Siskiyou County Highpoint Trip Report

Mount Shasta

Date: July 21, 2007
Author: Scott Peavy

Joined a 3-day guided climb with 7 other climbers on the Hotlum-Bolam Ridge route with Shasta Mountain Guides (SMG). The original route was via the Avalanche Gulch but, due to low snowpack conditions, the route was changed to the north side. According to several guides, the last guided Avalanche Gulch climb experienced a "VW van" sized rock come down off the Red Banks and pass between groups of climbers.

Two days before our climb, several inches of snow fell high up on Shasta giving it more of a spring appearance. Our climb started from the Northgate trail head at 6930 feet. We traveled about 3.5 miles on both an established trail and a climbers trail to base camp at about 9,950 feet. We closed out the first day with glacier climbing school.

The next morning we awoke at 3:30 am and hit the snow at 4:45 am. We started out on the lower snowfields un-roped. Following our first break at about 11,200 feet, we roped up and began steeper travel skirting both the Hotlum and Bolam Glaciers. The route alternated between snow gullies and steep sections of loose rock. Arriving at the "rabbit ears" at 13,660 feet, the climb moderates and we un-roped and ditched our crampons for the remainder of the climb. Soon the distinctive sulfur smell takes hold as you reach the summit plateau.

The final climb to the summit pinnacle takes you by many small fumaroles. The summit was windy, had a light dusting of snow, lots of rime ice and, surprisingly, a couple of butterflies. The view was absolutely spectacular. Couldn't ask for a clearer day.

After spending only 15 minutes on top (I was slightly nauseous), we descended back to camp arriving at 6:50 pm to complete a long 14 hour day. It was tough getting those crampons to bite for the final two hours. The next morning was spent closing camp and descending to the trailhead. After getting back into town, most of our group including our three guides met for lunch at Billy Goats Tavern (patio table recommended).

What I learned: 1) Two liters of water (SMG recommendation) was not enough. I was into my 2nd liter well before the summit. I arrived back at base camp with my throat swelling shut. 2) I needed to eat more during the climb. 3) Although my rented double plastic boots fit my feet well, my shins took a beating.

All in all it was a great introduction to mountaineering, an unforgettable climb and I would fully recommend SMG's guide services.