About two years ago, a friend told me that he wanted to snowboard down Shasta someday. What?? You can just climb a mountain and snowboard down it?
I had been surfing and skiing my whole life, but I had only started snowboarding a lot about a year before that. I started reading about backcountry snowboarding and skiing and avalanche safety. A year ago I took my first BC trip on snowshoes, which suck. I became obsessed with splitboarding.
In November one of my surfing friends, Rich, was newly single with two kids, out-of-shape, and bummed out. We made a pact to ride Shasta. His training regimine included learning how to snowboard this winter. This is Rich at 39 years, 264 days old:
I was really lucky to get a lot of BC trips in this year, but I still felt unqualified to tackle such a big mountain on my own. So we took a guided tour with Shasta Mountain Guides, which was a great way to learn some new skills and have fun. We met Meg, another SMG client, and Logan at the Fifth Season where we sorted & packed gear before driving to the trailhead at Bunny Flats...
There was a lot of snow up there.
Mmmm... Fried Chicken.
We camped at Horse Camp, elevation 7800', at the base of Avalanche Gulch. After setting up camp we climbed the gully for some turns. Saturday morning we climbed Casaval Ridge to learn some mountaineering skills and get a few more turns in. A few random shots:
Meg was very stoked. She had been a wilderness councilor for a youth program so she was a good outdoorsperson. But this was her first BC snowboarding trip. Way to go big! She moved to Redding a year ago and looked up at Shasta every day...
A joy of taking a guided trip is that you don't have to plan anything and the guide does the cooking. Thanks Logan!
Logan's home base is the Wasatch. In the Spring he guides Shasta and then he heads to Denali in the Summer. He was great - friendly and happy and a fountain of mountaineering knowledge. It turns out that he grew up in a little Colorado town that I knew pretty well and he was close friends with my cousin. Too wierd!
I did a lot of research before heading up and I had come to the conclusion that once you are on Shasta it looks like a kind of a very, very, big ugly pile of volcanic rock. I was wrong.
We spent Saturday afternoon lounging in the sun and resting up for the big climb on Sunday. We had dinner early and packed up our gear so we'd be ready for our 1 AM wakeup call. Somehow it felt like getting ready for the first day of school.
I guess morning came quickly for Rich and Meg. Not for me. I was so amped that I was tossing and turning all night despite my best efforts. By 2AM we were massively stoked...
We booted up to Helen Lake under the full moon, no headlamps needed. Arrived just in time to catch the sunrise/moonset.
We roped up at Lake Helen. Travelling on the rope felt a bit like riding on the Short Bus, but I understood the safety reasons for it. Actually it would be a comfort later on when we were feeling pain.
It is really hard to wrap your head around how big this mountain is. The teeny people in these shots help grasp the scale of things.
Roped teams on Green Butt Ridge.
The Thumb, with Lassen in the distance.
I got screwed by misjudging the distances. I didn't fuel up at one point because I though I'd get another chance in a few hundred feet. Nope. The next stop was 1800 feet above. The slope got steep and the snow turned into nasty rime. The sun came over the ridge and started absolutely cooking us. We were all feelin' no love.
Bonking is a black pit of dispair. We were all at zero blood sugar when we pulled up to the base of Misery Hill and shed our boards. Except for Logan. He was just reaching his cruising altitude.
Before the trip, at the Fifth Season, Logan wanted us to all have glacier glasses with covered sides. Guess which model was on sale?
By the way, those smiles are totally fake.
We climbed Misery Hill and found the summit block right at the intersection of hypoglycemia, dehydration, and sun stroke. The weather was maybe too nice, 70 degrees without a breath of wind or speck of shade.
Hey? Where's Rich? I guess the low air pressure had created some kind of suction. He disappeared behind a rock to produce what became known as 'the little fourteener.'
Feeling better Rich?
We did finally summit after 10 hours of climbing. Alpine Summit Limb Separation (TM):
We were very happy to be headed down.
We met Chris, one of the directors of Shasta Mountain Guides, just below the summit. He is one of the most stoked guys on the planet. He told me that they had people signed up for the Splitboarding Camp and that it was on, for sure.
Hooray for going down!
Hooray for big lines and perfect corn!
A look back from Helen Lake at 3000' of Corny Goodness(TM). 2200' left to ride...
It was an awesome trip and a perfect weekend. The guided trip was tons of fun and I learned a lot of new skills. Also, I learned that Mt. Shasta is really big.
Oh yeah. I also Learned where to find the best breakfast on the whole planet earth.
Joined: Fri Nov 19, 2004 8:41 pm Posts: 1622 Location: Santa Cruz, CA
Nice! I can totally relate. Shasta was my first real BC trip. I remember driving by it many times when visiting the folks in Bend, thinking "I wonder if you can climb that and snowboard down?" Little did I know. I went with MAS, back in May 98. We really lucked out with conditions and actually got to ride off the summit saddle. Sounds like you didn't have the greatest conditions up top, but still got in some good turns below (the aptly named) Misery Hill!
You're right, it's a big mountain. It will keep drawing you back. I think I've been there almost every year since. There are so many different routes and options. There's nothing like that first experience though!
The "little 14'er" - that's awesome! Had some funny experiences with those. One time I dropped a GPS (don't start...) all the way down the east face. Apparently along with it went one of those pack-out bags because it was gone when I got down. I wonder how many of those things the rangers collect on the mountain? Another time I found remnants of one in avalanche gulch. It looked like it had probably fallen out of a pack and gotten destroyed by a crampon or something... no I didn't pick it up (but I did tell the ranger at lake Helen! )
Re: those side guards on the glacier glasses. Once I was at the 5th Season and they had these little neoprene side guards that you could slide onto any pair of glasses. Seems a lot cheaper than having to buy new glasses... can't find 'em now though and I don't remember who makes them, but it would probably be pretty easy to roll your own.
Anyway nice writeup and I'm glad you were able to get out there!
Joined: Mon Feb 06, 2006 11:31 pm Posts: 592 Location: ca. - sierra
great pics, thanks for the write up. havent been up there...yet. looks like you had a good group to go up with and that the snow was good but it was hot - eh?
duct tape also works wonders for just about every mcgyver fix you need on the mtn. you can make some side guards with it fairly easily. make a hole in the tape, put the earpiece thru and fold it together. works in a jam.
Jimw - I think you are right about going back. You could do a lifetime of annual trips without running out of new lines up there. Yeah, and the only thing more reliable than a poo joke is a hippie joke.
fullers2oh - Duck Tape! I'm such a novice. I should have reached for it immediately! I could have also made a bill and shiny reflective surface for my black helmet. My head was cooking in there!