Saturday, 11 June 2016

Mount Shasta

Cold, windy, zero visibility. This summarizes conditions at the high point of our climb on Mount Shasta.

We started out late Thursday afternoon and hiked into Horse Camp, about an hour from the trailhead at Bunny Flats. Even just the drive gives you a lot of elevation gain. Getting to Horse Camp put us at 7900 ft. (The summit is 14,161 ft.) The Sierra Club operates a small hut here, collects registrations for camping, maintains the composting toilets and ensures overall protection and responsible use of the area.
The Sierra Club hut at Horse Camp.
Camping at Horse Camp.
SPOT vs InReach. So far, the InReach is winning.
While shopping for food supplies, we couldn't resist getting a couple cans of this wine.
It was more like "Ridiculously okay wine in a can" but . . .   :-) 
We woke up at 2 am and were on the hike upwards by 2:45. There was no moonlight so luckily we had lots of tracks to follow in the light projected by our headlamps. We were just hoping we were following upward tracks which would take the most logical route as opposed to the downward tracks that seemed to go everywhere!
Warmed up and stowing outer layer.
After two hours over fairly steep terrain, we got to Lake Helen (which is not a lake at this time of year). The guidebook suggests that most groups camp and start from here to give them a head start on their summit attempt. But carrying heavier packs up to there didn't appeal to us and there were a few groups that hadn't even started yet when we passed by. 

It was just getting light and we put away our headlamps and put our crampons on for the even steeper, harder and icier terrain ahead. 
Looking back at the Lake Helen camping area.
The higher we got, the windier it was and visibility continued to decrease. Quite a few people were heading down and telling us it was even worse up higher where they'd backed down from. 

There was a guided group ahead of us and we figured if we could keep them in sight we wouldn't have to be too concerned with route finding. We soon caught up to them (they looked miserable!) and at this point, we decided to turn back. It was exactly 7 am and we were at 12,200 ft, just below the Red Banks ridge and we knew it would even windier at that point. (The guided group soon turned back as well.) 
The guided group just ahead of us. We turned back at this point.
The outline of another person heading down is barely visible at the top right. 
At our highpoint. Great background!
We covered over 4,000 ft of steep elevation gain in just over 4 hours which, considering we hadn't really trained at all for this climb, we were pretty happy with. It took 2 1/2 hours to get back down to Horse Camp which, in our younger days, would have been quicker but, for both Andrew and I, the old knees just ain't what they used to be! 
Heading down, still in whiteout conditions.
Starting to get a bit more visibility as we got closer to Lake Helen.
Sort of looked like rain off in the distance.
Frustratingly, a couple hours later, the skies cleared! Although whether or not the wind had diminished was questionable as the remaining clouds were moving very fast.
Almost back at Horse Camp, looking up towards the now clear mountain (summit is not visible from here).
Great views on the way down.
At Horse Camp, we packed up camp and hiked out to the car. We were back in town just in time for lunch.
From Horse Camp, looking up towards the summit.
After an afternoon nap and 11 solid hours of sleep overnight, my legs are still a bit sore but overall feeling pretty good. Planning for a relaxing day today with a short hike to get moving again. 

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