Siskiyou County High Point Trip Report

Mount Shasta

Date: June 11, 2002
Author: Jim Sommerville

We arrived in Mt. Shasta City two days ahead of schedule to acclimate and sight see, did some nice hikes in Castle Crags and Black Butte, the cinder cone west of Shasta. The weather turned from perfect on Thursday to terrible on Friday with winds of 50 to 60 mph at Helen Lake, at 10,400 feet. Many tents were damaged and one was blown off with its occupant still inside. Winds continued Saturday and Sunday with snow showers each day. No one was summiting!

With improving weather forecast we left Monday morning from the parking lot at Bunny Flat at 10:30 a.m. Hiked to Horse Camp on a good trail with minimal snow. Had a short rest and continued to Helen Lake on soft snow. This is a pretty tough hike, about 2600 feet in less than 2 miles with a full pack. Although we had reports from climbers coming down that wind was still gusting to 25 mph we arrived at Helen Lake to perfect conditions, 60 degrees and no wind.

We set up camp and watched the partial eclipse of the sun; it was a perfect afternoon and evening. Our group of 5 people had to melt snow almost continuously to meet our water needs, make sure you take extra fuel! We awoke at 3:45 a.m. and had breakfast and coffee and headed out at 4:50 a.m. Weather conditions were perfect, at 28 degrees and no wind. It took us about two hours to the top of red banks, 12,800 feet. This is the steepest part of the climb, about 35 degrees, glad I took that Mountaineering course! The sun rising cast the shadow of Shasta over Mount Eddy and the mountains to the West, what an incredible sight! Up Misery Hill and on to the summit plateau. The summit plateau is really a different world with views of the Whitney Glacier, Shastina and the summit itself. It is not hard to imagine yourself in Alaska or some other far away mountain range. Arrived at the summit about 9:20 a.m., weather was perfect, about 45 degrees and just a slight breeze. What a difference a day makes. We could see Lassen Peak, Brokeoff Mountain, Snow Mountain, Black Butte, Anthony Peak, and the Sutter Buttes. What a day! All the people from camp summited as well as some climbers taking different routes. We saw about 25 very happy people in our 1-1/2 hour stay on top. Hiked back to the bottom of Red Banks and glissaded back to camp, this saved about 45 minutes of walking.

Packed up camp and glissaded and hiked to the parking lot, arriving at 4:30 p.m. This hike was so different from our other hiking and highpointing experiences, our first snow camping, our first all snow climb. Wow, were already planning a trip next year.

Some thoughts for people attempting Mt. Shasta for the first time. Take a basic mountaineering course. We took a one day course at Shasta in April (Shasta Mountain Guides), and learned proper self arrest techniques, use of crampons, pressure breathing, rest step, glissading and a lot more. Not only was this course fun it will make your trip more enjoyable as well as a lot safer.

Arrive a little early to acclimate. There is a lot of beautiful county to see and spending a couple of days at altitude will help you avoid mountain sickness, our late arriving friend had a pretty good case.

Be flexible. This is a big mountain and conditions can change very quickly. Make sure you come prepared for any weather and give yourself extra time.

Good web site for information on Shasta weather and climbing conditions