Almost exactly one year after our Tampons and Crampons climb, several of us reunited for another go at the mountain. This time I brought skis… and an expired disposable camera.
Saturday, May 11th
With Tim flying in from New Jersey and landing in San Francisco this morning, Mikey driving up from Los Angeles, and me at a Napa County Search and Rescue training, we were forced to get a late start on the road. We all rallied at my place in Napa, sorted out a few gear issues, and packed the cars. Tim and myself in his rental can and Mikey in his SUV. After an Impossible Burger and beer at Gott’s Roadside, we started off on the adventure. Arriving in Mt Shasta late in the evening, we drove up the mountain a few miles and pulled off into a secluded area to camp for the night.
Sunday, May 12th
We crawled out of our sleeping bags after the sun was already shining and took our time packing up. The plan was to drive back into town to stop at Yak’s for breakfast and coffee, then The Fifth Season, when it opens, to pick up a few rental items and last minute essentials. As expected, we got sucked into spending way too much time looking at gear in the shop and got a late start on the mountain.
We left Bunny Flat Trailhead around 1 pm and started skinning and hiking in the midday heat.
Having never climbed the West Face Route before, we weren’t exactly sure where the trail was supposed to be. After following the Avalanche Gulch route up for a while we cut left past the Horse Camp and began the upward traverse around the bottom of Casaval Ridge and over to the West side of the mountain, toward Hidden Valley, where we were going to establish basecamp.
After about 4 hours, we made it to Hidden Valley with our heavy packs. Just in time to pick out a place to set the tent and cook some dinner before calling it a night.
Monday, May 13th
Going into this trip we wanted to climb and ski Mt Shasta and hopefully Shastina as well. Because all of us were coming from sea level, we were going back and forth about whether it would be better to do the shorter Shastina first, to acclimatize, and then tackle Mt Shasta. Of course, other factors like weather and our fitness that we were making the decision a little harder for us. Sunday night before going to bed we finally decided to do Shasta first because Monday looked like slightly better weather and we wanted to attempt it with fresh legs.
Monday morning we woke up at 5:00 am, ate breakfast, and started up the mountain an hour later. Climbing was smooth and straight forward. We took our time moving to give ourselves the best chance against the altitude and hopefully let the snow soften up enough for a good ski descent. Some baseball to volleyball sized chunks of ice and snow began to fall down towards us when we reached the upper slopes of the West Face, so we stuck to the right as far as possible to stay out of their direct path. Other than that, climbing conditions and the weather were great.
By the time we were at the bottom of Misery Hill, we were all feeling the altitude and our pace was getting pretty slow. We were still on schedule to make the summit before our turnaround time and everything else was working for us, so we just kept plugging along. During the rest of the climb above this point, I felt like I was going to vomit.
I don’t remember exactly what time we made the summit, but it was probably around noon. It had been slightly overcast and calm all day, which made for nice climbing. Conditions were much worse on the summit. The skies were getting darker and winds were really picking up. At one point I had to get on all fours and crawl to not get blown off the mountain while making my way across the narrow pathway to the actual summit rocks. We took a couple of quick photos and got off the top as fast as possible.
The snow up on the summit plateau and misery hill was too icy for my liking and I was still was feeling like throwing up, so I decided to hike down with Mikey while Tim stepped into his bindings for a rough ride.
On the top of the West Face, after waiting for at least an hour for the sun to soften the snow and for my nausea to subside, I was finally able to put on my skis and have some fun. Skiing down the West Face to the basecamp at Hidden Valley was the best ski run of my life!! Admittedly, as a new skier, I haven’t had a lot to compare it to, but I’m sure it will stick in the top 5 for quite a while. Worth every step up that mountain.
Tuesday, May 14th
With battered legs and a high-altitude hangover, the three of us decided to sleep in the next morning. Shastina was a shorter objective and we didn’t feel the need for an alpine start.
After crawling out of the tent around 9:00 am, we could immediately see that we made the right decision about climbing Mt Shasta first. Visibility was very poor and we couldn’t see either Mt Shasta or Shastina from camp. While eating breakfast, a guided team walked past us headed down the mountain. They reported turning around due to whiteout conditions.
We packed daypacks and headed towards Shastina on crampons with little to no expectations of actually getting to the top. At worst, it would be a fun exploratory hike around a new part of the mountain and we would get a little practice navigating in low visibility conditions. If we were lucky, we might actually get to the top of another pear.
The visibility was not too bad until we got up to around 10,500 ft. After that, we started placing wands and choosing our moves carefully. We were probably another 1000 ft higher, around 11,500 ft on the south face of Shastina, when we finally decided to call it a day. Visibility was fluctuating between 20-100 ft and it was getting very tedious trying to place and track wands and follow a straight line up the mountain. We will have to return to climb this one another day.
Back at camp, we broke down the tent and loaded our packs. We were on the move by early afternoon. The ski back from basecamp to the Bunny Flat Trailhead was fun but snow at the lower elevations was getting thick and heavy. We arrived at the car around 4:00 pm, changed clothes and packed the cars, then drove down to The Fifth Season to return the rental items before they closed.
Since we were all beat and it was supposed to rain hard that night, we decided to get food and a room the Best Western hotel in town.