On Friday June 14, Rich Calliger, Kelly King, and myself (Mike Rinaldi) set off to climb Mt. Shasta. To the puzzlement of both Rich and I, completely unplanned and undiscussed, we ended up arriving almost the same minute, from different exits, at the Shasta Ranger station. Rich later said that it put to shame some of his previous Ready to leave the Ranger Station at 7AM sharp drills that never happened after repeated planning calls and discussions prior to leaving. We quickly signed in and spent some time in the 5th Season Shop. We drooled at all the neat stuff but quickly hauled ourselves out of there before the VISA card could magically leave its hiding place in our respective wallets and reak havoc on our budgets. When we reached Bunny Flat we met Kelly who was already halfway packed and ready to go. We started toward Horse Camp with a good pace but later I needed to slow to take care of my first hot spot developing on my heel. New boots really suck! The slog up to Lake Helen was uneventful other than the constant task of trying to decide if/when/where to cache our just in case snowshoes. The case never happened so we lugged the weight with us all the way up. The snow was becoming softer as the day grew older. By the time we got to 9000 feet our kick-stepping was turning to quasi-postholing. Lake Helen was busy with about 14 other tents. We found two side by side pits and set camp. We settled to sleep at about 8:30 anticipating an alpine start for the summit on Saturday. Rich adds,
... Having done almost exclusively full or 3/4 moon trips in the last 10-11 trips, this was the first peak I did in over 8 months with a new moon. Half a sleep most of the night due to continual light wind gusts, we awoke to a short but particularly strong blast of wind at about midnight. we sat upright, looked outside the tent, and enjoyed the special splendor of an absolutely spectacular Milky Way. Only at altitude does one really see (10,400) well at night. Not one cloud in the sky spoiled the view ... the massive splash across the hemisphere and seemingly infinite depth of stars took our breath away (no pun intended) and all we could say for 5 minutes was "Oh my God look at that", "Wow" and other meaningful and intelligent things!
As we started out pretty strong at about 7 AM Saturday morning it was apparent that Rich's ankle would not hold out to the summit. So he enjoyed some very fast glissading back to Helen Lake on the still frozen snow and ice, unlike the mushy snow we tried glissading in later from Helen Lake back down to Horse camp. Rich remained at camp throughout the morning making new friends. As people ascended they commented on his laying in the morning sun icing his ankle while Kelly and myself continued to the summit. Being the first time I've attempted Shasta I really didn't realize how fortunate we were with the weather. It was gorgeous. A slight cool breeze blew part of the time but mostly it was glorious. We scampered (can you do that with crampons??) up the Red Banks and up Misery Hill toward our goal. On the way up Kelly and myself met a couple of guys who had been up there for the sunrise. Apparently they had left Bunny Flat at about midnight and headlamped it all the way up to meet old Sol. Sounds like a future trip (with moon). Any takers?
The summit was clear and surprisingly warm (35-40 degrees). Clouds were beginning to develop and surround the base of the mountain but it seemed like we would have plenty of time to get back to camp. Up at the summit we met a fellow climber who was interested in taking our picture (there were about 8-10 of us up there at the time). He said he was just completing a guide book on Shasta and wanted a summit picture for the back cover. Not being the camera shy types and seeing this as an oppurtunity to be forever enshrined we wasted no time in striking a pose. Hopefully Hollywood is not long behind. Well, maybe Rock and Ice. So keep an eye out for yet another Shasta guide book, coming soon to a bookstore near you.
We decided not to do any glissading on the way down mainly because we were afraid of impaling ourselves with our crampons. The snow was soft and the hike down was fast and hot! Whew! Once at Lake Helen we quickly took down camp since we were worried that the thickening clouds did not bode well for our trip back to Bunny Flat. As it turned out the clouds just as quickly dissipated and left us with a warm/hot hike. We took every opportunity to glissade down the soft mushy snow. I was soaked by the time we reached Horse Camp. Whereis GoreTex when you need it. Since most of us needed to be back in the Bay Area by Sunday we said quick goodbyes and shoved off for the Area by the Bay. Later we learned that Rich remained at Mt. Shasta City Saturday night for yet another peek at that spectacular Milky Way.
As my first experience climbing a real mountain I couldn't have been luckier to be with such great folks and blessed with spectacular weather!! If this is what its like to be a PCS'er, I guess I'm addicted.