Mt. Shasta in fresh snow
Saturday at noon we started out with Shasta Guides without being able to see any of the mountain. It was covered in clouds. This was not a good sign. The reports from the past few days was that no one was able to summit recently. The day before the problems were the lack of snow, high winds and warm weather. Today, cold and rainy. Snowing up high.
We make camp at Horse Camp at the base of Avalanche Gulch and have a mini snow school for all us beginners. The sun came out and we could see the mountain up to the Red Banks blanketed in a thick layer of snow. The entire weekend really turned out to be very close to a winter experience. In snow the whole time, but not quite as cold as deep winter. It snowed off and on all day. Sunday, much the same. Snow, sun, snow, sun. At times, heavy snow. We went up to about 10,000 feet for advanced snow school. We had decided not to break camp and bring it up to 10K due to the weather up there. Very windy. So the plan was an Alpine Start on Monday.
Sunday night was clear and we headed for the summit at 1AM on Memorial Day. I felt far better than my sea level (or below sea level at work in New Orleans) lungs should have. We were slowed by a couple on our party and time began to run thin to make the summit.
We ended up splitting in two groups and I stayed with the slower guys because at 12K I started feeling a little off - I think I was seriously overly sensitive - I should have kept going. Either way, the other team got just to the Red Banks and we got just below. The snow moved in in a big way and it was close to white out conditions.
The brutal part was the descent. Due to one of our members, it was very very slow going. And as we got below 10K, it was a mix of rain and snow turning quickly into cold rain. We were soaked and had to then break camp for return to town. Everything was soaked. I had to carry a heavy load down as we were concerned over the one member who was struggling.
I was exhausted and exhilarated. I was thrilled and pissed (could have gone higher!). I'll be back some day.
Shasta is a climb not to be missed.
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