On descent from the summit of Mount Shasta
... approaching the top of the western slope

 

Climbing Mount Shasta 2009


Mount Shasta catches many by surprise with its very presence.  Just off the road between the northern Californian towns of Weed and Shasta City, the 14,180’ volcano dominates the surrounding countryside.  We, Peter and Mal, arrived on June 17th and camped at Bunny Flat at 6,800’, planning to climb by the West Face route.

The next morning, we started the walk in; heavy packs and plastic boots were an uncomfortable change from the lightweight gear we prefer using nowdays.  It took an hour to Horse Camp where the trail separates. Most aspirants head from there to the closer more common route of Avalanche Gulch directly ahead.  We kept going west, crossing Casaval Ridge low down before emerging at the tree line of Hidden Valley at about 9,500’.  The West Face route lay ahead, with clean snow all the way to a saddle at just over 13,000’.  The summit was out of sight and would stay hidden behind the saddle till we got to that point. Yet another false summit.

 

  • Our car-camp at Bunny Flat Our car-camp at Bunny Flat
  • Our car-camp at Bunny Flat Our car-camp at Bunny Flat
  • Mal setting off from Bunny Flat ... Shasta in the background Mal setting off from Bunny Flat ... Shasta in the background
  • The usual crowd at Horse Camp ... all planning to climb the Yak route The usual crowd at Horse Camp ... all planning to climb the Yak route
  • The Yak route ... Avalanche Gulch, used by 95% of Shasta climbers The Yak route ... Avalanche Gulch, used by 95% of Shasta climbers
  • Shasta as seen from Shasta City ... Our route on the wesern face is to the left Shasta as seen from Shasta City ... Our route on the wesern face is to the left
  • Casaval Ridge seen from our western traverse to Hidden Valley Casaval Ridge seen from our western traverse to Hidden Valley
  • On the last section of trail before reaching Hidden Valley On the last section of trail before reaching Hidden Valley
  • Mal arriving at Hidden Valley Mal arriving at Hidden Valley
  • Mal and Peter on the slopes above Hidden Valley ... our summit route behind us Mal and Peter on the slopes above Hidden Valley ... our summit route behind us
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Hidden Valley was too low to camp, leaving 5,000’ of ascent for the next day.  Too much for a couple of old dogs.  Peter had camped higher on an earlier ascent so we moved ahead, aiming for a rocky safe ledge some 1,000’ further up the mountain.

When we arrived, tired after cramponing up steepening snow, it took a couple of hours to cut and level a tent site, build a rock wind-wall and sort out water collection from melting snow.  This West Face Hilton site remains for future tenants to enjoy, if they can find it.  Weather for next day looked good as we settled down for some well earned sleep.

We started climbing above the camp at first light, on hard frozen snow; negotiated a steep access to the 2,000’ slope of the West Face and climbed steadily to the saddle from where we sighted the summit 1,200’ above.  Two hours later we stood on the top, having an interesting chat with two other climbers who’d come up Avalanche Gulch and who proceeded to ski from the summit down the eastern slopes of the mountain in a spectacular departure.  They spoke of at least thirty other climbers who’d turned back because of weather on the Avalanche Gulch route.  We’d earlier ignored the light flurries of snow that came our way.  As a result, we almost had the mountain to ourselves.

 

  • Our tent at 10,200' ... perched on the only flat dry spot at this elevation Our tent at 10,200' ... perched on the only flat dry spot at this elevation
  • The steep traverse above our campsite ... our access to the western slope The steep traverse above our campsite ... our access to the western slope
  • Mal resting in the early morning before tackling the big western slope Mal resting in the early morning before tackling the big western slope
  • Peter, getting there, on the long steep western slope Peter, getting there, on the long steep western slope
  • Mal at the top of the western slope (13,000') ... Shasta summit behind Mal at the top of the western slope (13,000') ... Shasta summit behind
  • Peter at the top of the western slope (13,000') ... Shasta summit behind Peter at the top of the western slope (13,000') ... Shasta summit behind
  • Mal on the very highest point of the summit Mal on the very highest point of the summit
  • Peter and Mal on Shasta summit Peter and Mal on Shasta summit
  • Friends in high places ... two skiers from Lake Tahoe on the summit ridge Friends in high places ... two skiers from Lake Tahoe on the summit ridge
  • Peter on the descent from the summit ... approaching the top of the western slope Peter on the descent from the summit ... approaching the top of the western slope
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At 3 pm, we began the descent from the summit, through what had become soft snow.  There was some dodgy steep mixed ground lower down that we carefully threaded through as we left the West Face to reach our tent after nearly 12 hours hard, but great climbing. 

Following a restless sub zero night, we waited for the morning sun to warm us before completing the descent next morning; Mal with the snuffling beginning of pollen allergy that Peter soon caught as well.  The clue to this was our vehicle appeared to have been dusted for fingerprints when we arrived back at Bunny Flat … such was the extent of yellow fir tree pollen covering it.

Climbing the big snow mountains is getting harder; perhaps there’s not many left in the Dudes from Downunder, as age takes its toll?  Then again, as time passes and the memory of pain softens, who knows?

 

©Mal Hill - Alstonville NSW 2009

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