Sunday, September 13, 2009

Mount Shasta (14179 ft)

Perhaps the first time I saw Mt. Shasta was on a trip to Lassen Peak in 2006. I hike to the top of Lassen, and through this frame in the crater rim appears Shasta, its big brother.

Another time, when returning from a trip to Crater Lake, Shasta peacefully decorates the horizon.

But less than an hour later, it puts on a fiery sunset show with clouds hiding the summit.

I've since then seen Shasta on the horizon a number of times, including when snowboarding Lassen in April and May this year.

On July 18/19th, Anindo and I finally visit Shasta. We start our hike via the standard Avalanche Gulch route in Bunny Flat at 6900 ft.

After Horse Camp, the trees thin out ...

... and ahead of us is nothing but the volcano. The summit is not visible from here, but the Red Banks appear at the end of Avalanche Gulch. Our objective on the first day is to set up camp at Helen Lake at 10449 ft.

After setting up the tent, Anindo makes the point that we can deal with spam even when traveling on a mighty Cascade Volcano.

A friendly ranger explains us the basics of self-arrest, and I practice it for a bit with my ice axe. The sun sets and I watch the stars from my sleeping bag.

The night is short - we depart very early to travel up Avalanche Gulch. As the sun rises on the other side of the mountain it paints a triangular shadow into the horizon.

We climb using crampons and stay right of the "Heart", a rock field in the upper part of Avalanche Gulch. Then, we take the left chute up Red Banks.

The chute is not as steep as expected but drags on for a while. Of course we feel pretty high upon reaching the end of it.

However, a strange situation lies ahead of us: Misery Hill. This hill is shaped in such a way as to demotivate anybody who dares to climb Mt. Shasta - as we progress, it gradually reveals more distance that we have to cover until we conquer its top.

What's left after Misery Hill is a large snowfield and then the summit proper. I decide to take pictures on the way down, so here we skip to Anindo doing the paperwork at the summit register ...

... and both of us relaxing for a bit.

The view from the top of Shasta is fantastic and well worth whatever minor inconveniences one may endure to get here.

Another view from the top - this is the final approach via the snow field below the summit.

Time to celebrate!

I get to have a second summit shot, together with Mt. Lassen, my old friend.

We hike down from the summit, crossing the big snow field again. To our right is the Whitney Glacier.

And of course, Shastina (12330 ft).

And much further down is Anindo's car. Fortunately, snow coverage extends slightly beyond Lake Helen, so we glissade down a few thousand feet, which is both fun and quick.

What a great mountain. And with fresher snow, it sure has the potential to be an awesome ride.

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