I was into few weeks of peak bagging when I signed up for my first Mt. Shasta attempt in Sep 2010. I climbed Shasta this year on Aug 06 and made it known to the whole world. That was my second attempt.
I am like this new kid in the climbing community, I love to brag everything about it. However I am no expert in climbing especially alpine climb. When one of the veteran Shasta climber announced in facebook to do another attempt, I immediately made arrangement to gather rsvp.
I posted the event on Norcal Peakbaggers Meetup and Sacramento Hiking Meetup Group. Of all the potential climbers, only one was interested to do a day climb. The new Shasta climber was not experienced even in ice or snow. I was not worried however, because on my first Shasta attempt, I was not even experienced. In fact, I learned to glissade and self arrest on the day we climbed the Avalanche Gulch.
Members on this trip :
For this trip, it was my second climb to Shasta with Al. I have day hiked with Bill to Mt. Whitney (our first time) and Highland and Silver Peak (both first timers).
On Aug 26, we left Sacramento for Bunny Flat trailhead. We did not start until after 00:01 hours on Aug 27. About an hour hiked up we arrived in Horsecamp. Two of us, who has been to Mt. Shasta before, stopped to refill for water. My hydro-pack (commonly known us water bladder) was empty for the purpose of filling the spring water. During my first trip, I carried my entire water supply from the trailhead which was a bad idea. I did not know at that time, that the water in Horsecamp tasted better than the bottled water you can buy in the market. Bill waited for us and checked what’s inside the Sierra Club Hut.
Off we headed for the Causeway. Unbeknownst to me, the tip of my hydropack was leaking. The two hiking buddies made attempts to fix the leak but it was not until we reached 50/50 flat that it stopped leaking. We tied the hose onto several knots, which eventually stopped the flow of water. The disadvantaged was that I could not sip water. Fortunately I brought the large Bolthouse carrot juice. I always have this drink whenever I am hiking or climbing. It always gives me good supply of electrolytes and glucose.
We stopped to wear our crampons just as the trail disappear. I forgot to wear my waterproof pants, so I had to unlaced my shoes, wear the gear and gaiters and then attached the crampons to my boots. Because of that, my group got delayed for few minutes in trekking the snow. We were in the approximate elevation of above 9,000 ft this time. The ground was icy. It was actually icier than my previous trip last August 06.
The forecast temperature was not as bad as the previous trip but the wind gust was not favourable. Before leaving Sacramento I checked the most current condition and we were expecting between 45 to 55 mph wind gust at the higher elevation. I’ve only had several of those events that has strong wind gust, and I did not like it at all. My first time it was around 80mph at Mt. Tallac but it was summer and no snow. The last time I trek with a bad windgust was Carson Pass US88 to Sayles Canyon US50. It was snowshoeing trek for 15 miles with wind gust like 50 mph.
So we climbed the ‘Climbers Gully’. As usual, the slope did not change at all, it was steep. Bill was doing well and has gotten used to crampons and boots, along with using the ice axe.
It was hard for me to climb up the steep slope without sipping water from time to time. My throat seemed to be always dry, accompanied by the strong wind gust, was enough recipe for disaster.
I did not anticipate this to happen. I figured, after bagging Highland and Silver Peaks by the Evetts Pass, I dropped my bag in the kitchen and my two adorable terroriers (Yorkies) sniffed my bag, found the tip of the hydropack hose and chewed it. I should have learned by now, of several trips I did bagging peaks, to check every gear to be in good condition.
I had the choice to turn-around but instead I continued on. I relied on the carrot juice I had, hoping that I won’t run into issues. From experience though, climbing the AVG zone could be difficult. I know that climbers always have the nalgene bottle infront or must have camelback hydropack. I kept my fingers crossed that I would survived, afterall, I was not alone in this trek.
As the slope got steeper, the more I thirst for water. I ignored this signs, perhaps due to ‘summit fever’ that was overwhelming my mind. Of the 2800 ft to go, I had only drank 4 or 5 times of small amount of water enough to wet my lips and throat. I made the effort to stop several safe spot, untie my backpack, sat facing Helen Lake, and did it this way, each time I drank water. It was the most inconvenient, tiring and punishing climb.
The Heart, Red Banks and The Chute
Before reaching the Heart of Shasta, it felt I was going to pass out, thirsty and shivery. Perhaps the Gu-Chomp Gel made me awake. I was surprised I had the energy to continue onto Red Banks chute.
The ground was of hard ice. It was definitely more icy than my previous trip and to top it off with wind gust as high as 35 mph, it would make every climber nervous.
There were two chutes, I saw was one on the left but no climbers went there. I read from the previous trip report that there was a big rock fell from that chute. We were heading towards more direct ascent to the right. It was actually a better chute than last time. The difference was, the ice was hard as a rock.
Bill was already up there waiting. I wonder why he did not continued on. With wind gust getting stronger, one should not stop as hypothermia sets in within 15 to 30 mins of stopping. Perhaps Bill waited for the rest of us to be up there. As I reached the chute, I stopped to drink water and ate trailmix but that I hadn’t have the slightest appetite.
I know I was already in trouble. It could be the AMS or something else. I have read a lot about what symptoms there is and with a medical practitioner Aunt, who constantly reminded me to eat a lot when climbing. I was like a dog, not wanting to eat due to the loss of my appetite. Al signaled that we should continue on. I started climbing the chute and Bill was behind me.
It was nerve wracking climbing this chute, the steepness was not that bad but the ice condition itself was scary. I had never climbed this hard ice ever. I looked for ice ax prints and followed the footprints of others. The good news was, the distance to the safer part was not that far compared to previous trip.
It reminded me where I was the first time I had done it. We took the chute to the outermost left. We tried to do shortcuts but as it turned out, it was steeper and longer. It was not the recommended chute.
Bill continued on while I had to take a break. This time I was not only shivering, my muscles were already limpy. My Aunt had told me that signs like this should not be taken lightly. I took another Gu-chomp chews hoping that would give me more sugar. I did not want to do any more climb but had no choice. The wind was pounding and it was very cold. My lips and throat were too dry. The skin of my lips started to peel already. I had the feeling that my throat started to get itchy. I know it won’t take that long, I am going to be sick.
I kept putting my foot one after the other until I reached the top of Red Banks. I saw Misery Hill and thankful that I could rest a little bit. I kept my mind focused on knowing that I had to self-rescue as it cost $5000 minimum for a helicopter rescue. There’s not much ice at the top of Red Banks but the wind gust had gotten worse. I was already wearing breathable jacket and pants, with gloves and hood and yet it was still cold. In this trip, there are not much climbers compared to Aug 06 trip.
I continued to trek Misery Hill. I never liked this hill, because its not my kind of turf. I prefer to do rock scrambling class 3 or 4 than hiking a scree. Eventually I made it to the top of Misery Hill and I could see the summit plateau and the summit itself. I was pretty much by myself. Most climbers were behind me but Bill was probably already at the summit. I had only a small amount of water left in the bottle, its not even a quarter of a cup. The rest of my water was in my hydropack but I need a stable place to get this water supply out.
I rationed the small amount of water to last from the top of Misery Hill to the actual summit. Because of this stupidity, I was trekking very slow and miserable with dry throat. If I compare this trip to my previous trip, I actually had a great time, making a joke to every passerby. This time around, I did not even want to speak at all.
Mt. Shasta Summit
At last, I reached few hundred feet away before summit. It did not take that long of a climb and I was already at the summit. I had no inkling of staying to enjoy the vista. All I wanted to do was to sign the register, take few pictures and refill my water bottle from the water of my hydropack.
Surprisingly I saw Bill there so I had told him about the pose of my hiking friend (Tom) who had been to Shasta in late winter. We took few pictures of each other. Then Al arrived and took pictures with three of us in it.
Few technical climbers arrived and amazingly a couple just got engaged. After that I told Al that I wanted to head down because its cold and too gusty.
Bill and I waited for Al at the bottom of Misery Hill. When Al arrived, he showed Bill how to glissade. We glissaded the top of Red Banks but stop just before the chute. I did not want to glissade in the chute, it was too steep and it was not recommended, as per the website.
Just after the chute we glissaded again, enjoyed every minute of pure happiness. Our glissading continued after the climbers gully but this last glissade slightly damaged my GTX pants.
After the 30 minute of sledding on our behind, we had to face the reality of hiking down the remaining 2 miles of long and boring trail. I always think of my past and reminisce all these years, of what I’ve had done. I always think about the so many places I had been to. From sea surfing in Australia, mountain biking in the Middle East, kayaking in Southeast Asia, water rafting in parts of Africa, I always remember my friends I had shared each adventure.
Bill was a great talker so that got me entertained as well and before I even knew it, the trail already led us to the car park. Hooray I thought, we can all go home now. I just realized I hadn’t slept for 40 hours.