Shasta, one mo' time

random trip report
I went w/ Michelle and 2 friends to Shasta. My only preparation was two mountain bike rides. My pack was not especially heavy (40 lbs) but when I put it on I felt weak and unstable. We got a late start (2 PM) and plodded slowly up the dirt trail to Horse Camp. It was overcast and there was sporadic distant thunder, but it never rained.

My boots (cheap Raichle mountaineering boots) were oddly uncomfortable, with discomfort at the front of R ankle and at both heels. The latter turned out to be mostly because my hiking socks were worn threadbare at the heels. My backup pair was only slightly better.

Above Horse Camp, the dirt trail continued a ways but there was snow in the gullies. We decided to stay in the snow. It got pretty steep, and I was slipping a little. My body was getting real tired by this point. We stopped for water, and I put on my crampons, but this didn't rejuvenate me.

We ran into a ranger who cautioned us that it was getting late and we should consider options other than Helen Lake. Sure enough, by the time we reached 50/50 flats it was almost 5, and I was dog-ass tired. It was maybe a half mile and 500 vertical feet to Helen Lake, but my body was emphatically unwilling to continue. So we pitched camp, and I climbed inside my sleeping bag and just lay there, feeling like I was recovering from a major trauma of some sort.

The next morning we got another late start (5 AM). There no moon, but it was extremely clear and the starlight illuminated the slopes above us, which also sparkled with the headlamps of a few dozen climbers.

Without my heavy pack, and with the traction of cold crunchy snow, and with some moleskin on my heels, I felt considerably better, made good time up to Helen Lake, and chatted with a skier who was going up to the summit. M. caught up after a while, and we continued up Avalanche Gulch. There were lots of other climbers; we seemed to be the very last ones. M.'s friends went on ahead.

I climbed all the way up to Red Banks (~13,000') in one stretch, but gradually slowing down the entire way. By the end I was breathing fast and stepping very slowly - much slower than the other times I've climbed Shasta. I felt like a weary old man.

I sat on the rocks for a while, waiting for M. to catch up. I put in contact lenses, put on sunscreen, ate some stuff, and relaxed. M. arrived and we rested another 10 min, then went up the middle chute.

We kept going a few hundred more yards, to the level area near the base of Misery Hill. We chatted with a guy who said it was another 1.5 hours to the summit; probably an overestimate, but nonetheless when we looked at the time (11:15 AM) and thought about getting back to the car by 4 PM, we realized we needed to turn around. This decision was made easy by the fact that we were both exhausted and not at all sure of our ability to make it up Misery Hill.

I glissaded down to Red Banks. M. wasn't confident about glissading and decided to walk. I cramponed down the right chute and waited for M. A ranger was cautioning people not to glissade, but after confering with M I glissaded anyway.

Close to Helen Lake a layer of dense fog suddenly enveloped everything. I wasn't sure exactly where I was, but continued down the glissade chute. After a while I looked uphill, and saw a broad sweep of rock that looked like Helen Lake viewed from below. I had come too far!! I started to trudge uphill through slippery snow - the last thing I needed at this point. Fortunately, another climber emerged from the fog, also looking for Helen Lake, and said emphatically that we hadn't passed it.

So I got to Helen Lake and relaxed in the snow for about 30 min., watching climbers emerge dramatically from the fog. Eventually M. appeared. She had done some successful glissading, and we slid down to 50/50, broke camp, and made it back to the car by 5 PM. The last few miles were painful; my big toes were hurting quite a bit, so were my heels (they turned out to have giant blisters on them).

Instead of the usual Whopper at the Mt. Shasta Burger King we decided to hold out for In n' Out burger. But after several hours on I5 none had appeared, so we ended up dining the with King after all.

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