Beginner Mistake on Shasta

Page Type Page Type: Trip Report
Date Date Climbed/Hiked: May 12, 2011
Activities Activities: Mountaineering
Seasons Season: Spring

New Climber, Simple Mistake on Avalanche Gulch


I finally finished the video of our climb. Hope you enjoy!

Mount Shasta Climb

For about the past 4 years, I have have felt a steady pull to the mountains, but have only recently made a commitment to get into climbing. This is quite a big commitment when you consider family, kids, job, money, travel, etc!

I decided that I wanted a taste of altitude, but also ensure that the route is appropriate for a new climber. (In this case, 2 new climbers), so I settled on Mount Shasta's Avalanche Gulch route due to a more reliable and predictable access than Adams.

After about 6 months of planning, I got on a flight last wednesday in Nashville, TN ----> West Coast Bound! I met my buddy Steve, also a novice climber, and we hit the road north towards Shasta.

Shasta From Highway

We stopped into Shasta Base Camp to pick up our rental gear, and unfortunately received some conflicting information about route conditions and whether or not we would need snow shoes. (Please note, I in no way blame the guys at SBC - this was pure and simple a rookie mistake).

Given a late start (approximately noon) with no snowshoes and warm temperatures, many of you can probably predict what happened next. 6 straight hours of post-holing in calf to knee deep snow just to get almost to 50/50. This was the most exhausting thing I have ever done, not to mention discouraging to have worked so hard and made so little altitude gain. We finally set up camp at just under 9,000 feet and decided to rest for an early start. I have since been told that having to move through snow like that is extremely tough for anyone. Making camp was a fun, new experience and I probably went overboard anchoring the tent in anticipation of the 40kn winds expected that night.

Shasta Camp (9,000 )

The next morning, we were both still very tired from the ridiculous effort of the previous day, but crawled out of the tent around 6 AM and began the hike up on very firm snow into a cold wind.

I felt very strong and refreshed (and completely relieved that the previous days futile efforts weren't a direct reflection on my abilities) and I climbed 1500' feet in about 75 minutes, but my buddy was getting smaller and smaller in my "rearview". A few minutes later, a skier hiking up came past me. He asked if that was the rest of my "team" lower on the mountain, to which he commented "He's done, just so ya know".

At this point I was feeling very strong still, and wanted to continue a push for the summit, but unfortunately we were unable to communicate, so I sat down just under Helen and waited for him. By the time he got to me, he was completely exhausted and did not have a desire to continue, and I wasn't sure how comfortable I was sending him back down by himself.

Although his effort was great, we both could have done a better job of getting in climbing shape. At this point, it was going to be at least 7 hours roundtrip to the summit and probably more like 8 or 9, so I begrudgingly made the decision to head back to camp and pack up. We also wanted to get down before the snow got soft again. We glissaded back down to camp and practiced self arrest, which was one of the highlights of the trip.

Overall, this was a great experience, and I was completely blown away by the size of Shasta. It is so impressive in person, and absolutely incredible to look at.

I can't wait to go back, and apply these hard lessons I have learned to my next climb.

Shasta Summit

Oh, and for the record, Sterno "canned fuel" does NOT work well for heating or melting snow. I do not recommend it for anyone, even though I was told by multiple people it would work.


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Viewing: 1-4 of 4

silversummit - May 15, 2011 10:42 pm - Voted 10/10

Lessons learned!

Thanks for sharing so honestly what you learned from this experience and I'm sure your friend appreciated your turning around and returning with him. You will get to do this again!


Ambret - May 17, 2011 10:27 pm - Voted 10/10

Smart Call

Smart call to turn around. My best friend and I tried Shasta ten years ago. We foolishly got a late start from Helen Lake, ran into rock fall, and aborted at about 12,000 feet. it was frustrating to turn around ... but we recorded lessons learned, went back three years later and summitted. It is one beautiful mountain.

poconnor - May 23, 2011 11:27 pm - Hasn't voted


Thanks for the kind words. I just can't wait to get back to that place! I thought the call was strong BEFORE I stepped foot on a mountain. Now its a yell.

poconnor - Jul 24, 2011 1:27 am - Hasn't voted

Also, for anyone experienced...

Also, for anyone reading this.

The first part of this climb was INCREDIBLY difficult due to the soft snow. We had slushy snow up to our calfs most of the way on day 1, sometimes deeper.

In your opinion, how much of a difference do you feel that this made in our progress? I felt really inadequate at the time, but looking back I am sure this was a big part of it.

Viewing: 1-4 of 4



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