Siskiyou County Highpoint Trip Report
Mount Shasta (14,162 ft)
Date: June 30, 2005
Author: Peter Maurer
This towering peak bested me a year ago so I was bound and determined to reach
the summit this year. However, with late snows and spring-like conditions
leading up to the climb, the attempt was in doubt until just a few days before
the climb. A late storm had dumped 3 feet of fresh snow at the higher
elevations just two weeks earlier and most of the access roads were still under
snow but, with a sudden turn to good weather, our troop of five seasoned hikers
We opted for the Brewer Creek trailhead, following roughly the Hotlum-Wintun
ridge route. Snow blocked the access road at about 7,000 feet so we had to add
an extra mile to base camp. Base camp was at about 8,200 feet, on an island of
ground surrounded by snow.
We arose in the wee hours and were hiking by 5 a.m., with crampons from the get-
go due to the frozen snow conditions. The going was steady and snow conditions
perfect, especially once the sun rose and softened the outer layer up to about
11-12,000 feet. The route is directly up the large bowl to the south of the
ridge separating the Hotlum and Wintun glaciers. We kept to the south side of
that bowl, where there is a lesser ridge or outcrop of rocks leading up to the
steeper part of the mountain.
At about 11,000 feet one of our party who had not planned on summitting pealed
off for a long downhill ski run and we watched him carve perfect telemark turns
for 2000 feet. At about 12,500 feet, the route cuts under a large outcrop of
rock leading a bit to the south and onto the edge of the Wintun glacier.
This is when the going got rough. The pitch increased markedly and the sun began to
warm the snow more, especially where the fresher snow from the previous storm
had not had a chance to fully consolidate yet. We were post-holing much of the time,
sinking in up to our hips while trying to climb as steep a grade as we could.
We had to keep switching back along the edge of the snow pack where the
snow was a little firmer.
After a break at about 13,000 feet, another of the party (who'd climbed the
mountain several times from various routes) decided she'd had enough and set up
a sun shade to rest while the remaining three continued on to the top.
At this point, the sun was beating down in full force, the ridge line sheltered us from
any cooling breeze, and the snow was like a giant reflector oven. We slogged on,
taking turns to break trail when suddenly we popped out 20 yards from the summit.
From there, it was an easy scramble over the summit boulders (even with crampons)
to touch each of the summit rocks (it is unclear which is actually higher)
and to sign in the register. We summitted at 2:30, for a total ascent
time of 9 1/2 hours.
The return trip was a breeze, glissading and sliding down in just 2 1/2 hours.
The upper reaches were a bit treacherous, without any really firm pack in which
to self-arrest but the heaviness of the snow kept us from getting too out of control.
The last long slide was one continuous glide of about 2,500 feet.
All in all it was a great trip, returning to some well-deserved IPA from the
local Mt. Shasta Brewery in the town of Weed.
Total elevation gain 7,200 feet from the trailhead; 6,000 feet from base camp.