Mount Lassen National Park Adventures
For a very long time I wanted to get my wife BearQueen up to the summit a volcano so she can truly experience what I feel on most weekends. BearQueen has been struggling with her health and weight every since I met her and really has not been on many of the same adventures that I have been on. After doing research I realized that Mount Lassen was going to BearQueen best shot at tackling a major 10,000 volcano. Mount Lassen though 10,457 feet high, only requires 5 miles and 2000 feet of elevation gain.
Unfortunately the Lassen Peak Trail is only open a couple of days during the year due to trail reconstruction. Getting a camping area during that time can be quite tough so we found the last spot available two months before the trip was going to start. During the preceding weeks Josh, Mike and I took BearQueen on a number of hikes that had similar terrain to what she would be seeing on Mount Lassen.
As much as this was for BearQueen, the rest of us were also eyeing other mountains in this region. Brokeoff Mountain caught my eye because I saw this as a good warm-up for Jimbopo Josh and me to adjust to the higher altitude. I also saw a couple of cool looking satellite peaks around Mount Lassen that showed some promise of good views. Those peaks such as Mount Helen, Ski Heil Peak and Eagle Peak, definitely drawed a heavy interest. We knew that BearQueen might only have energy in her for Lassen Peak so we carefully planned those adventures for around the main goal Lassen Peak.
As for this trip report the Mount Lassen will mostly be left to BearQueen to write up on a separate report. For her, Mount Lassen was a special peak and she really deserves a chance to write up her experience this special mountain. When her report is up on SP I will set a link to the page and briefly mention the trip up to Lassen Peak.
The Trip that Almost Did Not HappenTwo days before going out on the trip to Lassen Peak BearQueen lost her only job. Along with that there were a number of extra charges to our account that was going to tighten our budgets even more that made the trip down to California quite hard for us. With the pending loss of future short term income from BearQueen both of us had to make a decision on rather to go on this trip or not. Add on a car repair for good measure and I knew this trip was in serious jeopardy.
Luckily Josh Lewis and Jimbopo came to the rescue here and helped us out with some money, A LOT of FOOD as well. We knew that in order to make this trip successful we would not be able to eat out the whole way down or back. Even with the extra food and money it was going to be quiet tight on this trip but that if we planned everything out well enough the trip was doable. Besides that thought of getting up BearQueen up the 10,000 foot volcano on foot drove us to do this trip and there was to be no backing down now.
Brokeoff Mountain September 4th, 2011
We arrived at Mount Lassen National Park shortly before noon and decided to head to Brokeoff Mountain first. BearQueen would sit out this hike in order to save her energy for her prize, Lassen Peak. As for the rest of us Brokeoff Mountain would be a good mountain to begin our trip in Lassen National Park. The second highest peak in the park is home to great views of both Lassen Peak and many, many other mountains in the region as well. There is also a very well established trail to the summit making the mountain an easy yet beautiful way to start off the Mount Lassen National Park Adventures.
Because we got into the park at midday we had to deal with the heat from a late heat wave that was cooking the Sacramento Valley to temperature over 100 degrees. Even at 6500 feet which was the trailhead the temperature were quiet high and the California sun was having an impact on all of us from Washington. From the vantage point of the trailhead it did not look possible that this peak was just going to be a trail hike. The towering eastern cliff made this mountain look a lot more intimidating than the YDS Class 1 walkup we encountered heading to the summit of Brokeoff Mountain.
We headed up the mountain at a moderate pace up Brokeoff Mountain considering the heat. The trail on the way up well maintained and views on Brokeoff Mountain started at around 9000 feet right at timberline. We took a quick break at timberline before heading to the true summit of Brokeoff Mountain. The trail all to the summit was actually quiet easy to follow and we soon reached the summit to enjoy excellent views of the Sacramento Valley as well as Mount Lassen, Mount Shasta and hundreds of other summits in the region.
After spending some time on the true summit we decided to do a little off-trail scramble in order to see if there were any better views from the false western summit. The views from the western summit were equally as impressive. As well as looking down the steep northern cliffs of Brokeoff Mountain. After shooting a number of great shots we decided to head down from the mountain. On the way down we could literally feel the difference in temperature. From the feel on the body there must have been a 15 degree difference from the top of the mountain to the bottom of the mountain. After the short trip to Brokeoff Mountain we decided to head to our campsite at Summit Lake where we would spend the evening resting.
Mount Lassen and Mount Helen September 5th, 2011
A brief overview of Mount Lassen
The Mount Lassen part of the trip will be briefly touched on here. I will save most of the details for BearQueen. I will say that I am very proud of BearQueen on making to the TRUE summit of Mount Lassen. We even had her touch the rock of the true summit. It was quiet a challenge for her both physically and emotionally but she hung in there and snagged the true summit of Lassen Peak. Josh Lewis and Jimbopo were a great help getting BearQueen up to the true summit. BearQueen was never happier until she was on the snowfield heading down from the summit of Mount Lassen.
Heading down from Lassen Peak, BearQueen wanted us to go ahead once we were at a safe spot to head down from. She was taking her time heading down and she was growing very concerned that she would be holding us up while we were heading down the mountain. BearQueen had also made a number of other friends along the trail, one who actually walked down the trail with her. So once we got to within 500 feet of the car we made sure she had a gallon of electrolytes and that she was in good shape to make it to the bottom and we proceeded to Mount Helen.
Her story on Mount Lassen is Here
Mount Helen had a completely different character that Mount Lassen. First there was no trail or even organized boot path to the summit of Mount Helen. Instead it was a total talus and boulder scramble to reach the true summit. This was far different from the trail heading up to Lassen. Second we were the only people on Mount Helen. Despite it being right next to the very popular Mount Lassen, Mount Helen did not have even one other person trying the peak.
It was hot and Jimbopo, Josh, and I were a little tired from Lassen Peak but we want to go for this peak anyway. On the way up it was a steep boulder scramble but the YDS stayed at Class 2 to Class 2+ the entire way up the to the ridgeline. From there the scrambling for the most part continued to the summit ridge. We got to the true high point and saw maybe some potential other so we continued the scramble for all possible summits on that ridge. Once on top of all potential high points we stopped and then headed back. Though the peak was less 2 miles roundtrip from the parking area, the combination with Mount Lassen really had tired me down on the way down the mountain it took me a little while to get down to the car.
It was nice to see BearQueen, exhausted but very happy, as she stared at her accomplishment of Mount Lassen. She was quiet tired and really wanted to get back to the campsite. She soon was getting the shakes from overexertion so we kept an eye on her while giving her medicine to help her with her pain and possible fever. That night though within two hours she recovered quickly and back to her normal self by nightfall.
Ski Heil Peak and Eagle Peak September 6th, 2011It was early morning and Josh Lewis and I had the bug to go out and check out some more cool peaks. I was a little tired from the night before but I knew the last two peaks were short scramble with a roundtrip of the two peaks totaling maybe 4 miles and 1300 feet of elevation gain. We decided to head from Lake Helen instead of the Lassen Peak Trailhead because the Lassen Peak Trail would now be closed for trail maintenance and I had not spent much time at Lake Helen yet. We got to Lake Helen shortly after dawn and quickly traverse around the southern part of the lake. From Lake Helen you could easily see both Eagle Peak and Ski Heil Peak in the distance.
Ski Heil Peak
Once passed the western shores of Lake Helen we decided to do a quick bushwhack up to the gap between Ski Heil Peak and Eagle Peak. There was no organized path up to the ridgeline but the bushwhack up was through fairly open terrain and though it was a little steep it was a walkup pretty much all the way up to the gap. Once in the gap we decided to go up the small scree field all the way up to the true summit of Ski Heil Peak. It took us a little time to get up to the summit of Ski Heil Peak just because we really needed to keep an eye on our footing. Though the slopes were open getting to the true summit of easily manageable and we were on the summit well within an hour from the parking area. From there we continued to our next destination Eagle Peak.
Eagle Peak looked a little intimidating from Ski Heil Peak but once at the base of Eagle Peak Josh and I found a good Class 2+ or easy Class 3 (depending on who is doing the rating) way up over base ledges from the gap. Once passed the scramble from gap the peak becomes an easy scramble slash bushwhack to the summit. Once on the summit Josh and took in the good views including the close-up view of Mount Lassen and took some pictures before heading on down the mountain.
Heading on down was uneventful and we basically follow the same route down that we headed up the peak. We did notice that the day was quickly heating up as we were heading down. It took us less than an hour heading down from Eagle Peak with only looking for the scramble section being our delay. We were soon back on Lake Helen, where we got a bunch more pictures of the area and then were in the car on the way back.
Heading on home was tough for all of us. The heat from this trip was quiet intense and the fact that my station wagon did not have air conditioning did not make it any easier. We did though manage through the heat very well and as soon as the sun went down we were able to make it back and cool off in the 13 hour car ride back. On the way we stopped off for one of our only treats only to watch someone else get in a very serious accident. My prayers go out those who were in the accident. It looked like only minor injuries but still our prayers go out for those people.