Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Mt. Shasta (14,179') - Casaval Ridge - West Face

This past weekend Mitchell and I headed up to Northern California to climb Mt. Shasta. I really like Shasta, its a glaciated volcano the biggest of its type in California. I climbed it last spring from the north side , and I really enjoyed it. The classic line from the south side of the mountain is Casaval Ridge, so we set our sights on that route.
Mt. Shasta - South Side. - Our route of ascent, variation on the true Casaval ridge
We headed out for the 6 hour+ drive Sunday morning, and arrived at the Bunny Flat parking lot in the late afternoon, just as the busy weekend crowd was departing. Perfect. We loaded up our backs, and set off for the short hike to Horse Camp, our chosen base camp that sits at the base of the ridge.

Packing up
It was a short approach to horse camp, only a couple of miles, and about 1000' of elevation gain. We set up the tent, and enjoyed the warm sunny weather.

Home sweet home.
Its crazy how much snow fell on Mt. Shasta. Horse camp has a stone hut, composting toilets and piped water spring. All were partially buried in snow. The Sierra club spend more than 35 hours digging out the spring, and who know how long excavating snow to reach the entrance to the hut. 

Buried hut!

Excavated water spring!
We lounged around, enjoying the sun and the views. Excited for our upcoming climb. We set an alarm for 3 am, and heading off to sleep around 8-9 pm.

Mitch is ready to climb

Alpine starts are always a bit rough. I have a hard time eating, I drank half a cup of coffee, ate some cold muesli.  Head-lamps on then straight up onto the ridge. 

It was very warm, well above freezing. We slowly trudged are way up the snow slopes in the dark. 

Early morning approach to the ridge proper

 We traversed across a large snow "sidewalk" onto the ride proper. Cool spot.

Mitch on the sidewalk
We then traversed along the ridge, mostly sticking to the Western side of the rock fins and gendarmes. This was the fun part of the day. There was some steep, exposed traversing. Very easy but the exposure was really nice.

Mitch climbing a steep section
West Face and Misery Hill

Traversing the steeps

Ridge climbing. Photo credit - M. Quiring

As we got higher on the ridge, we had to decide whether to stay on the ridge proper, or traverse out to the West Face. We knew the catwalk (the crux of the ridge) was in rough shape from some rockfall, so we elected to traverse across to the face and finish the ascent there. 

Heading up - Photo credit M. Quiring
Mitch pauses for a break to admire the views
The ascent up the West Face was a slog. I think I would like to go back in another year and complete the entire ridge. It looked fun!

After what seemed forever we crested the top of the West Face onto the summit plateau. It was still a long way to the top however, more than 1500' still to go. We paused for a nap and enjoyed the brilliant warm sun. 

On the large summit plateau. Still a long way to go. Photo credit - M. Quiring
We traversed over to the base of Misery Hill, an 800 foot tall false summit. It was a hot, somewhat painful slog up that thing. I can see why its called Misery Hill!

Misery Hill --- ughh.
Misery indeed

Altitude really saps one's power. Going from sea level to 14,000' is always really rough, its impossible to move quickly. With great relief we crested Misery Hill, and had a relatively flat and easy walk over to the true summit. I think it took us about an hour to climb that final 600 feet. 

Heading towards the summit. Photo credit - M. Quiring

Almost there......

We shared the summit with a couple of skiers, one of whom was preparing to do a naked descent of the mountain. We chatted to our new naked friend, and boiled some water.

Summit selfie. Shiny eyes and all.

Summit - naked skier and everything.
I didn't linger very long to enjoy the very spectacular views. It had taken almost 8 hours to reach the top. I was pretty wiped, and since Mitch was skiing down, and I was going to walk, I wanted to get going. 

No time for the views.
I booked it down, descending back to camp in under 2 hours. Avalanche Gulch turned out to be an easy fast way down. I glissaded on my butt for probably 3000 feet - talk about quick!

We packed up camp, then to the car and for the long drive home.

I really enjoyed the day, great summit. I am looking forward to trying the complete ridge sometime in the future!

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