Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Mt. Shasta Summit Climb

Wow, what an awesome trip!

Wednesday- Drove up from LA (9 hrs) and camped at McBride Campground off Everett Hwy.

Thursday- Met our guides (Kirah and Logan) and rest of our group (Tim, Pat, Matt, Darin, Evan, and Steve) at the 5th season store. We did a gear check there and then caravaned over to the North Gate Trail head which was an hour away. Around 1pm we hiked from the North Gate Trail Head (6900ft) to our base camp at 9800 feet. It was a good 5 hr hike in with heavy packs. I don't think I have ever carried such a heavy pack before. I think mine was close to 50 pounds. When we got to base camp we set up our tents and ate burritos prepared by Logan and Kirah. Throughout the trip our guides provided dinner and breakfast...good stuff. Around 8 we finished dinner and watched the sunset. I was able to shoot a little with my SLR. The only shot I really liked is the one at the top of this blog entry.

Friday- was a mellow day. We woke up late (7 ish) had some bagels and ham and packed up our gear to do some training on the near by snow field. The snow was "punchy" so we didn't get a good feel for our crampons. We put them on for a minute or so but then took them off, so my first real use of crampons was on the summit climb Friday. After taking off the crampons, Logan showed us the cross over step which is a crucial climbing technique with crampons on. He also went over the duck step and one more I forget the name of. After the climbing techniques we busted out the the ice axes and Kirah showed us how to self arrest. We practice many different scenarios in which we needed to self arrest. The last part of training that day was setting anchors, ropes and knots for belaying and rappelling. Cary and I set snow anchors by burying my ice axe in the snow. It was quite remarkable what could be buried as a snow anchor, a water bottle, snickers bar, even a carabeaner worked! After training we headed back to camp around 3. That evening we ate an early dinner around 4:30 because we had to get up at 1:30 am for our summit bid the next day. Logan and Kirah prepared smoked cheese and broccoli soup and mac and cheese with basil. After dinner we packed our bags for the summit bid and went to bed( no one really slept that night, mostly just lying down resting).

Saturday-At 1:30 am we got out of our tents and got ready for the climb. We had tea and oatmeal and discussed the plan for the climb. At 2:30 we took off and climbed up the Hotlum/Bolum ridge. At 4:45 we reached the first snow bank where we had to put on crampons. I was a little nervous but after about 5 minutes and one traverse I felt comfortable. I used the crossover step technique we learned the previous day. That helped alleviate the strain of crampons on my legs. We used crampons and ice axes for the next 3.5 hours. The last couple of hours consisted of scrambling up scree and also 3rd class rock scramble. At around 10:30 we summitted at the north summit and then walked over to the south summit which is the highest summit. We only stayed long enough to take pictures, sign the register and eat a cliff bar(about 15 minutes). Coming down we didn't need crampons. The weather was nice and warm and started making the snow mushy. I led my group (Caren, Pat, and Kirah) down the snow slopes. On the way down we post holed up to our mid thighs. We got plenty of chances to self arrest (nothing serious since we were roped together) that made for good experience. Kirah had to go on "operation water bottle" when a water bottle fell down the snow bank. Once we got back to the ridge we walked a little ways until we hit a snow patch where we glissaded down to our camp site. I eventually got back to our base camp around 2:30. I was tired but completely stoked on climbing the mountain with my team. That afternoon we all chilled and shared stories. For dinner we had the "Thanksgiving feast" which consisted of mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, stuffing, tofu, butter, and herbs. I mushed it all together in my cup and scarfed it down. It was an early night for us that night. After dinner we talked about poo stories (don't ask!) and the hilarious pee funnel story Kirah told from her climb on Denali....."I've seen stranger things in my sleeping bag!"

Sunday- We packed up our gear, ate pancakes and practiced "climber heist" knots. Logan set up a rope and we got our harnesses on and practiced a technique of climbing out of a crevasse on a fix rope. We tied 2 climber heists with our cordeletts(shorts ropes) and climbed up the rope. Around 10:30 we headed back to the North Gate trail head. We got back around 12:30. From there we drove back to the town of Shasta, returned gear and went out to a tavern to eat lunch and have a few beers. The first beer was free to the people who summitted...pretty cool! Later on Cary and I went to A-1 Choice Inn motel and checked in and quickly jumped in the pool. Damn that felt good! Later on that night we caught a movie and went out for pizza.

Monday- We got up at 5:30 checked out of the motel and hit up Seven Suns Cafe. This was the local cafe place in Shasta. It has very good grub and great ice tea. Then we headed back on our 9 hour drive back to Los Angeles.

Reflection- It is hard to put a value on a trip/climb like this one. It is very interesting bonding with strangers coming together to climb a mountain for different reasons. Needless to say I had a great time. I was very fortunate to be in good health and have a great climbing team of Caren, Tim and Kirah. I also value conversations around base camp watching the sunset and drinking beer with the group reminiscing about our adventure. Climbing to the summit was great but that was only part of the fun and thrilling adventure I had on this trip. My goal of climbing the 15 14,000ft peaks in California is very much alive. I really want to pursue alpine climbing. Using crampons and an ice axe was spectacular and I look forward to using these skills I have just learned (with much more experience needed) to continue climbing peaks in the snow.

As for now my next major climb is Mt. Langley (another 14er) next month. This, however, doesn't involve alpine climbing but I still look forward to climbing a peak with sierra club members I don't know yet but will form the odd, but special bond of climbing a peak together.

Good times!

Trip Notes:
  • Trailhead: 6900 feet
  • Base Camp: 9800 feet
  • Summit: 14,100 feet
  • Summit climb from base camp: 8hrs up / 4 hrs down
  • Blister count after climb: 4 on feet and 2 on hands
  • Guide service: Shasta Mountain Guides


Holly said...

Amazing!! Kudos on your climb, Big T. Can't wait to see all the pix. xoxoox

Katie D said...

thanks for sharing your thoughts Todd and congrats on a great climb? Up for doing Denali, maybe when I get back!? =)

Jayne Doe said...

way to go! i am proud of you!