Mount Shasta

I climbed Mount Shasta once. It was on the Fourth of July, sometime in the early nineties. I was about 32 years old or so. We were camping at Lake Siskiyou, a nice lake with a great view of the mountain. We took the Southern face (Avalanche Gulch) route. Two of my brothers in law went up in the afternoon to sleep overnight at Horse Camp (2600m). I drove up to the parking lot (2300m) that evening with a six-pack of ale in an ice chest. I drank the six-pack that night in the parking lot and crashed out around midnight. I woke up just before dawn with a hangover and started walking. It was still dark outside.

I met up with my brothers in law at Helen Lake (3169m), and we ate some food there. One of my brothers in law was much older than myself and he decided that this was as far as he was going to go. My other brother in law had climbed the mountain before and so the two of us decided to make for the summit.

Avalanche Gulch was covered in snow and is quite steep. You will need some crampons and an ice axe, which I rented from REI. It was pretty slow going. I was starting to feel the altitude change about then. I remember just sort of taking about ten steps and then resting for a few seconds and then taking another ten steps. This worked out pretty well, and the radio reception from up there was quite good.

We finally made it up to Red Banks (3962m), and headed onward to what they call Misery Hill. By this time the altitude was definitely giving me some grief and it was more of ten steps, rest, and ten more steps. At the top of Misery Hill (4200m) there is a saddle on top of the mountain that we went across before climbing the actual summit. It was kind of mystical up there as I was very light headed by this time.

By the time I made it to the actual summit (4317m), I was practically crawling on my hands and knees. When I got there, there was a young couple sipping tea and looking fresh as daisies, as if they had made the climb every weekend for the last four years. There is a logbook at the summit in which you can write stuff, and I am told that they keep past logbooks in the library at the town of Mount Shasta.

The way down was a bit tricky, and there was some minor confusion about which route to take. As I remember, at one point we waited for the couple from the summit to pass us before following them down through to the steep part. After that we were able to glissade down the snow covered steep stretch, which was great fun and a huge relief from hiking it.

We made it back to the car just as the sun was starting to set. All in all it was a great day and nice adventure for me. It marked a turning point in my life, where I started to overcome my illness and take charge of my life again. I will never forget the experience, and am forever grateful to my brothers in law for convincing me to do it. It is good to take some risks in life, to challenge yourself once in a while. Just make sure you know what you are getting your selves into and are properly equipped for the task. In this way you will have fewer regrets as you grow old.

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