Mt Shasta was my first 14er ever. In fact, before I climbed Shasta, I had never even heard of a 14er. The idea got in my head when my uncle Larry suggested I come out and climb it with him, and the resulting road trip was some of the best times of my life (Also see my post on canyoneering in zion).
We arrived at lake Shasta around midnight after a long drive from fruita, CO. It was a clear night and the mountain was fully illuminated by moonlight. A giant white goast in the darkness, it was the most massive mountain I'd ever seen.
The following day we went into town to get gear. I had bought an ice axe and crampons, and was going to do the mountain in hiking boots, however others in our party needed to rent gear and some felt the need to rent heavy duty plastic climbing boots. Most of the people who went this route felt the extra weight and uncomfortableness of the boots was not worth the rigidity. For a July summit, I would not reccomend them; however, I really appricated my borrowed pair on Mt Rainier in may.
There were 9 of us total: My uncle, my cousin, two colleagues of his (one of these brought his two sons along), plus my two friends Matt and Kyle. Most of the crew opted to do a mountaineering training session on the mountain that day, but that was out of the budget for Matt, Kyle, and I as it cost as much as a full weeks worth of food, lodging, and gas the way we were traveling. We opted for a poor mans training session, in which we climbed up to a good elevation and proceeded to throw ourselves off steep slopes in order to practice self arrests with the ice axe. We followed the practice session with pizza and beer at a local joint.
Arriving back at camp, the rest of the crew was finishing off their carb-loading and climbing into bed for an early start the next morning. We started early in the morning, at what seemed to be a somewhat slow pace. We were headed up the beginners route, called "avalanche gulch" By the time we reached tree line, Kyle, Matt and I decided to blaze ahead with the other two sons, with the promise to meet at basecamp. After a couple hours of hiking, we couldn't even pick out the rest of our crew from above, and after an hour wait, we decided something must have gone wrong. The two sons went back down to check on their father and the three of us decided to press on. Our team of 9 was now down to 3.
We arrived to base camp at Lake Helen and cooked some dinner. Right around dusk we saw a group of headlamps arriving and setting up camp a thousand feet below us, which we would later discover was the rest of our party. For most of them, that's as far as they made it. The 3 of us crammed in my 2 man tent early, knowing we had to push to the summit at some ungodly hour before thunderstorm's could snipe us dead.
The morning was a slog. we woke up, ate some powerbars, and climbed through the incredibly steep red banks before a relatively easy push to the summit. We celebrated with pictures and then came the really fun part: Glacaiding back down. Glacading is a fancy word for sliding on your butt, using your ice axe as a break, and is an absolute blast. It took us a day and a half to climb up, and only half a day to get down (including time to pack up the campsite).
Mt Shasta was a great intro to 14ers, it felt safe and was way fun the whole time. The route was well traveled, and yet it was still a difficult challenge. For people getting in to climbing mountains, I always recommend the book Mountaineering: Freedom of the Hills. Also, Summit Post has a great route description for anybody planning a trip up shasta.
If anybody is ever looking for someone to climb shasta with: it is a new dream of mine to return to shasta one year in june and attempt a ski summit, so feel free to ask me!! Happy climbing 🙂
Photo Credit: Matt Ables took most of these.