With a forecast of great weather, our team descended upon Mt. Shasta’s Bunny Flats Trailhead on Friday after a long drive from Salem. With most everyone carpooling with other climbers, the arranged departure time was easily met. With an updated weather report that showed a possible breakdown of the forecasted high-pressure system, we ventured forth with hopes of continued good weather.
Our first day involved a climb from Bunny Flats (6880’) to our high camp at Hidden Valley (9200’) via Horse Camp (7880’). Mostly uneventful, our party made our way in the warm afternoon sun. Just short of Hidden Valley, we were crossing a steep slope that had become soft in the sun. As our progress had been on mild slopes, our entire group was climbing either with trekking poles or nothing at all. While watching the steps being kicked in front of me by another team member, I slipped and proceeded to slide down the steep slope. I tried to arrest my fall by first jamming my poles into the soft snow and then using both hands to jam one pole into the snow. Unfortunately, this was not working and I attempted to grab a large rock that I slid past. This resulted in nothing more than creating a large gash in my right thumb. With the understanding that I was not going to arrest my fall, I decided to at least direct where my fall was going. With a choice of either going into a boulder outcrop or over an unknown steeper snow slope, I chose to risk the rocks. This immediately stopped my fall and I radioed up to the group that I was OK. We decided that the group should get off the slope and move onto camp while I treated my minor injuries and proceeded back up the 250’ that I had dropped.
After leading the rest of our group onto camp, Herb returned to assist me in getting back up the slope by putting in steps. When he reached me, he was kind enough to shoulder my pack until we returned back to camp.
Summit day we awoke to questionable weather but decided to make the call as we moved up. As we set off from camp at a little after 5:00 AM, visibility and weather were still on our side. We made our way across the valley to our access chute to the West Face proper. While crossing, Sue began to fill the increasing effects of her earlier nausea, and visibility decreased dramatically. As we pondered our situation, light snow began to fall smashing our hopes of continuing. With some hesitation, we decided to go higher and make another decision then. With luck, by the time we reached our point of decision, the weather had improved with the coming of the sun, and visibility was no longer a factor.
Sue, being the diehard that she is, continued up further with us but gave in finally after her third bout of nausea, and returned to camp. After Herb and Sally dropped their snowboards at around the 12000’ level we continued up the long West Face. At the top of the Face we split into two groups separated by about ½ hour. As we all traversed over to Misery Hill, the infamous Shasta wind began to show itself. The first group led by Herb, summitted at about 12:35 PM and had just descended from the summit pinnacle where Jenn and I met them. The plan was to meet back up at the top of the West Face if the weather was not to cold. However, it was cold, and the batteries to my radio had gone dead. Communication would not happen. Shortly after, Jenn and I summitted and signed the summit register for the team, who had been busy taking photos and forgotten to do so.
During our ascent of the pinnacle, visibility had again dropped and we were forced to follow a boot path back across the summit plateau and down Misery Hill. As we approached the West Face, the rest of the group could not be seen but then a break in the visibility allowed us to catch a glimpse of them. They were only a few hundred yards in front of us. As we all descended the West Face in sloppy conditions, we carefully negotiated our way down having to clear our balled up crampons every step. Eventually the face let up and we could glissade. I tried the conditions and determined that the glissade would be safe. As we removed our crampons and began our glorious slide, Herb and Sally strapped on their snowboards for some turns. As the rest of us quickly descended the rest of the face in an awesome glissade the route again steepened slightly. Rick being the brave soul that he is was coerced into leading the way down the steep section. Meanwhile, Herb and Sally had nearly reached camp via their mode of transportation. As we all bottomed out on our long glissade we made our way back to camp trying to find any more possible slopes to slide down.
As we reached camp, Sue had been kind enough to melt water for everyone during her time in camp. Herb and Sally gathered up their campsite and made their way out to the trailhead in about ½ hour. The rest of us would head out the following morning.
The next morning, thoughts of a greasy breakfast were on the minds of a few of us, as we made our way out. As the sun continued to rise, the temperature forced us to stop a few times to shed more clothes. 2 hours later we had reached the trailhead that had been swarmed by vehicles over the weekend. Most of us gathered again at the Black Bear Diner for some breakfast before our drive home.
Great trip! Great team! Great success!
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