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[TR] Mt. Shasta - Hotlum-Bolam Ridge 6/20/2009

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Trip: Mt. Shasta - Hotlum-Bolam Ridge


Date: 6/20/2009


Trip Report:

I met with OL and Justing in the parking lot of the Northgate entrance (~6700’) on 06/19/09 (midnight) where we camped O/N before heading for the Hotlum-Bolam ridge next morning. German skiers were as always too loud and did not bless us with too much sleep. Oh well, what else does one expect of spending a night in a parking lot on a weekend? Weather was nice and clear at this point and according to NOAA forecast we certainly were not prepared for what turned out to be a real torture later on. It is not that I mind the occasional tortures like that - I was supposed to get used to them by now.


We packed up, left the trailhead at 8 a.m. and quickly reached the Northgate entrance (~8000’) of Shasta.



After heading up the glacier right across the Northgate,



we progressed to the first high camp area where we replenished our water supply from the still running waterfall. Weather begun to change every five minutes from clear skies to complete whiteouts making us wonder what is going to come next. My attempt to convince OL to continue towards the second high camp – Marine Camp (~10800’) – for our O/N stay -was successful despite the fact that hunting for the nice flat sites in whiteout conditions left much to be desired. I was whining about sticking the tents in the snow rather keep wandering. The guys were more persistent to stay away from the snow. After eventually settling down on the dry moraine, we cooked our Mountain house dinner and dessert and melted enough water for the next day.



Temperatures were quickly dropping with wind gusts reaching 60 mph which was gradually turning into a blizzard with ice and snow. My hopes of the summit were diminishing in exponential progression and my efforts to get some sleep were not crowned with much success either while the best part was yet to come. Justing was helplessly snoring and I was trying to be understanding. Condensation inside the tent was turning into ice particles and every time we moved our bodies against the tent, we got hit by an ice fall right down on our faces. All vents were open, so I have no clue how I was supposed to avoid that. Temperatures hit 10F (first day of summer in Cali) and at 2 a.m. I got up in desperation to realize that all water, cookware, food and fuel canisters were frozen.


On the positive side, the miracle had happened and all of the sudden, we were greeted with clear skies and subsiding winds. At this point, OL dropped: lets catch the moment and go for the summit and so we did. Melting a new batch of snow took 2 and half hours to make just barely enough water to get us to the summit. OL was not happy about the waste of time but we had no other choice. BTW, OL those hand and feet warmers you graciously offered to me turned to be a real life saver! Finally at 5 a.m. we crossed the moraine, put the crampons on and headed up the glacier. The sunrise was gorgeous and made our lives much easier to negotiate open crevasses and a bergshrund up the glacier.





After a few sketchy traverses, we reached “The Step” at 13000’



and noticed the clouds begun gathering again but remained at ~12000’. Oxygen deprivation made its presence noticeable in our needs for more frequent stops which exacerbated en route to the summit ridge. After passing through “The Rabbit Ears” (see pics) we begun the shitty airy traverse across the ice-covered class 3 rock



and the Bolam Glacier up the final pitch to the summit ridge on the north face.





At this point, excruciating headache and my thoughts of whether to throw up or not became sickening and unbearable but I was trying to stay in one piece. Thanks a bunch for the aspirin to Ian I met at the summit! Unfortunately it did not help much but I did not throw up either. Our descent via the Bolam glacier variation was uneventful. We got back to our tents left at the Marine camp, packed up and headed down to the cars.


First day of summer in Cali 2009:



Gear Notes:

Helmet, 12 point crampons, axe


Approach Notes:

12 miles on Military Pass road on the approach to the Northgate trailhead is a nightmare and my car badly needs a wheel alignment

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Nice climbing with you and Justin, but a couple of notes :


- Overnight winds were probably about 20mph, definitely not 60. My BD firstlight didn't shake all that much, but it was guyed out pretty well .. maybe look into staking out that new tent of yours a bit better next time.


- My water didn't freeze overnight - next time: (a) bury your bottles in the snow (it's a good insulator, contains lots of air), (b) those insulated water bottle parkas OR and EMS sell are nice too, and/or © put bottles in the foot of your sleeping bag to keep them warm.


- Sunday the clouds were around 10000' and stayed there, apparently blowing west to east.


- There was no class 3 rock on the route we took, it's class 2 at most.


- We didn't descend the Bolam glacier, but a gully which is a variation of the standard route.


- My first aid kit needs to contain ibuprofen & tylenol, not percocet :) (err, not that it does actually ;) )


This was the fourth time I've been on HBR, and my eleventh time to Shasta's summit.


About two years ago I was in a car accident, broke my neck, and sustained an incomplete spinal cord injury. I'm kind of a gimp now, but this was my third time up Shasta since the accident. I'm glad you enjoyed your first time on the mountain, it's one of my favorite places.


Cheers !

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I would say the rock was class 3 when covered with those sketchy icicles!


The difference between class 2 and class 3 in the Yosemite Decimal System (YDS) is that in class 3 you have to use your hands for upward progress, while for class 2 you are only using your hands for balance -- you could conceivably keep your hands in your pockets.


The presence of a little snow & ice doesn't change the rating. For example, the main trail on Mt. Whitney is class 1 whether or not there is ice and snow.


I remember one spot where you were a little sketched and asked me what I did. I'm not much of a teacher, but I did my best to coach you. There was some low-angled melt/freeze ice near some rocks. You need to keep your crampon points engaged when walking on that stuff. Maybe re-read your copy of Freedom of the Hills about "french technique" or take an alpine ice climbing class (do the Mazamas have something like this ?)


Sometimes on glaciers you may have patches of exposed ice (since that's what a glacier is made of :) ), particularly towards late season as the snow cover burns off. If you are heading up the Emmons route on Rainier in late July I bet you will see patches of exposed ice near the toe of the Inter glacier. It helps to know how to walk on that stuff .. just in case ..


Hope you had a good holiday ! Just got back from Tuolumne Meadows myself .. climbed a bunch of good stuff, but managed to drop my camera down the first pitch of a climb yesterday .. disappeared down a huge moat of a snowbank (probably won't see it again until August).

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