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Mount Shasta - the "big one" in Northern California

Published by Alpin_Rise , 24 October 2014, 16h50.

Region: World » United States » California
Date of the hike:30 June 2014
Hiking grading: T5 - Challenging High-level Alpine hike
Mountaineering grading: PD-
Climbing grading: I (UIAA Grading System)
Geo-Tags: USA   US-CA 
Height gain: 2200 m 7216 ft.
Access to start point:Bunny Flat on Everyt Memorial Highway, about 10 miles from Shasta City.
Accommodation:Free drive-in campsites at Bunny Flat Mount Shasta Lodge at Horse Camp or wild Campsites at 50/50 Flat or Lake Helen

There's just one mountain in Northern California. At least one big mountain. The huge volcanic cone of Mt. Shasta can be seen from almost every place between Sacramento and the border to Oregon. Since the Mountain's base is at a mere  1000 m (~3000 ft) any climb on Mt. Shasta is strenous with a huge height gain. The regular route called "Avalanche Gulch" from Bunny Flat on Everyt Memorial Highway climbs 2200m (7300 ft) - a long way to go! For chance the climb itself is pretty straight forward and technically a "no brainer".

The best way to climb this mountain would be a backcountry skiing-trip, there is usally a lot of snow in June even on the south slopes of "Avalanche Gulch". As winter 13/14 was very dry and California didn't get the usual snowpack, there was very little snow on Mt. Shasta, in fact, I didn't use any crampons on my way up and down.
The key point for reaching the top on Mount Shasta seems to be proper acclimatization. Since many summit aspirants try to summit Mt. Shasta on a weekend trip, I strongly recommend to do it after some accclimatization hikes in the Sierras. Despite the lazy days on the "Lost Coast" the days before my trip I hadn't had any altitude issues and I could enjoy the unique "Mt. Shasta experience". 

Quick n' dirty: Daytrip on the Big one

I spent the night before the climb on Bunny Flat, (2100m, 6900 ft), which proviedes some drive-in campsites just below the big parking lot. Since it's a National Forest, wild camping is legal and even free of charge. There aren't any facilities and no drinking water, so stock plenty down in the valley or at the spring at McBride springs.
After doing the paperwork (Wilderness Permit and a 20 dollars summit fee, both self-issued), I ate some dinner, talked to the other summit aspirants and decided to start after them. Most climbers get up around 2 am and start before 3. I decided to get up at 3:30 and start at 4. 

Since I didn't sleep well I kind of overheard my alarm clock and mysteriously woke up at 4.15 - after some literally "fast food"-breakfast I managed to get on the trail some minutes after 4:30. To get back in my schedule I tried to keep up a solid pace and soon after the start I didn't need my headlamp anymore. To my surprise I stumbled upon dollar-bills every then minutes or so... what's happening on that trail in front of me?
Half an hour after my start the nicely situated Shasta Alpine Lodge (Horse Camp 2400 m, 7900 ft)) appeared and I filled my bottle at the spring. By then I had already collected some 15 Dollars in my pocket. I continued on the so-called "Olberman Causeway", a good pathway made of huge boulders. There was some more money on the trail and near 50/50 flat I met the first person which I suspected to be the dollar's owner. He was already pretty exhausted and very happy to get his money back - it obviously fell out of his pocket.

At the most common Campsite near Lake Helen I ran into some campers who had a bad night due to the altitude and didn't try to summit that day. As common in the USA you do some small talk and it was hard not get stuck for a coffee or a second breakfast. After Lake Helen the terrain gets steeper and the route bears to the right avoiding a snow patch called The Heart towards the gullies in the Red Bank. These gullies are the most technical part of the climb, the easiest one is about 40° steep and no problem in good conditions. As I decided not to use crampons, I avoided the snowy couloirs and scrambled up a little to the right in 4th class terrain (T5, I). After, the slope stays steep for another 500 ft and I reach a lot of people pausing in the flat section before Misery Hill. Despite its not really encouraging name that slope is not really steep any more and gives way to a short, easy ridge where I pass some parties that started at 2 am. I expected it to be quite some distance to the summit rocks, but in fact it was just a short walk across a snowfield. After 4 hours of climbing I finally arrived on Mt. Shasta around 8:40. On the last 50m I accidentally took a detour via the south and then east flank in 4th class scrambling. This way I circled the summit - the normal route via the west flank is much easier and faster.

Since the weather was fantastic I enjoyed a fantastic 360° view ;-) It was almost windless, the temperature nicely warm and Mount Shasta in absolute silence - until the first parties arrived and celebrated the summit the American way: lots of cheering, shouting and congratulations ;-) There is even a solid container with a summit log and a funny surprise - go and see yourself!

After spending more than an hour on the summit I descend following the same route. I'm still a little bit to early for smooth snow sliding in the upper part, but around Lake Helen the Snow is soft enough to make the way down fast and convenient (the fast part...). In the lower part I avoid the normal path and take a more direct way, sliding down the volcanic scree (that's the dirty part..;-) and then strolling through pine forest for the last 15 minutes. Around 12.15 I'm back at Bunny Flat.
Time to drink, eat, relax and the drive down for a visit to the interesting Mount Shasta Museum. Afterwards, I enjoy a swimm and a lazy afternoon at Lake Siskiyou.

There's a lot of Information about Mt. Shasta and the Avalanche Gulch Route, including recommendations concearning gear, ascending time and dangers, therefore I won't repeat all of it:
Summit Post

Hike partners: Alpin_Rise


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18 Apr 16
Zweimal - und doch Keinmal · rojosuiza

Comments (2)

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Vauacht says:
Sent 26 October 2014, 02h26
Gratulation zum Mount Shasta!! Ein beeindruckender Vulkan!

Auch die Aufstiegszeit von 4h ist ja echt schnell. Der Rekord ab Bunny Flats liegt bei 2:15, aufgestellt von einem lokalen Bergführer (Andy). Machst Du Trailrunning?

Ich war bereits 2x am Berg. September '13 Versuch über die nördlichen Gletscher...abgebrochen auf 3300m im Sturm. März '14 Versuch ab Bunny Flats mit Schneeschuhen....leider wieder abegbrochen im Sturm bei Lake Helen 3200m. Ich bin wohl in alle Ewigkeiten zu schlechtem Wetter am Shasta verdammt :) Trotzdem versuch ich's im Winter halt nochmals :)

Happy trails!

Bertrand says:
Sent 16 December 2016, 13h39
Beau travail ! Ca donne vraiment envie...

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