main Mt. Shasta page as there are already over 750 pics there. These pics belong here as part of my trip. This trip will always remain a