Monday, June 29, 2009


After some limited planning and even more limited training, the Rock Star and I made our way up to Mt Shasta (at 14179 ft) to give a lesser-traveled route a summit attempt. We decided to give the Hotlum-Bolum ridge a try, although up until Friday morning, we were still tossing around other route ideas, like Hotlum-Wintun ridge, West Face... even Avalanche Gulch etc... 

rental boots vs my boots. no contest.

Looking at my beloved boots we thought that the sole peeling away from the toe might elicit some leakage, and I went to the Fifth Season to rent a pair of plastics before we got started.

We marked our way beyond the treeline with a GPS (after having been warned that getting back to the trail is one of the most challenging parts of this route), took an unnecessary detour up a big rock scramble to make our way up to camp among the moraines at 9500 ft only to find that a little longer pursuit up a snowslope to our right would have gotten us up there with significantly less fatigue (oops). In the end, since we didn't cross the Bergschrund (known henceforth as a "BFC" for "big fucking crevasse"), we figured this more challenging ascent still gave us credit for having done a "moderately technical" route...

It was remarkably hot considering how far north we were and at such an elevation. 

camp among the moraines at 9500 ft

Our camp was gorgeous and comfortable with spectacular views of the peak - but by the time we got there I was seriously regretting the boot rental as my feet were extremely unhappy. The next day we got going around 4am, which was probably about 3 hours too late for the conditions. We saw a handful of headlamps shining up the ramp before we headed up ourselves, and they must have gotten started hours earlier. 

sunrise hitting the summit, we're partway through the moraines and heading up to the next snow slope

By 10 am, 2 major things happened that prevented us from getting to summit:
  1. my rental boots were trying to amputate my feet, I felt like a giant whiner but each step was just agonizing, and 
  2. the sun was warming up the snow so fast that the ice our crampons were happily clamping into until then suddenly gave way into slush and we were "postholing" our way up in knee-deep mush. 
the Rock Star returning from his apex near the Bergschrund

We tried to press on to the Bergshrund at least, I caved at 11700 ft and the Rock Star made it to 12000 ft - then we admitted defeat but committed to give it a go next year - perhaps a little earlier in the season. And with a broken in pair of new boots for myself. Better safe then dead I always say!

my view back down the slope beyond my crampon, it's steeper than it looks - our camp is near the end of the "tongue of moraines" - the flattish looking stuff for those who don't know what I'm saying...


Anthony said...

sounds treacherous!

Missy said...

*jaw dropped*
Envy at that gorgeous landscape!
My week involved climbing a mountain of a different sort: Potty training. They do not make a good boot for that!

Anonymous said...

I love your pictures. I should put you in contact with my friend Quin who wants to climb it next spring. --Irish Girls Brother.