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 ventured forth.

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.