We make a point to always spend our anniversary together (and have only missed 1 of 17) and things were not looking good for this year. The work stars aligned and Emily and I were both scheduled to be in Sacramento for work over our anniversary. We were able to spend an amazing anniversary night with an amazing meal at Mulvaney’s in Sacrament.
There is no such thing as bad snow, just bad skiers.
That can be in important ski mantra when spring skiing. When Eric and I skied Mt Adams and Mt Rainier a few years ago, we had absolutely horrible snow conditions, but still great skiing. Since Emily and I were both in Sacramento, I was able to convince her into spending a spring weekend skiing instead of running. She had never skied a 14-er.
The weather wasn’t great so we decided to play the weekend by ear and just see what happens.
We decided to work until 1 on Friday, then ski west facing corn off of Shastina, just ski anything possible on Saturday based on a very bad forecast, and then climb as high as possible on Sunday turning around either at the summit or when the wind was too strong to ascend any longer.
We had a Cadillac SRS rental car and quite possibly made the first drive into Diller Canyon with a Cadillac. The narrow rocky road didn’t do much for the new rental car’s pain job leaving it very scratched up and the horrible tires got us stuck a couple times. We eventually parked it and walked to snow line (we could have only went another 1/3 mile before the road was blocked by downed trees so we didn’t do too bad). We had a super fun dusk patrol on Friday with a 1.3 mile and 1,100′ walk up the road to snow line, then 5,000′ of climbing to just below the summit of Shastina (12,330).
The climbing eventually got hard so we switched to booting for the very deceiving ‘short section’ of 1500′. Kicking in this booter myself proved to be exhausting. The temperatures were warm, but the wind was merciless. It was blowing hard at 35-40mph with gusts hitting us hard and pelting us with ice crystals.
We reached the ridge just a couple hundred feet below the summit of Shastina and I was blown off my feet twice by the wind gusts. This was our sign that it was time to turn around and enjoy a 6,000′ descent of great late afternoon corn.
A wonderful Indian dinner in Mt Shasta, a few beers, and we called it a great day.
Since Saturday’s forecast was so bad, we decided to climb Casaval Ridge or West Face Gulley until the weather turned us around. This ended up being only about 4,000′ before the lightening was on top of us, visibility was nil, and it was snowing hard. We retreated for a short day with great corn due to the green-housing.
We used Saturday afternoon to catch up on work and make plans for a potential summit bid on Sunday. We figured round trip on the summit would only take 6 hours so we set the alarm for 4:30 and got packed up, checked out of the hotel and were at the trailhead by 6.
There was no one else at the trailhead, but there were fresh footprints on the snow so at least a couple other groups had left early in the morning. We were skinning by 6:15 “enjoying” skinning through the frozen sun cups.
Once at Helen Lake, we could see dozens of people making their way up Avalanche Gulch. We made great time up Avalanche Gulch and into Left of Heart and were on track to summit in 5 hours.
When we got into well into Left of Heart, the going got slow with a combination of very high winds, hard trail breaking, ice, and a steep slope. Added to that, we were well above 12,000′ and Emily was feeling the effects of elevation and going hard for 3 hours. We continued on, not sure what to expect at the top of Left of Heart. We were planning for super high winds, but it was no worse than what we had been in so we continued up Misery.
The dozens of people climbing up Avalanche Gulch were all in various degrees of climbing and retreating off Misery. It made us happy to have taken the alternative route even though it was harder and slower. We continued up Misery and on towards the summit moving quite slowly from Emily feeling the elevation. We ended up summiting in about 6.5 hours. Since Emily was not feeling great, she walked off the summit for the first 400′. I chose a narrow, steep icy couloir off the summit, pulled skins and dropped in for a tooth rattling icy, sastrugi decent.
Summit of Mt Shasta
We suffered down the sastrugi until the top of Left of Heart where we were treated to powder (and some wind board).
The powder led to corn, which led to zero visibility cloud cover which eventually opened up allowing us to enjoy the fast corn to the trailhead.
The trailhead was sunny, warm, and busy. Our Voile WSP/WSG skis drew lots of interesting looks and questions. We enjoyed the obligatory post summit beer, dumped lots of wet and smelly gear in the car and hit the road back to Sacramento. Within1.5 hours of being on the summit in Arctic conditions (well below zero wind chills), the car thermometer was reading 87F.
There are dozens of amazing routes on Mt Shasta and I can’t wait to return to ski the North and East sides.