Trip Report    

Mount Shasta/Avalanche Gulch

Quick summit of Shasta in perfect spring conditions.

  • Road suitable for all vehicles
  • summit.jpgsnow.jpg

    Started from Bunny Flats trailhead at about 7:10am. Hardly any snow to Horse Camp. Hiked with just  boots and poles till Helen Lake Camp. At Helen Lake the snow was still crunchy and hard packed. I put on crampons before ascent to Red Banks. I put on helmet right before Red Banks.  There was only partial snow coverage going up   Misery Hill. Strong sulfur fumes at the summit.  Summitted  around 11am, snow was still  crunchy/hollow sounding until around 1 or 2pm on the way back down. It only softened up enough to glissade the last bit before Helen Lake camp. At 1:00-2:00pm ish the corn was ripe for skiing and I wish I had brought skis up. Skiing will probably only be in for a few more weeks. It was a windless, sunny spring day. No issues with ice or rock fall. 

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I have been watching the Shasta forecast for a good wind window for the past month. When this Saturday finally stabilized with winds under 20 mph I knew I had to push go. I am interested in going for the ascent FKT at some point, but obviously needed to get on the mountain first. I am also interested in the swim > bike> summit duathlon FKT and I think I can recruit some naïve tri athletes friends to attempt that later this summer. I drove down from Seattle after work on Friday leaving at about 4:00pm and made it about 9 hours stopping in Weed around 1am to sleep. I slept 1am-6am then drove over to the trailhead. In a more ideal world I would have made it to the TH Friday night to camp. I packed up, bought the wilderness/summit pass and started around 7:10am from Bunny Flats TH with a noon turn-around time. I had discuss my plan with my father who I  stayed in contact with during the trip having cell service most of the time/my inreach. My parents got engage on Shasta and in the stories my father almost didn't make it, he definitely did not think my Shasta in a day plan was feasible. I may have taken slight pleasure sending him a summit photo 4 hours later. When I did send the photo he asked if that was the false summit and questioned if I really was at the top/ if I knew where the top was. LOVE that. Anyways,   it took 20-30 minutes to walk into Horse Camp with almost no snow cover. People were stopping there to fill up the empty water bottles they had carried in which was smart. I stopped at Helen Lake Camp to put on a hard shell ( had been walking in a 3/4 zip), glacier glasses, and crampons. My trekking poles were really the MVP of this hike, even without snow baskets. Still not sure why people camp at Helen Lake being it's only a mile or two into the total climb. I continued up towards Red Banks on  hard pack with full snow coverage. Only one skier I passed was trying to skin up from there and he eventually gave up and joined the boot pack line. I found by taking a million switch backs/ turns on a very low angle I sailed passed everyone trying to go straight up and taking a million breaks.  Got through Red Banks with just crampons and poles no need for my ice axe. Conditions were good and I saw no rock fall or wet loose though there was evidence of both. By the time I made it through the long line of hikers trying to get to the summit it was socked in, but opened up a bit while I was hanging on top which was a treat. Being on a volcano with sulfur fumes really makes the mountain feel alive.  I put on additional layers  and started back down around 11:30am. By the time I was half way back to Helen Lake it was prime ski/glissade conditions and the corn was being harvested by the 30+ skiers on the mt. I truly wish I had convinced someone else to come on this mission so I would have felt comfortable bringing skis. The walk down would have been infinitely shorter and more enjoyable on skis (30 min vs 4 hours). Got back to the TH, checked in with my Dad and be-lined it to Starbucks for coffee. The Shasta community is so lovely, an old women saw me looking haggard asked if I wanted to sit with her ladies group at the Starbucks and then gave me a card of flowers to plant to help the bees. A final note on effort/nutrition- my heart rate has been elevated this month due to a new medication. The result was  an average HR of 140 ish the 8 hours I was on Shasta, which is about what race effort for a 50 miler would have been. That being said, wasn't sore or too pooped on the 9 hour drive home. The only disadvantage of having that high of a HR for that long is it forced me to eat like I was running an ultra- mostly gels and stroopwafles the whole day. Hopefully I will be back during another weather window and try for the FKT ascent or the duathlon ascent with friends, but it might have to wait till next year given how warm it is and how fast the snow pack is going in CA.  Round trip time was around 4 hours up & 4 hours down for an 8 hour day + 9 hours of driving  from Seattle both ways ( & 2 very expensive tanks of CA gas) . Obviously, could be done much fast sans the 10 essentials/ an overnight snow travel pack, but to do that safely would have required a lot more logistics & planning / the whole weekend/ and or a support crew. If anyone is interested in being a facilitator of such shenanigans , such as summiting before me with said gear/ my ski LMK.