Bob Bolton and I had just spent a couple of wonderful days in California climbing first Mt. Shasta followed up by Mt. Eddy. Today we wanted to make it three in a row and so Lassen was the goal for the day. After climbing Mt. Eddy the on the 4th, we headed for Redding and grabbed dinner there at "The Olive Garden" as a sort of reward. We had hoped to make it all the way to a campground in the Lassen national park but both of us were pretty well zonked by the time we had driven east out of Redding about 50 miles and found a rest area on the way to pull into. We just slept in our cars and hit Lassen early the next morning. We hit the TH parking area about 8:30 a.m. and after getting our boots and packs on, it was closer to 9 a.m. when we finally hit the trail.
Snow came right down to the parking area but the well tromped in trail led the way up the mountain. At 9 a.m. there were just a few cars in the parking area so I had this thought of "hey, this is going to be great, we'll have this mountain pretty much to ourselves" The trail makes steady progress as it heads up the south side of the mountain and we found our selves crossing several snowfields initially but as the trail swung further east it soon was totally snow free for most of the way. Lots of
switchbacks but the views kept getting better as we proceeded higher.
Since Bob was planning to head back to Oregon when we finished the peak and I had a 16 mile effort planned for the next day, we soon were hiking separately as we picked the paces that suited us best. I came upon a father and son who were struggling up the trail and the father was urging his 8 year old son on but I could see that the kid had touches of altitude sickness and encouraged the father to take the kid down. It was disheartening to see that the father had only a small water bottle for the both of them and that he couldn't recognize that the kid had had it. I was thinking after I left them that that would be one kid who wouldn't want to go hiking with his father again in the future as I was sure he would only associate hiking with pain and misery.Hey, that is sometimes the way we all feel. Hmmmmmm.
Some of the thundering herd
Well Bob had gotten ahead of me by about 15 minutes now and soon the early summit conquerors were coming back down (folks who had started a couple hours before us).
I would be greeted several times by the question "Are you Dean?" At first I was mystified how they would know my name but it quickly became apparent that Bob was taking the time to talk to these folks and tell them to watch for this 63 year old guy who
was heading up the trail. He was bragging on how this was the third peak in three days for me and that we had used Mt. Shasta as our warmup for Lassen Peak. All were suitably impressed that I was doing them back to back to back, etc. I would then wow them with the fact that I would be doing Eagle Peak in Modoc county tomorrow, a 16 mile 4200 foot effort, Hat Mountain and Ingalls Mountain the day after that and then Lola and No. Lola peaks the day after that. They'd always ask "Are you sure you are only 63?" Actually that was kind of fun after I got past the embarrassment of being spotlighted by my good friend Bob, who, I might add, is closing in on 60 himself yet still hikes like a 25 year old. Not many people can keep up with him and you can incllude me in that large group. Still, he and Dennis Poulin are two of the best hiking companions I've ever had the pleasure of hiking and being in the mountains with.
As I continued up the barren and obviously volcanic in origin peak, I could soon see the summit area and the strange looking structure that sits on the summit area. Great views of Brokeoff Mountain to the west kept my attention as that would be a peak I would be climbing in the next year or so. Finally the trail leveled off at a small plateau and I could see Bob sitting on the highest point at the summit. After traversing the snowfield of the plateau, I soon made my way up to where my friend was sitting, chatting with a couple of people who had just barely summitted. While he was talking with them, I made my way around the summit area and checked out the strange structure to the east side. Geez, the thing looked almost like a male you know what but was some kind of radio structure. I found a benchmark and then walked over to where the highest rocks were and clambered up and down them while Bob took a couple pics of me. The views were terrific in all directions. Shasta loomed to the north, I could pick out Eagle Peak to east and many other peaks in other directions.
After I climbed back down from the highest spot of Lassen peak, I had a chance to talk to several people for several minutes incl
Including one couple who had just climbed their first major peak of any significance and i enjoyed their excitement of the moment. However, when I turned around back towards where the benchmark is located i was stunned to see about twenty people milling around or just contentedly sitting. Then I noticed tons of people heading towards the summit area as they headed up the trail.
I grabbed Bob and said "man, we have got to get out of here before this peak gets overloaded and collapses". He laughed and grabbed his pack and was on the way down.
I counted over two hundred people that I passed on the way down, most poorly equipped for what they were doing. Many had no water bottles or day packs, there were people of all ages including toddlers. Two studs had ice axes however and so I knew they were "real" climbers from their talk and swagger. Sorry, I hate posers.
When we got to the parking area, it was jammed with cars and more were arriving.
One comment that bears noting: If you need to take a leak or answer the call of nature on this peak, plan carefully. You won't have much time for privacy. Restrooms are located at the parking lot. The only trail I've ever seen as many people was on Mt. Timpanogos in Utah on a labor day weekend.
Time up: 2 hours
Time down: 1 hour (I had to find a bathroom so I moved extra fast)
Special gear when the snow is mainly gone? Carry water and sunscreen.
When snow is present? Ice axe (maybe) crampons (maybe) skis (definitely)
Lassen Trail bandit
We left the parking lot at 9 and were back down at 12:30 which included 30 or 40 minutes on the summit. A nice hike but it'd be an awesome ski earlier in the season.
After climbing Lassen Peak two days ago I had to laugh out loud at your description of the many people "enjoying" the mountain. We had plenty of company ourselves, but not to the extent you describe. Good luck on your many climbs! By the way, I'm 62, so I can empathize with your musings about age.