|By Jeffrey Addison
From Anaheim, CA
Apr 3, 2013
|Here's some notes from my Mt. Shasta attempt March 29-30, 2013.
We started at 6:30am at the Bunny Flat trail-head with the intent to ascend Avalanche Gultch. To no suprise, my navigation skills landed us on Green Butte Ridge which we ascended until we reached a point to cross over to Helen Lake. Green Butte Ridge ended up being a really fun alternative with limited exposure to rock and avy slides. However, if you plan on ascending Green Butte and want to cross over to spend the night at Helen Lake, be prepared to lose some ground on the cross over. It took me and my partner almost 7 hours to get to Helen Lake but this was due to my partners altitude sickness. I feel partly responsible for that because this was his first mountaineering trip but I did not expect him to be hurting as bad as he was. Green Butte has no relief from sun exposure so be prepared for that and plan on moving somewhat quickly to get to Helen lake before the sun starts really beating on you.
Luckily my partner just needed some rest and water because he began to feel much better after a few hours of sleep. However, he did not attempt the summit. While at Helen Lake I ran into some fellow climbers who were more that willing to let me shackle up with them for the summit push. We started about 3:00am and got above Red Banks (approx. 13,000') around 7:00am moving very slowly. We climbed through one of the many chutes that cut through the Red Banks along it face. This option was more exposed but definitely a quick way to ascend with some change of climbing as it was steep but easy to climb. Once we began our ascent up Misery Hill, a storm came in which limited visibility to near "white-out" conditions. We decided to descend at about 13,400 ft.
We then glissaded down a different chute while roped up. This portion got a little hairy but we moved very slowly and carefully. Once we reached the upper slopes again we unroped and took off our harnesses for a glissade race back to Helen Lake. I was really hoping for better glissading conditions but this thin layer of crust over the 3-4" of powder made it very difficult to get and maintain speed. We had to just down-climb a few sections of the Gultch. It took us about 30 mins to get from 13,500' to 10,500' so if you're planning on glissading when the snow consolidates a little more plan on the decent to be a bit quicker. We then glissaded down as much of Avalanche Gultch as we could before snowshoeing to the trail-head to have a victory beer (victory = made it back safely).
My plan to to climb this mountain via Avalanche Gultch was to pack light. We didn't bring rope and harness, protection (pickets, pitons, flutes, ect.), wands.
I regret not bringing a 30m length of rope and harnesses because some of the pitches along Green Butte Ridge forced us to move around a couple big rocks. This exposed up to rockfall and wind loaded slabs right above head on the leeward side of the ridge. Having a rope would have made me feel so much better especially with my partners struggling as bad as he was. You may want to consider rope if you plan on ascending one of the Red Bank chutes. However, Shasta locals solo this mountain in 8 hours or less so rope is certainly not required through this route. Definitely bring wands though at least 20 or 30.
I literally decided to climb this mountain a week before climbing it. It is such a beautiful mountain and I can't wait to climb it again. The first day going up to Helen Lake is definitely the hardest I think. The second day is a long ascend to the top of Red Banks but you get to do it in the early early morning so it's nice and cool and relaxing. Once on top of Red Banks, if the weather is good, you're pretty much on the summit plateau and the rest of the ascent become more forgiving and more enjoyable.
I put together this cheese-ball video from some of my go-pro footage during our trip. Don't judge my climbing skills, I'm a novice mountaineer and climber so I have much to learn. I also spelled Shasta wrong in the opening credits, you can judge me on that haha. Stay safe and climb on!