Shasta: Sargent's Ridge

15 Feb 1997 - by Steve Eckert

Tim Hult and I went out to test some gear and some techniques, and Sargent's Ridge on Shasta seemed as good a place as any! We camped at the saddle just over 11000' on the ridge, behind a wall of snow blocks cut with my home-brew snow saw (which is lighter than the $40 ones at REI, but needs some tweaking). Saturday was dead calm after Friday's wind. Both days were clear, but memories of Kai's many weather problems on this weekend (in years past) kept us worrying.

We got a fairly late start for the peak on Sunday, partly due to wondering if the clouds would deliver the rain storms promised on Tim's radio the night before. Lenticulars were forming just northeast of the peak. We headed up anyway, with the agreement that checking out a new route and getting in some high angle snow practice was the REAL goal, not the peak. At one point I measured a solid 50 degree slope, which would have been more comfortable in hard ice than in the light styrofoam we had to kick into. (A pick-based self arrest would NOT have worked here, but using the shaft sort of like a canoe paddle was quite serviceable.)

The SERIOUS wind started just above Red Banks, where we met two people coming down. They asked us to check up on their partner, who they had STOOPIDLY abandoned on the summit plateau. We set a goal of at least topping Misery Hill, but we were being shoved around by the wind. Threading through the wind-formed ice clods got to be too much when we could barely stand up. Just after we donned goggles and turned around to face the wind, we saw the lone climber coming down behind us. At Red Banks, we nervously watched him STOOPIDLY glissade with crampons directly above us in a narrow chute. Pick instead of point in the snow, pick aimed at his body, crampon spikes ready to hook and flip him out of control... this earned a good tongue-lashing as we related other incidents like the one reported here by Bob Gross last year. We saw his two partners heading for their tent on Cassaval Ridge later, but never saw him again.

The hike down was uneventful, but it started snowing just as we reached the parking lot. Lightning and rain followed us to Redding as we congratulated ourselves for doing a Fri-Sun weekend instead of a Sat-Mon (which would have seen us at 11000' in a howling snowy storm).

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