Mt. Shasta is an active volcano that is taller than everything around it. Almost all of the other fourteeners in California live within a 90 mile radius of Bishop, California, a 7 hour drive to the south. The volcano hasn’t erupted in 200 years, but one never knows when this will change.
The whole idea for the trip originated from a trip Ben and I took the year before out in Tahoe. We wanted to climb something taller and harder as Tahoe and only taken us to a balmy 9800’. Ben had also taken a trip with a few other interns weeks before to Mount Whitney, so we were armed with a pretty solid crew to climb.
We drove up on the 17th and camped at the Bunny Flat trail head. In the morning we drove down to the town of Shasta and picked up crampons and ice picks. Packing our bags, we got on the trail late at around 11. We hiked up the Bunny Flat trail to the Sierra club hut where we had lunch. Then it was a gentle trudge up through volcanic rock to our sleeping point of Helen Lake. Helen lake is actually very rarely a lake, and for us it was a heaping pile of snow. But the snow was fresh and drinkable. Getting to sleep around 9 o’clock, we rested up for the hike the next day.
Waking up at 3:30 am, we started our ascent through Avalanche gulch, a 2000’ snow field. The snow field was by far the hardest part of the trip. It was like climbing the Empire State building, except the stairs were made out of snow and if you slipped you had to drive your ice pick in the mountain to stop you. From Avalanche Gulch, we then ascended through a chute of the red banks. As we climbed the sun slowly started to come up. A few members of the group had enough gas to push to the top of the red banks and watch the sun rise, but for the rest of us, we hung back and enjoyed the awesome view of what we had just done.
At the top of red banks we took our crampons off and walked up Misery hill. Though appropriately named, it wasn’t nearly as bad as the trek required through Avalanche gulch. The only problem is just being too tired to make it up. We worked our way across the top of Shasta to make it to the summit where it was a quick scramble to the top.
The views from the top were amazing. You could even see our car parked down in the parking lot. And as usual, you had fantastic cell phone reception. It helps being on the tippy top of anything to get reception. From the top, it was an easy walk back down except for Avalanche Gulch. Here we glacaded down like we were Olympic Lugers. Except, the only way to stop was with an ice axe and your sled was your butt. We all had sore butts by the time we hit Helen Lake again. Hitting the car around 5, we drove back down through Shasta, dropped off our crampons and headed home.
Shasta was my first trip to 14,000’, but I know it surely won’t be my last. Check out the Pictures .
Our crew at the top of red banks