The PlanThe seed for climbing Mt Shasta had been planted back in graduate school when on a winter break climbing trip to Joshua Tree I saw it from I-5. Kyle, a colleague from work had a score to settle after narrowly missing the summit due to bad weather. Together we hatched a plan to drive down from Seattle over Memorial Day weekend to climb the Casaval Ridge. We planned to make the drive on Friday, approach Saturday, and summit and descend on Sunday and drive home on Monday. For weeks we studied route descriptions, made gear lists and watched the weather and conditions. When the Memorial Day weekend rolled around we were pleased to have an excellent weather forecast and good conditions reports.
The approachWe made the long drive down and arrived in Mt Shasta city in time to secure permits and eat dinner. We anxiously headed up to find a parking space as the rangers mentioned it would be very crowded over the long weekend. We found a space not far from the main lot. A party atmosphere prevailed at Bunny Flats. Savvy folks brought lawn chairs, beer and charcoal grills.
We did not even have a book to read so we found the start of the approach, hiked a bit and took photos and chatted with other climbers and skiers. I talked with a pair of young guys who had tried Casaval only to traverse off to the West Face due to technical difficulties.
We went to bed and woke up early to take advantage of firmer snow conditons. As we were gearing up a young soloist named Eric introduced himself. He also would be attempting the Casaval Ridge. He left to start his approach as we continued making our preparations.
Hiking under clear skis and atop firm snow soon brought us to above Horse Camp. From the main trail we made a direct approach up the toe of the ridge. While taking a short break we were joined by Eric, our new friend from the parking lot. He had gotten a bit turned around and was excited to see us. We decided to make the rest of the approach together.
Descending the West Face we were met with dozens of climbers heading up some with a full compliment of harnesses, ropes, slings, carabiners and other weight training aids. It was here on the descent that the genious of placing our camp at 11k became obvious. The descent and traverse to our camp required no extra climbing to gain the ridge, and once we packed our camp up it was a simple exercise to drop straight down to Helen Lake.
Kyle was anxious to descend so we hurriedly packed and bombed down to Helen Lake and out to the car. On the way down I met a young women making her way to Helen Lake who pleaded for a Clif Bar. She had gotten separated from her group and had no food. I gave her the rest of my trail mix and off she went, happily munching. We made the rest of the hike out in short order and changed into our happy clothes at the car. We said goodbye to the mountain and headed into down for a delious hamburger dinner at Billygoats Tavern before making the long drive back to Seattle.
Thanks to Kyle and Eric for a great trip!