Siskiyou County Highpoint Trip Report

Mount Shasta (14,162 feet)

Dates: June 30 to July 2, 1994
Author: Adam Helman

Way back in 1994 Edward Earl and myself were on a "Northwest Trip" to bag state highpoints. Mt Shasta, with its awesome beauty and grandeur struck us as a peak of such notoriety that we simply had to include it in our itinerary.

Please refer to any of multiple standard references for information regarding both Mt Shasta in general, and of climbing it in particular, e.g.

The Mt.Shasta Book, Andy Selters and Michael Zanger, Wilderness Press, Berkeley, Calif (1989).
ISBN number 0-89997-101-6

Mt Shasta, and indeed, a snow and ice ascent of any Cascadian volcano, is safest during the early summer months since the igneous rock is very prone to producing rock fall in the later season when route conditions get warmer still.

We selected the standard and popular Avalanche Gulch route, beginning at a car park at roughly the 7,000 foot level on the approach road (Everitt Memorial Highway) at around 7:30 AM the 30th of June.

We passed the cabin at some 7,800 feet and, after a few hours more, reached our proposed camp for the night at Helen Lake (10,400 feet). Many climbers use this as their "high camp", starting out very early the following morning so as to minimize the threat of rock fall from the Red Banks on their descent by light of day. Helen Lake is really just a bench in the snowfield.

We arose well before dawn and, with ice axes and crampons in constant use, ascended the 2,500 vertical feet of ever-steepening snowslope towards the famed Red Banks. We rested there briefly before resuming our climb as a slog up Misery Hill under essentially perfect snow conditions. We enjoyed spectacular views of the surrounding slopes, including the Konwakiton and Whitney glaciers.

Shastina appeared beneath us as we rounded over the top of Misery Hill and attained the summit plateau. The hard snow beneath us went "crunch-crunch-crunch" and was sculped into fascinating shapes by the wind. As we approached the summit pinnacles it became evident that the most southeasterly of them was the true highest point of the mountain.

I sang the ditty "Shasta - it hasta be Shasta - Shasta draft root beer!" as we reached the very tippy top at 7:37 AM on July 1. Thereby we had ascended some 7 thousand vertical feet within 24 hours. I was absolutely elated (and hence sang a tune) because this had already been my third attempt - the first two having ended in failure for reasons that are perhaps the subjects of other reports.

The summit view was spellbinding. I had the perception that it was as if we were looking down from a jet airplane! With a prominence of some 9,800 feet this should not surprise. Edward photographed me holding an overinflated plastic wrapper containing a white chocolate - studded chocolate brownie to demonstrate the effect of being above some 42% of the atmosphere.

The descent to our camp was uneventful but was followed the next morning by a somewhat harrowing descent to the carpark owing to ice enroute with Edward having stored his crampons upon leaving camp. As I gleefully (and cautiously) passed him, he learned a valuable lesson in technique on this, one of the very first snow and ice ascents of his climbing career.

After driving more than an hour towards Boundary Peak (the Nevada state highpoint), I noted that my ice axe was missing. My hypothesis is that I left it on the pavement upon return to the car. As Boundary Peak is a desert climb the axe was no longer needed. Small price to pay, I figure, for the opportunity to stand atop the famous national landmark of Mount Shasta!