Next weekend marks the one year anniversary of my first summit of Mt. Shasta (14,180′), and yesterday’s trip was even better. We hiked up faster, rode down faster, and actually found the trail on our way out. We were at the front of the pack and when we reached the top we enjoyed the view with far fewer skiers/climbers than last year. Must have been the low snow year we’ve had. Or, the competing BBQ’s and beach days at lower elevation. We passed on flatland beers for the day, but we sure as hell enjoyed the IPAs we carried to the summit!
Trailhead Departure: 3:30 a.m. / Waning Crescent Moonrise: 4:45 / Sunrise: 5:30
Summit Descent: 12:10 p.m. / Return to Trail: 1:00 / Return to Parking Area: 1:45
Gotta give a shout-out to Platypus Hydration. Their reusable soft water bottles are awesome! I keep one inside my jacket during climbs so it’s easily accessible without pausing and it doesn’t freeze. Add snow at each pit-stop and the body heat will melt it, giving me cold drinking water on-demand and one less bottle to carry in my pack. Here, Jeremy enjoys a chilled beverage from his Platypus soft bottle while we watch the sun rise over the Eastern Sierra.
Climbing Shasta is not the most difficult task, but it sure takes a while. 7,000′ of elevation gain requires multiple rest breaks. We took four over the course of the six-mile ascent. At about 12,000′, we switched from climbing skins on our splitboards to crampons on our boots and boards on our backs. It was windy and the frozen mountain didn’t provide much traction for skinning, but with Black Diamond Contact Strap Crampons strapped to our snowboard boots we were money. We were so money, baby, we didn’t even know how money we were. I’ve been running a lot lately so I did pretty well moving uphill. Here, I take 45-minutes to reflect from a rock at 12,600′ while I wait for the pack to catch up. I could count 25 other skiers ascending beneath me. Photo Callout: Thanks to Kronicle Backcountry Snowboarding Magazine for supplying the literature that keeps me stoked on splitboarding year-round, even when I’m sporting trail running kicks.
When you set out to summit and ski a peak in a day, don’t pack much. The more weight on your back, the more you’ll regret hauling items you won’t really use. First Aid Kit – yes, bring it and hope you never use it. Food and water – yes, bring extra. Whatever you don’t consume on the mountain, you’ll finish back at the car. And, in the case you’re stuck out there longer than expected, you’ll be glad you brought extra. Beer – yes, bring it and let it motivate you to push harder toward the top.
I met Jeremy at a friend’s house this past winter. I had just purchased rock shoes and a harness, and he was looking for a climbing buddy. Ever since, we’ve done something awesome weekly. He’s a straight-shooter and stays on top of his game at all times. I appreciate friends who overanalyze situations in the mountains. Back in high school, I remember having to choose partners for class projects. I would usually choose the person that would bring the least conflict to the team. Or, the cutest girl. In college, we think more critically and try to partner with people who don’t seem like slackers and will do well with the current assignment. Once out of college, you’re forced to think from a wider perspective. At the school of hard knocks (wilderness adventures, in this context), you choose partners who will make sound decisions under pressure and will dig ’til they’re dead. By “under pressure”, I mean when things go terribly wrong and reaction time is crucial. By “dig ’til they’re dead”, I reference an avalanche situation that requires the rescuing party to literally dig as fast as their body will allow, and then some. Jeremy’s that kind of partner. Here, he and I share some stoke on a summit that we’ve put off three times within the past six weeks due to last-minute changes in weather patterns.
After a half-hour at the top, it was time to drop in. We tried to time our descent with the corn harvest. For those who don’t do much spring skiing, that’s when the frozen snow melts and turns to beaded, corn-like flakes. If you ride before the corn harvests, you’re on a frozen slab. If you wait too long, the consistency of the snow worsens and you risk setting off a wet avalanche. But, when you time it perfectly on Mt. Shasta in late-May, you get 6,000′ of awesome turns. That’s what we did today. It was absolutely glorious. Just before dropping in, this guy made it to the top. Coincidentally, I had just been thinking about the sacrifices so many others have made so that we have the freedom to do these kinds of things. Fortunately, my camera wasn’t far away and I was able to pop one off before he stepped out of view.
And then, we get to go snowboarding 🙂 It’s one of my favorite activities. So is capturing memories of my friends snowboarding. Here’s a good one of Jeremy:
Looking back as we walk out the trail toward the car:
Did you do something awesome yesterday? Will you today? How about the next? If you’re hesitant for any reason, remember: You never know until you go. If you still can’t summon the strength, remember: You never know when you’re gonna go.