Mt Shasta, Avalanche Gulch

28 Jun 1998 - by Mike Rinaldi (view roster page)

This past weekend 6/28-6/29, Max Nachury, Rich Calliger, and myself (Mike Rinaldi) took advantage of the absolutely glorious weather to try a long strenous dayhike of Shasta. Our route was the normal Avalanche Gulch route starting from the Bunny Flat parking Lot. The original plan was to dayhike the route on Saturday but personal business commitments of mine and the fact that the World Cup second round game between Italy and Norway was being played at 7AM on Saturday caused us to push the climb 24hrs.

As it turned out the weather was spectacular on both days. We "camped" at the parking lot Saturday night and had very marginal sleep because of the heavy climbing traffic. We were up at 4AM and on the trail by 5:15AM. The air was still and temps seemed to be hovering around the low 40's at 7000'. After about a mile Rich decided to head back since this was his second day without much sleep and he wasn't feeling very well. Max and myself continued on. The snow coverage was complete from the get go at 7000'. At Horse Camp the snow coverage looked to be 7-8'. There were steps down to the Hut entrance!

We were at Helen Lake by 7:45AM thanks to the consolidated snow and convenient steps that the hoards had left. We took a 20 minute break at Helen Lake while Max chatted a bit with a fellow Frenchman. If you closed your eyes and listened to the chatter you could convince yourself your were on the route to Mt Blanc or Augille Du Midi in the Alps. We continued up the Gulch 2/3 of the way to the Red Banks. The snow was in good shape and we didn't need crampons until this point. We were both feeling very well after another 15 minute break at this point. After we put on crampons we contnued up the Gulch and met wit a slight breeze at the top of the Red Banks. I had forgotten about the short Hill before Misery Hill and mistakengly thought that we were almost on top. When we saw Misery Hill we were not happy hikers! It had been 2 years since my first and last time I had been up Shasta and memory failed me. Misery Hill was the most difficult part of the hike but we rewarded ourselves with a 20 minute break at the top. As well as 5-6 fig bars and another banana. Refueling with bananas seemed make a huge difference for me on this trip. The potasium jolts from the bananas really seemed to wake the tired legs.

After a final push we summited at 11:50AM. The weather was superb. There was even less wind then at the top of the Red Banks!! After a few pictures we climbed down the Tower and had a 30 minute lunch. We started down at about 1pm. The trip down was a glisading circus. Max taught me the European standing glisade. It's much like skiing without the ski's!! Between standing and sitting glisades we managed to get back to Bunny Flat by 3:15PM. We gave each other very high fives for doing a very enjoyable round trip in under 9 hours. This was Max's first time to the summit after being turned back by high winds last year. This was my second time up in 2 attempts. Judging from conversations I've had with friends and trips reports I've read I've been extremely fortunate in picking weekends with very good weather.

Back at Bunny Flat we changed clothes and relaxed a bit. We found a note from Rich. He had wished us well and checked into a Hotel at Shasta City. After two bad nights of sleep he was going to get some real quality sleep and try for the summit on Monday (yesterday). Best of luck Rich! The weather should cooperate.

RJ Calliger adds:

Glorious glissades!! And ascending avalanche debris..

...was all I got for 3 days as the summit eluded me again! After 2 attempts with 2 nights of absolutely horrible sleep- (1-2 hrs) DO NOT sleep in the Shasta Parking lot..and hope it will get better the 2nd night--it gets worse! Instead of a motel I choose to head back into the woods about 2 miles and made a snow camp- peaceful at last!!!-- for the next two nights.

I missed my compadres as they continued onto the summit..but we shall return together again probably the end of the month.

My third attempt saw me get up at 3 AM and the trail by 4AM- temps were in the high 30's at 10,000 to feet. Again, Monday and Tues the weather conditions were perfect... although there was a little more wind Tuesday morning than Sunday or Monday. Again, I had not recovered sufficiently.

It was enjoyable however, to ascend thru the avalanche debris as is presented numerous "steps" that were even better than the half-full steps from the hordes from the weekend!

After an hou,r as the slope steepened, and the sun warmed, I started hearing strange creaking noises-- probably the wind--- but I was spooked sufficiently to move off the debris track (quickly I might add- was it really cracking??!) although I "knew" there was really no chance of the avalanche moving again... (it was over 1 mile long and .5 mile wide and frozen "solid") - biggest according to Dan (Ranger there for many years) he has ever seen..

At Misery Hill my banana and power bars did absolutely nothing to rejuvenate me... 2 days of sleep loss had mounted into deprivation(sp?) and my muscles would not cooperate although the spirit was willing-- as my stomach sickened I made the hard decision: I turned down to enjoy what I could of glissading about all the way back to the parking lot!! I think some of the runs were well into 800 to 1000 feet at a time. As my speed increased down the slope my stomach complained a little, but we managed some nice long runs safely.

'till the next time! At least I had finally put to rest my fear from the fall I took on Shasta 2 years ago now. I felt no intimidation or anxiety... in that sense the trip was a resounding success...it is VERY satisfying to face an old Fear and achieve success above and beyond it!


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