Monday, June 6, 2016

Mt Shasta (14,179') - Hotlum-Bolam Ridge

Hotlum-Bolam ridge 
Mt. Shasta is one of the 12 California 14ners (peaks above 14,000'), and is at the southern terminus of the Cascade range. Unlike most California mountains, Shasta is a volcano, and is heavily glaciated, having 7 glaciers, including the largest and most voluminous glaciers in California.

North side of Mt. Shasta (left) and Shastina (right)
Spring and early summer are the best times to climb many of the routes on the mountain, when the snow is well consolidated, but not melted out. 

My plans to go rock climbing in Shuteye were put on the shelf when a last minute opportunity to climb the mountain with Richard Cobb, and his friend Devin presented itself. We planned to climb the Hotlum-Bolam ridge. Considered a "intermediate" route, it  ascends steep snow slopes and avoids the glaciers, making a safe choice. Also, being on the north side of the mountain, it avoids the massive crowds of tourist climbers that go up Avalanche gulch from the south. 

I drove up to Sacramento, picked up Richard and Devon, and headed to the north side of Mt. Shasta, arriving at the Northgate trailhead at midnight.

We woke up at 4:30 am, giving us only about 4 hours sleep. A little rough. We started up the approach trail. It was a really rough start, I felt like crap. My mind was swirling with doubts and thoughts of failure. After a little while, we cleared the tree, and entered a flat spot at about 10,000', which marked the start of the ridge. We passed a few friendly ski mountaineers on their way up the ridge as well.

Getting ready to go at the trailhead. Photo credit: Richard C.

Skiers on the approach to the ridge.
We cruised up some snow slopes below the ridge proper, then traversed across steep snow slopes to gain the chute to the left of the ridge. Its important to not directly ascend below the snow chute, because there is a crevasse below the chute. This time of the year its likley safe to cross the snow bridge, but why take the risk of falling in? 

Devon starting to traverse
We climbed the chute, then took a break on a nice boulder at the top of the chute. From out rest spot, we had nice views of the headwall above the glacier, and I could spy the Hotlum ice chutes (which I intend to climb next time!)

Break time
Head wall.
A flat spot, then up a icy slope heading towards the summit. Near the top we got sniffs of sulphur, there was some rock fall, and some cool looking features near the top of the slope.

Richard arriving at the top of the icy slope
Rock tower

After the slope it flattened out again, and we headed around the false summit, then were smashed by hurricane force winds as we neared the summit. We also saw the crowds of climbers summiting from Avalanche gulch.

Almost up

And then summit time. Woot woot! 


Richard and Devin. Classic summit pose

We found a nice sheltered spot to rest. I cooked up some soup (the windboiler works at 14,000' in the wind. MSR sponsorship?).

Windboiler at 14K

Richard. Alpinist nap.

We began the descent, retracing our steps down the ridge.

Devin on the descent
The snow conditions were perfect for glissading. So we slid down over 3000' on our butts! Super fun! 

Glissade! Woot!

We were back to the cars by 5:40 pm. 12 hours car-to-car. Not too bad. 
Overall super fun trip. This time the altitude slowed me down, but I did not feel nearly as sick. I think I am ready to move on to more technical mountains at altitude. Looking forward to Mt. Rainier in a couple of weeks!

No comments:

Post a Comment