Mt Shasta via Avalanche Gulch

My friend Matt and I had our eyes on Mt Shasta for a while and the last weekend of the semester was a perfect time to go. We posted on our school’s outdoor mailing list and met Ellese and Louise who also wanted to climb Mt. Shasta. On the night of the last day of classes for the semester we drove 4 hours north to Bunny Flat at 7000 feet where we would sleep and acclimatize for the night.

We all made some mistakes on this trip, Matt and I especially but it proved to be a great learning experience.

Milky way rises over the Bunny Flat parking lot
doing some burial drills near the parking lot
Avalanche Gulch
Ellese snowshoeing up the mountain

We got to Lake Helen at around 3 and dug out a camp. There were about 50 people there that night and almost all of them planned to summit. Stupidly, Matt and I decided to go without a tent as there was no chance of snow or rain, we would later come to regret this decision.

our camp
sunset over the Trinity Alps

As soon as the sun set the winds picked up tremendously. There were gusts over 80 miles per hour. Unfortunately this meant that snow was being blown onto Matt and I and we both got very cold and got very little sleep that night. It was so windy that when I stood up to go to the bathroom, my inflatable pillow blew away immediately and the wind ripped a huge gash in Ellese and Louise’s tent. We had originally planned to alpine start at 3am but it was clear that was not happening.

We woke up at around 7am and saw a lot of people higher in Avalanche Gulch turning around due to the wind. We met a guide and her client who had turned around when the client was in tears because of the high wind. We debated turning back but ultimately decided to give the summit a go. Luckily as the sun rose the winds died down slightly. Whenever a gust came we dug our ice axes into the snow and held on tight.

It was a long long slog up avalanche gulch but we finally made it to Redbanks, by this point we had split into two groups, with Matt and I in the first group. Misery hill was even more difficult due to the altitude, but finally around noon Matt and I reached the summit.

standing atop Mt. Shasta
The view from the top

As we descended we ran into Ellese coming up, Louise had to turn around due to the high winds but Ellese pushed on and made it almost to the top.

Matt Ellese and I at around 14,000′
Matt and Ellese descending

Upon returning to Lake Helen I packed my stuff up and skied down to the parking lot. 15 minutes later I was at the car. Since the rest of my group was on snowshoes I waited for them for about two hours, and finally they got back and we all returned to Berkeley.

A skier skiing down from Lake Helen
Mt. Shasta from the car window on the drive back

For more attempts on Shasta the next year, read here.

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