Rescue of the Benis

Rescue of the Benis

Page Type: Album
Image Type(s): Alpine Climbing

12 Hour road trip on no sleep

In May of 2009 the Mountain Brigands decided to climb Mt. Shasta. This was to be our first attempt of a mountain over 12,000 feet and only our second alpine climb, the first being Mount Olympus in Washington state.
Benis had never attempted anything of this sort before. The closest he had come to mountaineering was climbing Marion Mountain in March.

We left San Diego, after working all day, and drove straight to the town of Mt. Shasta. It took about 12 hours and by the time we got there we hadn't slept much in the past 36 hrs. We started from bunny flat on the intent of climbing the Green Butte route. It was around noon when we started trudging through the soft snow under the sun. The plan was to make base camp around 10'000 feet and start the climb early the next morning. We only had to hike about one and a half miles but it was extremely slow going do to the fact we were sinking up to our thighs every other step.

Avalanche Gulch

As we were hiking along the ridge on the east side of Avalanche Gulch we witnessed the origin of the name several times. On the east side of the gulch we saw at least 3 avalanches within in a 4 hour period and they were not small. The biggest one started at the top of Casaval ridge and traveled all the way to the bottom of the gulch where it meats up with bunny flats. It was powerful enough to level some trees on the way down. After seeing that we made more of a concerted effort to stay on top of the ridge.

After making it to a flat spot on the Green Butte, we set up camp, had a drink and some eats and passed out. The temperature was in the teens and there was almost no wind. This made the conditions the next morning ideal for our intended route.

Summit attempt

Green Butte ridge
On summit day we started hiking around 5:30 which is a little late when the snow starts to melt and soften around 9 or 10 a.m. Everything started off pretty good and it was a perfect day, except for Benis dropping his glove off the side of the ridge. I guess he didn't think it was that far down so he said "I'm gonna run down and get that real quick." It probably would have taken him about 6 hours, the drop was at least 1500 feet.

Around noon we started getting up into a little rock and mixed climbing and thumb rock was only about 400 feet away...and that's about as far as we got. Benis had been doing pretty good up unitl that point but the closer we came to thumb rock he started lagging further and further behind.
As Bare and I were climbing up some rock legdes covered in brittle ice formations, I remember thinking "man, it would really suck to have to down climb this." We stopped on a little rock outcrop that dropped straight down into avalanche gulch about 1000 feet or so. That's when we looked back and saw Benis lying on a ice covered ledge about 400 feet below where we were standing. It was pretty obvious now that we were definately not going to make it to the summit. It wasn't getting any earlier and Benis was sleeping on his ice axe, under a bunch of melting ice sickles.

As Bare and I assessed the situation we kept trying to reach Benis on the radio and after about 10 minutes he finally said "gimme a minute" then he passed out again.


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