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Mt Shasta ~ Third Time will be a Charm

July 17, 2017
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Mt. Shasta started for me six years ago as my first ever mountain and first mountain with Fred Hutchinson Cancer Care Center. I chose carefully. This climbing business was brand new to me, I didn’t know any climbers (or for that matter many hikers!) and I wanted to choose something that I thought was within reach for me skills wise. Though topping out at just over 14,000 ft., Shasta is an excellent mountain for a novice climber. I learned in my research that ‘hard’ didn’t really have to do with just elevation gain, rather it’s a full spectrum of variables that one must consider. 
 
Shasta’s Avalanche Gulch route was a challenge and though I was recovering from bronchitis, I persevered. I met some fabulous people along the way including a Hutch Climb legend, Lynn Lippert. She said, “You’re with us, kid.” I learned a lot of tips and tricks from her on that trip. Shasta is a sassy minx of a mountain and creates her own microclimate. Gusts up to 70 mph took out our summit day and we returned to town to feast at the Brown Bear Diner. I knew I had to come back. 
 
Six years later, I returned having climbed a few more Fred Hutch mountains and with several Fred Hutch friends to take on the West Face route. We started our trip in Medford where some silly rental agency thought it was a good idea to give ME a full size Dodge RAM 1500 instead of a Nissan Sentra. Yee haw! Little did they know how much I love trucks and mud! Off-roading dreams aside, we arrived at our favorite hotel and met the team for a culinary feast at Yak on the 5. The owner was excited that some of us had clearly stalked and salivated over the menu (ok, namely me!) and brought us many delicious items to try including their famous cinnamon rolls. Holy smokes, we died and went to heaven!
 
The next day we fueled up at Black Bear Diner and met  our fantastic guides from Shasta Mountain Guides and off we went to Bunny Flats Trailhead at about 6,900 ft. We headed northwest, up through Horse Camp for a water stop and then across several snow fields to our camp at 9,200 ft. To say it was windy was an understatement! In fact, we lost one tent that had been stowed for us! We set-up camp and secured each tent with huge rocks to ensure we didn’t lose our own tents. We did a quick training to brush up on basic mountaineering skills including self arrest and glissading technique. Dinner was delicious and we headed to our tents to sleep in hopes of an alpine start around 2am for the summit. The howling wind kept many of us up despite ear plugs and our guides swung by at 2 am to let us know that gusts at summit were up to 115 mph. The summit was a no go. Despite being inside our tent and sleeping with my buff over my eyes, a fine powdered sugaring of dust covered each of us … a testament to the wind howling around us. The guides said to go back to sleep and perhaps we would have a new plan at 6 am. With a few more hours under our belt, we decided to make for neighboring peak Shastina’s summit. We donned crampons and harnesses and off we went! 
 
20045737_10155664665137922_8681558826226359930_oMt. Shastina was a fantastic climb. The wind was high at 60 mph and we were all excited to glissade down the mountain. It’s so funny how quickly you descend all the feet you carefully labor up! As we descended, I reflected on how much I had learned in six years and how much more confident I felt. We arrived at camp, rested and relaxed, ate dinner and went easily to sleep. With the morning came a new sound … quiet. The wind had finally died down, but it was our day to return back to reality. So, we packed up camp and quickly descended to the trailhead. We ate a huge, delicious meal at the local bistro and parted ways with the team. We had some time to kill, so we decided it was only appropriate to take our truck to Lake Shastina for a quick dip since we were kind of smelly. We emerged looking like climbing swamp beasts and meandered our way back to Medford for milkshakes and a flight home. 
 
So, back to Mt. Shasta – I must go for round three as this mountain and I have unfinished business. In the meantime, I’m fortunate for my friendships with fellow climbers, the laughs and adventures we share and the knowledge that our work raised over $30,000 for cancer research at Fred Hutch and that is ultimately why we do what we do – the summit is just the cherry on top. Climb a Mountain. Save a Life.
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~ by Kris Rietmann.  See more of Kris’s story here.  Kris works as a communications professional helping people every day.  She has also climbed Mts Hood, Baker and Adams to benefit Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. 
~ All images by Michelle Miller. 
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