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Avalanche Gulch TR


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I drove to Bunny Flat Trailhead Tuesday night-arrived around 12:30 am Wednesday and slept near the parking lot. I started on the trail at 9 am. The trail to Horse Camp is melted out. Stopped at Horse Camp for a little snack. After crossing the causeway, I hiked over to the Climber's Gully and got onto snow. I highly recommend this as opposed to the shitty grind up the scree slope that you encounter if you follow the "trail." Throughout the morning, I watched a few clouds building. I arrived at Helen Lake a little before 1 pm. The snow wasn't terribly slushy-fair conditions. I cleared a site and spent a little extra time on bomber deadmen for my tent (which seemed like a colossal waste of time). A couple of other solo climbers came up a couple of hours after me. I kicked back for awhile and took some pictures of the now much larger clouds building in all directions around the mountain. As I got my dinner started, I noticed a group of three climbers arrive. One of them proceeded to grab the shovel next to the ranger's tent and begin to clear a site. This shovel looks like an ordinary wood handle pointed shovel-except for the HUGE black and red BIOHAZARD label affixed to the handle. I offered to let them use my shovel and pointed out that the shovel they were using "is for shoveling shit." They said they had one and "that's nice to know" (the one that said this did look a little disgusted by his partner's stupidity). I cooked dinner and went into my tent about 6 or 6:30. At this point, the clouds were looking quite ominous. About a half hour after I got into my tent, I heard the first thunder. About ten minutes later, all hell broke loose. It started hailing like a son of a bitch, the wind kicked up and lightning was striking at various points on the mountain. All of this combined to sound like armageddon from inside my tent. Armageddon lasted for about 20 minutes and then "died" to the same thunder and lightning with only occasional hail and steady 20 mph winds. The storm lasted on and off until at least 9 pm, when I finally fell asleep.

I woke up a little before 1 am to cloud cover over the mountain and lightning over the Trinity Alps, Castle Crags and beyond. I started climbing about 2 am and within about a half hour, I encountered the first rockfall. I tried to dodge it by sound (there was no moon) and the occasional flicker from lightning in the distance. I managed to get to the Red Banks after being hit twice. Along the way, I crossed a several hundered foot long slide that had occurred some time during the night (you can see it clearly from Mt Shasta City-originating from just below the upper part of Casaval Ridge). I crossed the moat at a point just left of thumb rock and traversed above the Red Banks. At this point I commenced the long slog to the summit. The "climbing" above Red Banks was uneventful except for about fifteen minutes of rain about 300 feet below the summit. I reached the summit about 6:45 Thursday morning. I never even thought about putting on my crampons-just step kicking the whole way. I spent about 45 minutes on the summit and headed down. I downclimbed the Red Banks chimney, passing the "shit shovel" guys along the way. I was getting a little out of control trying to get down as fast as I could (I was being bombarded by rockfall from the shit shovel dudes) and took a spill when I hit a small patch of snow covered ice. I self arrested within about 50 feet. I glissaded from below the Red Banks most of the way back to Helen Lake, arriving around 9 am. About halfway down, I turned around to see a rock falling toward me. It bounced to one side of the glissade chute, then the other and at the last minute jumped back into the chute. I dove out of the chute, but it still nailed the back of my leg just below the calf (I have a nice bruise there today). When I got back to Helen, I grabbed a quick snack, started melting some snow for the descent and began packing up. At about 9:15 it started raining again and did not stop until I reached about 8,800 feet. I stopped at Horse Camp for a little snack and continued down to the parking lot, spraying about rockfall and the lack of a melt-freeze cycle the previous days to just baout anyone who would listen. I got back to my truck, threw all of my stinking wet shit in the back and drove home; concluding a "successful" Shasta trip. rolleyes.gifwink.gif

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