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Alpine Scramble - Mount Shasta/Clear Creek

California Road Trip and First Club Climb of Mt. Shasta Clear Creek

  • Road suitable for all vehicles
  • After the gravel, dirt and sandtrap road to the trailhead, the hike starts gently and gradually steepens to gain 2000ft in 3mi. After crossing from a ridgeline to a shallow valley and up to another ridge, we found campsites about 750ft from the headwaters of a clear mountain spring. After that, the trail leads up from the spring and gets steeper, with more loose sand, past bivy spots at 9000 and 10,000ft, to a steep snowfield that, by midmorning on a warm day is doable with microspikes and ax, but earlier would require crampons. Above the snowfield are several bivy spots at 11,000ft. Then the trail steepens and braids for 1800ft to Mushroom Rock (AKA UFO Rock), a red pumice rock that will be obvious. From there, it's recommended to go left and up what looks like a headwall but is the most stable rock on the upper route. Even staying left of the scree slope next to the Wintun Glacier, we still found ourselves in steep crappy scree, with unstable boulders that none of us felt comfortable pulling or stepping on with our full weight. At the top of this crux, there is a switch backing ramp up to a snowfield and across to the summit cone.

Because of the long drive from Portland, where we stayed with friends of mine (Meryl), delicious breakfast in Ashland (at Morning Glory Café), and purchase of permits/beta from USFS in town, we got on the trail at 4:30 and to camp around 6:30, where we had a nice group dinner and watched a beautiful sunset. The next morning we got an 8:15am start and reached camp at 11,000ft (see above) at 11:30. We needed to melt about 20L of snow at the top of the snowfield for water, and even that was barely enough (bring enough fuel, stoves, pumps or gravity filters or this will take all afternoon). We took a nap between making water and most of us taking an acclimatization hike up to 11,750ft to see the route. We came back, had dinner, watched another beautiful sunset, including the mountain shadow rise over the land and onto the sky in the west, and went to bed under a million stars. We were up at 3:30 and on the trail by 4:45. The trail up from there is 1 step forward and 3/4 steps back. We had some group separation and let the faster group go ahead due to cold. I began to get stomach sick and slow down ridiculously, and Nathan Starr, my co-lead, did most of the cat herding. The group probably could have summited in 4-6hrs, but waiting for me, we took just under 7 (my previous summit time on this route was 5). The fast group summited around 11:15 with Nate leading, and I straggled in at 11:35. We were sheltered from the 40-50mph wind gusts at the summit, so we took our time there and left around 12:25. We were back in camp at 2:30, got more water for the way down, napped, broke camp and left at around 4pm. When we got down to the lower camp and spring, we made the decision to get all the way out and camp at the TH (toilets, change of clothes, ability to dump our blue bags all played into this group decision). We slept 9hrs, got on the road at 8am Monday morning, had breakfast in Mt. Shasta (recommend Mt. Shasta Pastry), and encountered mostly amazing traffic for the 7-hr ride back to Oly. I'm happy to have written and pioneered this route for the club, but given that this was my 2nd time getting sick on it (and I've never been sick on the Avy Gulch route on the other side of the mountain), it may be a while before I do it, much less lead it, again.

Our group was fabulous - 3 from Oly, 1 from Seattle, 1 from Kitsap and 1 Oly-Seattle crossover. The group was strong, fit 20 and 30-somethings and leaders in the late 40s-early 50s, which always poses a challenge. We had the flag of Belize flying at the summit and representation from El Salvador and Belize in the summit register - lots of cool diversity! This made for great music and conversations on the drive to and from. We drove in shifts, which helped make the trip go smoother. 

Have fun and feel free to contact me if you'd like to lead this in 2020.

 

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Meryl Lassen
Meryl Lassen says:
Tue, Sep 3, 2019 1:12 PM

Also, prepare to eat lots of dust!