Mt. Shasta – the West Face
The 2014 Mt. Shasta Climb to Fight Breast Cancer team made the summit at noon on June 29th after a challenging journey to get there. Having climbed Mt Shasta twice before via the Avalanche Gulch (south side) route I was excited to try a new approach and see a different route to the top. I was quickly reminded that the mountain is never the same year to year and was surprised at how different an experience you can have on the same mountain. Mt Shasta sure put up a good fight for us this time around!
Day 1: Our group of climbers departed from the Bunny Flats trailhead (6,683 ft) to begin our trip up to base camp. We were met with sunny skies and a noticeable lack of snow on the mountain due to the drought in California this year, making the typical Avalanche Gulch route not an option any longer. Our group spent several hours hiking past Horse Camp and continuing on to the
West side of the mountain to our base camp in Hidden Valley at 9,200 ft. We were met with beautiful wild flowers and impressive views of the West Face, Lake Siskiyou and Shastina as we hiked. At Hidden Valley we had snow school to practice our skills and enjoyed a macaroni and cheese dinner before an early bedtime.
Day 2: After our 2:00 am wakeup call and a hot oatmeal breakfast we hit the “trail” in the dark, headed for the summit. With the lack of snow on the route we spent a few hours climbing on volcanic rock and shale until we finally reached the snow line. We geared up with our crampons and ice axes and continued up the snow slopes. Finally, as we began to approach to the steeper slopes we roped our team together and continued up the long, and sometimes icy, snow chutes with our eyes on the top of the West Face. We saw the mountain shadow over the valley as the sun rose.
Finally we reached the top of the West Face (13,400 ft) and took a long break. We then continued on to the well named Misery Hill, across the summit plateau, and then on to the summit pyramid at 14,179 ft.
We spent a few minutes taking photos, signing the summit log, and reflecting on the months of training and fundraising that brought us to the top of Mt. Shasta with our Climb to Fight Breast Cancer team. After climbing back to the West Face and then enjoying some glissading down the snow chutes on the way down the West Face we all had a good appetite for burritos back at camp.
Day 3: Everyone slept well and with the hard work over we packed up camp and walked back out of the Mt Shasta Wilderness. We were greeted with cold beers in the town of Mt Shasta at the Goat Tavern and soaked our sore feet at Lake Siskiyou before heading
back to our home towns.
Whether you are climbing a mountain for the first time or the tenth time, each experience comes with its own rewards and challenges. While the route on Shasta this year was more challenging than usual we were all rewarded with the knowledge our journey was bigger than just us. We appreciate all of our donors who supported breast cancer research at Fred Hutch to put us there.