Featured photo for Mt. Shasta, CA

Mt. Shasta, CA

More than 4 years after my first (and failed) attempt to ascend Mt. Shasta, I finally reached the summit of this iconic Californian fourteener. Our group included Angela, Dave, Kenny, Paul, Steve, and Wendy. Here are some notes:

Day 1

  • Wendy and I had trained for this by going up Mission Peak 2X a week in April and May. Sadly, planned trips up Shasta got pushed out twice due to inclement weather and avalanche conditions.
  • Dave, Paul, and Steve wisely drove up to the mountain at 4:00 p.m. on the previous Friday, whereas Wendy and I met up at our designated meeting spot at midnight. However…
  • …Kenny and Angela had some gear-packing issues, and ended up showing up at 1:15 a.m.! And still a 5.5-hour drive ahead of us…
  • Kenny and I switched off on the driving, so each of us managed to get a couple of hours of sleep. While going up the Everitt Memorial Highway, however, we saw Dave drive his truck down from the Ski Bowl to the Bunny Slope parking lot, thinking that maybe we mistakingly drove there instead of the Ski Bowl when he did not see us at 7:30 a.m. Ultimately, we all hit the trail at 9:00 a.m.
  • Starting at the Ski Bowl (just opened up a couple of weeks ago) instead of the Bunny Slope parking lot meant reducing the total amount of climibng by about 1000′. No complaints here.
  • The first day entailed hiking up through some talus, then through snow over the Green Butte Ridge. Perhaps the most “exciting” portion was traversing a 35-degree slope leading to Avalanche Gulch. Here, Wendy took a fall and was hanging on to her ice axe (whose spike was half-immersed in the snow) for dear life while I tried to hang on to her pack (to prevent her from falling). Ultimately, Dave came on over, helped her take off her pack and get her feet under her, and also retrieved a few items that became loose from her pack and rolled down the mountain. Dave was the man!
  • Dave and Steve also helped Angela negotiate this traverse, as she was (understandably) a little nervous here.
  • By 2:30 p.m. we made it up to Helen Lake and spent the next few hours setting up camp. This entailed using our snow shovels to create a level platform for Paul’s 3-person Bibbler tent, which Paul, Wendy and I slept in that night.
  • We also melted snow for water; this entailed taking a garbage out to collect a lot of snow, and simply melting it in pots using stoves. This took a couple hours.
  • At 6:00 p.m. Kenny and I, under Dave’s guidance, practiced self-arrest techniques with our ice axes. This was essential learning. One thing that Dave wanted me to do but I absolutely could not was to induce a forward face-plant (i.e., flop forward 210 degrees onto my face) and prevent a fall by plunging the adze into the snow. Plunging the adze into the snow wasn’t the problem; making myself do a face-plant was!
  • We went to bed at 7:00 p.m. Well, most of us. Wendy was already sound asleep by 6:00 p.m.! And I was amazed that she managed to completely sleep through my episode of leaving the tent to take a leak at 11:30 p.m., under the watch of a full moon!

Day 2

  • Angela and Kenny decided to not push onward to the summit, so it was just Dave, Paul, Steve, Wendy and I.
  • We woke up at 2:30 a.m. as planned and were hiking up at 3:00 a.m., crampons and ski goggles already on. Many people were already making their way up the mountain.
  • After an hour, we split up into 2 groups. Group #1 was Dave and myself; Group #2 was Paul, Steve, and Wendy.
  • By 5:30 a.m. Dave and I were already having lunch midway up the Red Banks. At 6:00 a.m. we radioed Steve and the others, and they were already almost at that point too. Dave and I were surprised at the good time they were making.
  • The snowpack became noticeably deeper at the Red Banks and then misery hill, where there was a lot of postholing.
  • 7:30 a.m.: Dave and I make it to the summit! Long at last. We are pleased with our time. We spend about an hour up here taking photos and waiting for the sun to melt the snow a little bit (for glissading down in my case, and skiing down in Dave’s).
  • 9:30 a.m.: Paul, Steve, and Wendy make it to the summit! We’d only find that out later, though, since radio communication became difficult by that point.
  • At the Red Banks Dave and I wait some more for the snow to melt. Dave’s buddy Dan (they were roommies during college) who lived in Mt. Shasta City went up during that time (it only took him something like 2 hours 20 minutes to climb from the Bunny Flat Trailhead to the summit; now that is SMOKIN’!) and also was glissading down.
  • Finally, I begun my glissade. I started out very slowly, recalling the rangers words of warning that “when the snow is too hard, people have taken 400-meter falls while trying to glissade”. Soon I learn that it is easiest to brake with my feet as opposed to the spike of the ice axe (using the latter would make me turn leftward), and to get my heels into the snow to brake, all I had to do was bend my knees. To increase speed I could either have my legs straight out in front of me, or knees so bent that my feet were flat on the ground.
  • Glissading turned out to be the most fun experience in the entire trip! Wendy especially had a blast; she glissaded from the top of the Red Banks all the way down to Helen Lake in very short time!
  • Dave and I were back down at Helen Lake by 11:30 a.m.; the others, within the next hour or so. We packed up camp, and hiked on out.
  • After traversing, hiking, and glissading, we made it back down to the Ski Bowl parking lot by 4:30 p.m.
  • Angela, Kenny, Wendy and I had dinner at the Black Bear in Mt. Shasta City, even treating ourselves to some great milkshakes. A nice reward for a not-so-easy weekend!

Equipment List

  • Mountaineering pack
  • Day pack (for going up the 2nd day)
  • Ice axe (rental)
  • Snow shovel (rental)
  • Mountaineering boots (rental)
  • Crampons (rental)
  • Convertible pants
  • 100% polyester T-shirt
  • Short thermal underwear
  • Double-layered socks
  • Windbreaker
  • Sunglasses
  • Ski goggles
  • Fanny pack (containing camera, compass, Swiss army knife, topo map, trail mix)
  • 3 liters water
  • bagette, brie, cookies, bananas
  • Rain jacket (just in case)
  • Rain pants (for glissading)
  • Windstopper gloves
  • First aid kit
  • 0-degree sleeping bag
  • Ridgecrest Z-Rest (3/4 length)
  • Fleece socks (for sleeping)
Photos not created by Felix Wong may be subject to copyright.
One really gets a good sense of how colossal Mt. Shasta is while driving towards it north of Redding along I-5.
The view of Mt. Shasta from Bunny Flat.
Photo: Dave Jacob
In mid-July, the snowpack had already melted at 8000 feet, allowing us to start at the Ski Bowl trailhead instead of the more traditional Bunny Flat parking lot.  This allowed us to cut out about 1000 feet of climbing.
(From left to right) Steve, Angela, and Kenny begin the hike with mountain pines in the background.
Dave brought his x-country skis, as he and Paul wanted to ski up and down the mountain partway.
Just hanging around...
Photo: Dave Jacob
For lunch I had some French sourdough and brie, which seemed appropriate considering the Tour de France was going on and we kept having to side-step up the mountain using the French Technique!
Paul, Steve, and Wendy reach the top of the Green Butte Ridge.
Steve enjoys the view of the valley below from almost 10,000 feet.
Here's Wendy after making it to base camp at Helen Lake.
Using snow shovels, we cleared off a flat platform for Paul's Bibbler 4-season, 3-person tent.  It was cozy...
Near the summit, we got aa view of the neighboring crater Shastina.
We ascended the next day.  Here's Felix Wong at Red Banks, where we stopped to munch on some food while watching the sun come up.
Felix Wong at the summit. (14,162 feet)
Dave on the summit.
Dave at the top along with another dude.
While following Dave down the mountain, there was quite a bit of post-holing on Misery Hill and by the Red Banks.
The best part of the day was after the snow got a little softer and it was time to glissade down the mountain.  That was awesome!
Photo: Dave Jacob
Photo: Dave Jacob
Felix Wong
Photo: Dave Jacob
Photo: Dave Jacob
Photo: Dave Jacob
Kenny & Angela
Photo: Dave Jacob