Mt Shasta via the Hotlum-Bolam Ridge
5 Jun 1999 - by Michael Gordon
Dave edges Judy's Ford Explorer off the highway and into the rest stop; home
for the night. Never more quickly have I left the seat of a vehicle and
settled into slumber. We grab our sleeping bags and walk no further than
fifty feet from the vehicle where we find refuge in a shallow ditch next
to a pistachio grove. I thought I had groveled before groveling takes on a
whole new meaning when you grovel with the pros.
How I actually slept in the dirt at this roadside stop somewhere north of
Bakersfield I'll never know, considering especially the proportions and
proximity of the doggie doo illuminated by morning's light just centimeters
from my sleeping bag, not to mention the rumble and roar of
eighteen-wheelers throughout the night.
On June 5, 1999, Dave German, Michael Gordon, Jon Miller, and Judy
Rittenhouse (Southern California Mountaineers Association members)
summited Mt. Shasta via the Hotlum-Bolam Ridge. There
was plenty of ice, wind, and cold. By summit register appearances, it seems
we may have been the first to summit from the north side this year. The
North Gate road had just opened up a week or two previous, and a group of
PCS'ers had failed to summit just before us as reported by their scribe to
this list. Excluding the hordes and masses seen on or near the summit
(coming up from the Av. Gulch route), we saw only four people on this trip.
While the climb itself was rather uneventful, it wasn't altogether without
its moments of excitement or humor:
Instead of a simple three-minute Wilderness/Climber Permit transaction at
the Ranger Station, we spent nearly an hour with a high-stress ranger who
nearly tantrumed trying to figure out the math and account distribution on
the daily parking fee, and four Climber Permits ($15 each, good above 10,000
feet). Climbing was once free. It now costs $70 for a party of four on Mt.
Shasta's north side for four days.
Dave and Judy coerce (strapped, buckled, fastened, clipped, and jimmied)
four days of mountaineering gear (including harnesses, ice screws, axes,
randonee skis) into mere 2000-3000 cubic inch packs, eschewing any
luxuries, and sharing a single spoon.
More groveling: My bomber, new Mountain Hardwear tent makes itself right
at home on a prepared snow slope while Dave and Judy squat like Paleolithic
tribespeople poking, prodding, and preparing andesitic pebbles and rocks
trying to avoid sleeping on snow.
I awake at 0230 hours on summit morning to hear Judy's Stephensons
Warmlite tent sounding like it's literally being ripped out from under them
by the barreling wind. Flap, flap, flap. Meanwhile Dave and Judy sleep
In the pre-dawn hours of summit day, the howling wind tears my neoprene
Zing SLR camera harness out of my hands and hurls it miles away and
thousands of feet below us, never to be retrieved.
Dave earns the Creative Use Award of the climb by timelessly clipping
himself off to his ice axe on a 40-degree or so slope to relieve himself of
previous meals. Hanging belay takes on new meaning.
Dave experiments with terminal velocity after hitting ice while glissading
on the descent.
Temperatures reach an observed daytime low of 14 degrees Fahrenheit
(excluding wind chill), relentless winds rarely cease.
Our descent back to the car from high camp is uneventful; Judy and Dave
enjoy a ski descent on snow of varying iciness, while I enjoy linking up
several-hundred foot long standing glissades on snow of perfect angle and
Our ten-hour drive home sees us stopping at the Central Valley's universally
distinguished and highly sought John Chuck Ecerra roadside bouldering rest
stop. Dave German puts up the first ascent (in sneakers, no less) of the
Kiosk Traverse (V3) while NOAA weather reports broadcast from the cheesy
speaker in one of the faces on the traverse. A fantastic line! Each of us
take turns on the highly coveted, not often repeated Spigot Mantle (V2),
which is as pumpy as its name implies. We could stay here all day (the
excitement of this mecca and the number of problems approaching that of
the Mt. Shasta Ranger Station) but home beckons. With the big orange orb
setting in the rearview mirror, we roll south on a lonely Highway 5, all the
while dreaming up future trips to the numerous bouldering destinations that
dot roadsides throughout this great state. We all sleep happy this night.
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