Mt. Shasta, August 2017

This is a story of minor equipment malfunctions. I arrived in Mt Shasta around noon, got my permit and a few last-minute provisions. A 16-mile forest road got me to the trailhead around 3p. Since I was hiking alone I decided to take the Clear Creek trail. Avalanche Gulch is the most popular and still has snow from 10,100 feet to summit. It’s shorter and steeper and a lot of crampon hiking. Clear Creek had less snow and I thought a better choice for me at the time.

The weather was weird – 80 at the trailhead, 40’s at base camp and 20’s on top. There was only 1 car trailhead and 2 hikers just arriving from the summit as I arrived. It was 2,000 feet and 3 miles to base camp.

The first of several equipment mishaps started early. My 55-liter Gregory pack is a top load and has no exit for the water hose, so when it’s full and all the straps tightened it can pinch the water hose and it did. So, I had to re-pack twice in those first 3 miles. Time for an upgrade. I crossed 2 nice snow fields on the way. Base camp was nice. Clear Creek was running cold and sweet. The site had several levelled places for tents and I found a nice one with a stone wall wind break. I saw 4 other hikers getting water but they wanted to camp higher and took off up the glacier. I pointed to the trail which was a lot easier but they took off on their route. I didn’t see them until the descent the next day about 2 miles behind me. There were some bivy sites at a little higher elevation but I took advantage of the sheltered site and fresh water.

Leaving my tent, sleeping bad and non-essentials at base camp I got an early start (2a). The rangers wanted people to use an 11a turnaround time due to afternoon thunderstorms. Route finding was a little difficult with only a headlamp in that early hour. I ran into my first glacier in about ½ hour and stopped to put on my crampons.

We have hiked so many rough trails that the back end of my left boot groove that holds the crampon bar was worn down. Twenty or so yards up the glacier the left boot came out of the crampon and I started to slip. Second equipment failure. My right crampon worked really well and as I caught myself from sliding down the glacier, but in the process, I pulled my right hip flexor. So, at 3a in the cold on a glacier I fought with the left crampon until I finally got it to stay on. With a slight injury, crampon problems and cold on a glacier, I thought my summit attempt was over. But I kept going and made it off the glacier and back on a trail. I was taking baby steps with my right leg. Glad I didn’t take the avalanche route.

After a while I stopped to fuel. While having a protein bar, I bit on something hard and found out I lost a crown. Another equipment malfunction.

With a shortened stride, I knew it was taking longer than I planned. Plus, it was cold, then windy, then warmer so I was always stopping to adjust clothing. My top load pack seemed to assure that whatever I wanted was at the bottom. My wind breaker zipper jammed which made the changes difficult. My last equipment malfunction. I had to pull it over my head like a sweater to take it off. Also stopping to get on crampons as I reached frozen snow fields or glaciers made the going slower.

I reached a point called Red Rock around 12,800. I read a report that said to take a route straight up the rock face but return on the right because the screen made the descent easier. I had been climbing scree the whole trail so I opted for the 400-foot climb. Think Williamson but with crumbling unstable lava rock not granite.

Finally, I reached the summit plateau and had less than 1,000 ft to the summit and I made it by 11a. There were lots of clouds so views and photo ops weren’t great. My name’s in the register tho.

I headed down and decided not to descend the rock wall and go for the scree. Wow this defines scree. It was so rocky and steep. At first, I tried to take long steps and slide with the rocks. In the end, all I could do was find a flat rock to sit on and ride a rock slide down the mountain several hundred feet at a time and I had to make sure to avoid the glacier at the bottom. I really wished I had a go pro for this. Dust and rocks were flying everywhere. It was probably like Mr. Toad’s wild ride.

I came to the last glacier before base camp. I couldn’t face another crampon change and decided to glissade down. I never done that before nor did I ever see anyone else do it to learn the technique. The snow was soft and there was a glissade path someone used before, but I could not see bottom so it was a little scary, but I did not remember a steep cliff drop off when I climbed this area earlier in the morning. I got my ice axe ready as a break and took off. It was a great way to get 600 feet of mountain behind you. It was fun but you end up with a large snowball crammed up your ass and I think if the slide had been a few hundred feet longer, the twins would have frozen off.

I made it down to base camp, re-packed and trudged the last 3 miles to the truck. It was amazing how heavy 5-6 pounds of tent, sleeping bag and cook gear can feel at the end of this climb.

I made it down to base camp, re-packed and trudged the last 3 miles to the truck. It was amazing how heavy 5-6 pounds of tent, sleeping bag and cook gear can feel at the end of this climb. This is a mountain to be respected. It is a relentless uphill. Very steep. The scree was terrible. Every rock seemed loose, ready to sprain an ankle or send you off the side. The time down was not much faster than going up. There were thousands of little round rocks to take your footing and send you on your ass. I was on mine 10 times or more times. It was a great experience and another 14teener bagged for me.

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