Mt Shasta (14179')
Mt. Shasta – Summer Clear creek Trail Attempt One
Duration: 13 hours
Date: 20 September 2014
Distance: ~10 miles (out and back)
Elevation gain: 7600 feet (in 5 miles) – Accomplished 6230 feet
Trailhead: Clear Creek Trailhead (6580’)
Trail and conditions: Clear Creek trail well made until the creek. From creek to Red rock – Scree and very steep climb. Beyond Red rock – boulders and rocks.
Permit: Summit permit needs to be filled and dropped with 20$ cash at the trailhead box (Self service).
Attempt Turnaround: 12800 feet – Half hr above Red Rock due to time constraints.
I’d like to first thank Jugal for inviting me for this one-day summit push of Mt. Shasta from clear creek trailhead. Also Marco who led our group up the mountain and Jai for all her help on the way down and Todd & Inga for waiting up for me during descent.
This hike is similar to the Mt. Tallac hike, atleast with respect to some part of the terrain and our timelines. We were to drive to Shasta Friday night, hike Saturday and return that night back to the bay area. This meant very less sleep and a lot of hiking. I was quite occupied at work on Friday and wasn’t able to pack or get ready for the journey in time. We had to leave 2 – 2.5 hours after the planned time at 7:30pm. After a long 6 hr drive we reached the road that branches off the main highway (89). An 8-mile off-roading drive got us to the clear creek trailhead/parking lot at 2:40am. I was so sleepy that I just wanted to get into my sleeping bag and fall asleep inside the car. We all did just that. I was out cold by 3am. The time to be up and ready by the trailhead was 5am. It was time to wake up. It felt as if I hadn’t slept at all. It was already 4:30am and we had to be up and ready soon. It took quite some time to get packed for the daylong hike. We finally finished up the permit work (filling out a self pay envelope and dropping it at the trailhead itself) and were ready to head out. It was now nearing 6am and the light from the rising sun was slowly pushing out the darkness. The group consisted of Marco (aka Merek), Jai, Jugal, My, Todd, Inga, Huyen, and Ashish.
The initial mile wasn’t all that exciting. We were walking through the forest very slowly with headlamps to help with the navigation. After a while the trail opened up to something like a ridge giving us the first glimpse of the glorious Mt. Shasta. It was just majestic standing tall at 14179 feet with snow and ice patches covering some parts of the mountain. The trailhead was at an elevation of 6580’ and we climbed up through the forests to the base of the Wintun ridge at around 8300’. This was almost at 7:20am (about 80 minutes from the trailhead – quite slow).
After a long break and drinking some pure cold water from the stream, we started our very steep scree hike up the ridges towards the peaks that we could see far in horizon. The scree (fine rocks and mud) made every step harder. I was pretty much sliding down one foot for every two feet of hiking up. It was quite demanding and soon gaining altitude also meant lower oxygen levels. Initially there was a ridge on the right which could be used as a terrain marker for trail guidance. But slowly going higher and higher all the mighty terrain around me began to shrink and became inconspicuous. This meant that the terrain had to be mapped and photographed by the eyes for a safe descent. The first goal was to reach Red Rock. The red rock is at an elevation of ~12000 feet and it’s obviously red. On the way up we walked through a couple of campsites. These are perched atop ridges almost completely exposed. You could probably have a tent or two in each of these campsites.
Half way up the climb, Marco suggested that there was a longer but relatively easier route up to the red rock. I decided to follow Marco instead of just trying to get to the red rock directly. This route on the right of trail is more forgiving with numerous switchbacks. The altitude rose quickly and I could feel the quick reduction in breathable oxygen. The trail just kept going but neither the red rock nor the summit seemed to be visible anywhere. The climb was arduous but it was a lot of fun. We took a lunch break at around 11:50am when we were going up the switchbacks. Now, it was more than 11k feet and my pace drastically reduced. It was as if I was backpacking with a 50-60pound backpack. By 1pm we were at the red rock. Instead of continuing right away, we decided to take a break and rest for a while. This then meant that we might have to walk back to the redrock/towards the stream thousands of feet down in the dark with only small flash and headlamps to guide us down.
Marco was still waiting at the red rock and I wanted to follow Jai to get a quick head start. We started boulder hopping and scrambling up the mountain hoping not to either cause a rockslide or be lost. It is quite difficult to loose track of someone especially above the tree line due to the fact that it is quite barren above the 10k feet mark but still climbing down the wrong side of the mountain meant a very lonely night to be spent. After some time, I saw Marco start the hike towards the summit but he went right and we were trying to get up straight. I wasn’t sure if we were on the right trail/path and wasn’t able to get a confirmation with anyone else. So without this information and time running out (it was already 2:30pm), I decided to get back down to the red rock and then continue down. Jai and My joined me on the way down. Ashish also decided to turn around. We started our descent at 3:15pm. On the way down to red rock, I saw Todd and Inga coming down. They were fast and had summited about 2+ hrs earlier. We then continued the descent with Todd and Inga leading the way. Altitude hit me at this point (on the way down). I had a slight headache and was feeling nauseous. I wanted to get down to a lower elevation as soon as safely possible. This was very demanding on my legs but we reached the trailhead without any major problems. It was 10-15minutes past 7pm when I saw the parking lot. We took a nice break to bid goodbye to everyone there and began the 6hr long drive back to the bay area. Mt. Shasta remains to be summited which means I have a good reason to go back soon :)
Oh yes, on the way we heard cracking sound which I thought was waterfalls. There was also a chopper flying around announcing something. I had no idea what that was about until we were heading back home. The road was closed and the fire personnel there told us that the water under Mud creek glacier gave away and the glacier slid down to the road - ice cracking and breaking. This normally happens in Alaska but never heard of in California - a first! Scary - imagine if we were mountaineering that glacier up Mt. Shasta..