Mt Shasta (14179') via Clear Creek Trail
Mt. Shasta (14179’) via clear creek trail
Date: 08 August 2015
Duration: Day hike
Elevation gain: ~7600 feet
Distance: ~10miles round trip (Out and back)
Trailhead: Clear Creek Trailhead (~12miles from highway 89).
Trail: Clear Creek Trail
For more information see my previous post here
As people say - third time’s the charm. This time finally after two previous attempts, I made it to the top and back in one day via the clear-creek trail. For route information please see the previous attempt <here>. We were 8 people - Jugal, Praveen, Surendran, Roxana, Abhijeet, Rohit, Josh and I. For a change we started early on Friday from the bay area. By 6pm we were on our way to Mt. Shasta towards clear creek trailhead. On the way we picked up Samosa’s from India Cash & Carry in Fremont along with Chipotle. We reached the trailhead at 1:30am (8th August 2015). This is pretty early compared to the other times we’ve reached Mt. Shasta before. It also meant we were going to get some hours of sleep before starting the hike in the morning. I hadn’t brought a tent along and so I just bunked up in the car.
By 6:15am we were almost ready to leave. That “almost” however seems to always take quite some time. I visited the famed restroom next to the trailhead but wasn’t sure if I would last the entire day without breaking again for a dump. Reluctantly and with positive hope I took a wac bag along with me. At 6:41am we started our initial approach hike through the forests towards the base of Mt. Shasta (clear creek about 2 miles away). It wasn’t cold outside which meant we were going to be in for a very hot day. I wasn’t carrying a lot of winter gear but I did not leave home without rain jacket & pants that I use as a wind stopper and my comfortable down jacket. The initial few minutes warmed me up pretty quickly. After about 10 minutes of hiking a thought lingered in my head and that’s when I had the OOPS question - “Did we lock the car?”. Jugal volunteered to go back down and lock it after we contemplated if we should just let it be a hope to find it when we got back.
The first glimpse of Mt. Shasta came into sight when I came of the dense forest into the mud creek opening area. It was a very hazy day. The forest fires around Yosemite and Shasta forests caused the smoke to act as a veil to the mountain and the scenery around. Walking just a little ahead I came across the bed of flowers. It looked extremely beautiful with Mt. Shasta in the backdrop. Heading further up, we got to clear creek. It took us ~1hr to get here. Jugal got here too after going back and locking the car. We took a brief rest stop and started our ascent up the scree field towards red rock/mushroom rock. The mushroom rook was clearly visible through Roxana’s single eye binocular.
The slow ascent up from clear creek was just about putting one foot in front of another and continuing to gain altitude. It was mostly climbing up scree. The landscape changed drastically to just rocks, scree and dirt. There weren’t any trees around which also meant finding a shade was impossible unless of course you consider ducking under rocks. The temperature itself wasn’t very high but the sun shined brightly overhead. Radiance increased as the mid-day sun replaced the pleasant soothing light from the morning sun.
At 11:00am we were close to Mushroom rock Jugal was in a high speed ascent to the rock. Surendran and I played a bit of tag with each other following each other up hoping to catch up with Jugal. It was noon by the time we got to Mushroom rock. It was a 5:00hr something ascent to this spot. Mushroom rock is at an elevation of ~12800feet. Here I started feeling altitude and had a slight headache. I took an ibuprofen quickly hoping that it would reduce the symptoms and speed up acclimatization. Jugal wanted to beat his previous record getting to the top so he took off followed by Surendran. I however had to wait further. Can you guess why? It was because I had to use the wac bag that I brought up with me. (For folks who didn’t get that, I pretty much had to take a dump i.e. stop for a long restroom break). If you’ve used one of these up Mt. Whitney or through the Narrows in Zion, you’d think it comes with tissues. I very brilliantly forgot to get my toiletries. What followed that was an engineer trying to use all the trash that I collected on the way up to red rock. Interestingly, after the fact I felt really good. I’m not sure if it was the bowel clean up or the ibuprofen or both but I felt amazing.
Having stopped for quite some time here, I started the climb up the boulder fields - directly up towards the top. Above mushroom rock there’s no trail. Its just boulders of varying sizes stacked up loosely on top of each other. Each step had to be carefully placed making sure the rock wasn’t loose causing an ankle injury or cause a rock fall potentially injuring other climbers climbing under you. I was able to maintain a steady pace throughout the climb. Without realizing I climbed past Surendran. Now we were pretty much people climbing up however each one of us felt comfortable. I met two other people who had come from Tacoma to climb Shasta. I and one of them took turns leading up the what seemed to be a never ending field of boulders. The other person stopped to take a breather and I continued ahead climbing steadily.
The two way radio that I got as my birthday gift from my wife came to good use. Jugal had one and I had the other. More interesting that us talking to each other, we were listening in on funny people on the three channels we tuned in trying to find a channel with least chatter. Finally I got up the boulder patch. The summit was now in sight. There was a glacier on the right of the summit and I was wondering how I would be climbing that without crampons, ice-axe or ropes. I wasn’t sure how far it was to get the top. I continued walking and met two climbers descending down. They pointed out that the easiest way up was to go around the summit base - walk along the ice field patch and go up the summit plateau using a good use trail from the north.
Taking their advice I started the hike across the ice filed and up the switchbacks taking me up to the summit. I was quite confused and which the peak was - the right or the left protrusion. Jugal called out from the top letting me know which the peak was. I got up to the summit making it to the top close to around 2:45pm. We took a couple of pictures, video that was dedicated to Marek (I almost got crazy and got into that video doing the things that jugal did). The clouds were now rising up and winds increased. We decided to get going soon and that’s when we saw Surendran make it to the summit. After a few more pictures we started on our descent. I did not feel all that well at the top having slight light headedness. I wanted to start walking as soon as possible.
The three of us now descended quickly. In no time we were at the ice patch again. The sulphur and steam is very evidently seen and felt at the base of the summit plateau. However an opening isn’t visible into the volcanic cone. We hurried to reach the boulder field. And this is when things get interesting. We had winds 35+mph hitting us from below. The clouds filled in reducing visibility to almost zero. I made sure I was close to Jugal and Surendran followed me behind and was in sight. We got to Mushroom rock after some careful down climbing over the boulders. The weather was beginning to get worse and we did not want to stick on up there longer. We quickly started descent. From mushroom rock the scree is pretty nice for quickly moving down. It was pretty much running down the scree. (Aah I remember the poem - “She’ll be running down the mountain when she come, singing ya ya yippy yippy yai).
After a short break at the creek we made our way back to the parking lot. We reached the lot at 8pm. A scrumptious burger followed by driving back to the bay area and comfort of the bed got us to the end of this awesome day hike outing. I’m now excited to summit Mt. Shasta via a winter ascent route. :) Until next time…