Never Too Late to Learn

One month after my father’s 67th birthday this year, he will embark on a weeklong Introduction to Mountaineering Course in the North Cascades.

I am absolutely psyched for Dad’s decision. He and I got into climbing together, we were each other’s inspiration and only experience with the sport. Then a few years ago I signed up for the same mountaineering class that he will take, and my obsession with alpine climbing took off. I started to travel to climb, and I’ve been dedicating a lot more time to local peaks in the last few years. I’m stoked to hear that Dad is catching up to me, and I’m already mentally mapping out the rest of a summer full of tougher (and higher) peaks together.

My father is a practical man. He has tangible, measurable motives he wants to achieve in this class: Learn the navigational and compass skills we never studied before, practice rope techniques on mixed ice and rock, and most importantly – prepare for a late summer climb of Mont Blanc in France, the tallest peak in Western Europe.

But there are even more equivocal reasons why Dad is taking on this impressive objective. Here are a few.

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Dad and I on our 2012 climb of Mt. Whitney.

There’s only so much you can learn from an armchair

Dad and I are avid nonfiction readers. Over the years, we’ve collected no less than three dozen mountaineering books telling of feats and tragedies across the world. Invariably each holiday season, our Christmas tree is littered with new stories from either famed climbers or first-time writers. We’ve also managed to devour every single climbing movie and documentary that we could stream on Netflix. We absorb these facts, and learn these lessons second-hand, and he’s ready to put them into practice.

Plus: it feels great to get out of your comfort zone once in a while. Pushing your boundaries, both mentally and physically, is part of the drive that keeps us human. Through his experience with mountaineering so far, my dad has learned how to find comfort in the uncomfortable, and be okay with getting a little sweaty and dirty from time to time.

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Our first glaciated peak climb, Mt. Adams.

Learn new skills and brush up on old

My father and I have been mountaineering for eight years now. We started with an annual hike every summer after I graduated high school and moved out of my childhood home – it was our “us” time.

Our first big feat was South Sister, the 3rd-tallest mountain in Oregon, the first hike we’d ever needed trekking poles on. The next year we attempted Middle Sister, 5th-tallest in the state, and were turned around for our own poor navigational skills. That third summer we picked up two pairs of crampons and ice axes for our first real climb of Mt. Adams. Helmets and harnesses came shortly thereafter, on ascents of Mt. Shasta and Mt. Hood, respectively.

We sort of just fell into the sport, without any deliberate planning for our future as climbers. Which is why it makes sense to me why my dad wants to backtrack and take a course to cover the fundamentals of mountaineering and backcountry safety. He’ll get to fine-tune the glacier travel and step techniques we’ve been practicing for years. He’ll learn how to read a slope for avalanche danger, and follow a ridgeline like a handrail to descend safely in whiteout conditions. He’ll get to learn the basics, and so much more.

“I’ve got to get smart about this stuff if I’m going to keep doing it,” he told me.

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Trekking to Everest Base Camp, with Mt. Everest visible behind us.

He’s just getting started

I haven’t yet touched on what some people will see as the biggest wow-factor to my dad’s decision to further his mountaineering education: His age.

My dad is strong. He was raised a farmer, and carries that hard workmanship mentality through all of his professional and recreational projects. When he sets a goal, he works towards it. When we plan a climb, he trains hard.

On all of our previous climbs, he has been by far the oldest climber on the mountain. Those first few years he and I together made two of the least experienced people attempting whatever mountain. But over the last near-decade of climbing, we’ve been getting stronger, and smarter, and tougher when it comes to the goals we set and climbs we chase. My father in particular has a never-ending curiosity as to how far he can push his limits, and he’s always willing to “give it a shot” without holding himself to too high of expectations. He has many great qualities, and one of them is in fact his age.

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Dad trekking in the Nepal Himalayas.

I have no doubt that my dad will enjoy his weeklong alpine education course, that he’ll kick ass on Mont Blanc, and that he won’t let anything stand in the way of living the life he wants to lead.

2017 Goals! My New Year’s Resolutions to Adventure More

The last year has been a whirlwind of international travel, more than a few successful summits, and weeks-long treks through some of the most beautiful mountain ranges in the world. I saw and did way more in 2016 than I’d ever expected, so my goals looking towards the New Year are more focused – and more local.

One huge difference in 2017 is my focus towards running. The six months I spent hiking and climbing last year left my legs stronger than they’d ever been before, and completely unfit for running. The adjustment back to a quick pace has been a long and gradual one, but the first adventure goal on my list (first full marathon) is sure to kick my butt into gear.

Things I WILL do:

Things I’d like to do:

  • Mt. Hood Winter Ascent: This goal depends on how long winter lasts, and whether I can rally a climbing partner to join me. Any takers?
  • Take a ski mountaineering course, ice climbing course, and more ropes courses at an indoor gym. Ski touring and ice climbing is something I’m totally unfamiliar with, and I’d like to learn more about avalanche safety and crevasse navigation before setting off on a winter ascent of Adams, St. Helens, and other more remote volcanoes.
  • Run the Zion Traverse (50 miles, 6500 ft. elevation)
  • Run the 8000 meter challenge (40 miles, 12000 feet elevation), also known as the SoCal Triple Crown
  • Ragnar Trail Run Relay: Mt. Rainier
  • Explore the Tetons National Park, climb Grand Teton (13,770 ft.)
  • Explore Yellowstone National Park, run the Yellowstone Half Marathon
  • Explore the Colorado 14ers and backpack, climb, or run

Things I’ll table for 2018 or beyond:

… and I’m sure that as the year goes on, so will my list 🙂

Comment below if you’re interested in joining me on any of these adventures!

7 Tips for High Altitude Hiking

As seen on The Outbound Collective.

High altitude hiking is one of the most challenging and rewarding outdoor activities that you need to add to your summer adventure list right now. From the Rocky Mountains to the Sierras, to international treks up Kilimanjaro and in Nepal, hiking at high altitude gives you a unique and unforgettable look at some of the most desolate places in the world.

Like any extreme adventure, while you’re picking out the perfect camera to bring and dreaming of your quintessential summit sunrise, you’ll need to prepare accordingly and remember these tips for a successful high altitude hike.

The truth is, there’s no real way to train for high altitude other than being there yourself. So above all else, make sure you have the chance to acclimate, hydrate, and prepare for the time of your life.

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1) Understand the risks of high-altitude hiking

Do some general research on the differences between Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS), High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE), and High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE). Understand what a “sick person” at altitude looks like, and be prepared to take action if you or members of your team experience these symptoms.

  • AMS is the most mild form of altitude sickness and unfortunately feels very similar to a hangover. You may experience a headache, nausea, or feel exhausted… If you notice any of these symptoms, heed warning that they could predict a larger risk to HAPE or HACE.
  • HAPE occurs when liquid seeps into your lungs, and feels like you just had the wind knocked out of you. You may also cough up a frothy foam, which means it’s time to turn around and descend as quickly as possible.
  • HACE causes confusion and incoordination. If your speech is slurring and you find yourself stumbling, you are close to death and an immediate descent is imperative.

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2) Fitness is key

Do your training hikes with a weighted pack. 40 lbs. at sea level is going to feel a lot heavier (try double) once you venture above 10,000 feet. You’ll be giving yourself a break in the long run if you stuff your backpack with water, weights, or other heavy objects when you train at home.

Run stairs and hills. The calf-burners and glute-tearers you feel when hiking and running work completely different muscle groups. Switch up your workouts by adding as much elevation as you can. Training in San Francisco? Do sprints up steep hills or staircases. Stuck in a flat desert with no uphill training ground? Hit the gym and spend some time on the stairmaster. No matter where you are, there’s no excuse to not having the right physical preparation.

Get as high as possible beforehand. If you have easy access to a mountain range, slowly build your body up to higher elevations, gaining 1,000 ft. each training weekend. Starting small is also fine, too – doing aerobic exercises above 3,000 ft. will still adjust your body to working with less oxygen in your blood.

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3) Fuel yourself

It may be difficult to remind yourself, but you’ll need to be prepared to eat and drink more than usual at high altitude. Your muscles are burning energy more quickly, and your body will need more calories and H2O to properly function. This is no environment for diets: Load your pack up with sugar and carbohydrate-loaded snacks like jerky, chocolate, hard candies, and other high-calorie treats.

4) Prepare to brave the elements

Naturally prone to sunburns? Then don’t skimp on the SPF when you’re at high altitude. Sunshine, wind, and temperature reach their extremes up high. Bring the right gear and prepare to pack total face protection from the sun, wind-resistant and waterproof clothing, and extra hand warmers, thermal gloves, and wool socks to guard your body against the inhospitable mountain environment.

5) Bring first aid backups

It’s impossible to predict how your body will be affected by high altitude before you go. If it’s your first time ascending thousands of vertical feet, play it safe and carry along an altitude aid. One of the most popular altitude medications, Diamox, is commonly prescribed for treks above 8,000 ft. Be sure to also pack ibuprofen, cough drops, and over-the-counter indigestion pills in case things get less than pleasant.

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6) Know your limits

Visit your doctor before embarking on a trek in the mountains. Make sure you don’t have any lingering illnesses or undiscovered ailments that may hinder your success up high. Most importantly, be prepared to turn around if you’re not feeling well. An annoying headache or minor chest pain could be the symptom of something much worse, and you don’t want to test your body’s ability to self-preserve when you’re miles far and meters high away from safety.

7) Take it slow

Don’t rush your way out of a successful trip. Your body will naturally feel slower at high altitude, so go along with it. Nothing can truly prepare your body for the thin mountain air other than actually being there – so when you do get your chance – take your time and enjoy the adventure.

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Middle Sister Summit Climb (10,047 ft.) via Renfrew Glacier

If you’ve been anywhere near Central Oregon, you’ve seen the Three Sisters Mountains dominate the skyline. Each of these volcanoes exceeds 10,000 ft. and are some of the highest peaks in the state of Oregon. Though they are truly considered sister peaks to one another, each has unique climbing routes that require varying physical conditioning and gear.

Note: Some (crazy) people actually climb all three in one day. Check out this local man who completed the total traverse in 6 hours & 39 minutes.

Middle Sister is navigationally in the middle of the three, is the shortest of the three, and is quite literally in the middle in terms of difficulty of its North Sister and South Sister counterparts. This route requires good knowledge of route-finding and backcountry travel as the bulk of the day requires off-trail traversing and good navigational instincts.

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This post describes a western approach from the Obsidian Trailhead (for a good description of the eastern approach, check out this article on Summitpost). This trailhead is easy to find, right off of the historic Highway 242, just plug it into Google Maps. You need to acquire an Obsidian Limited Entry Area Permit before you go – only 30 hikers/day allowed on this trail. Call, email, or visit the McKenzie Ranger Station to do so.

Background: I’ve been up this mountain three times now (summiting once) and still don’t know which precise route I’d recommend. It’s all up to personal preference and interpretation. There are camping opportunities available at Glacier Creek and other areas along the PCT, but we chose to complete this in a one-day trip.

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You have a couple options starting out on the Obsidian Trail (#3528).

First option: Take a left after about 3.5 miles at Glacier Way (#4336), which will take you right to the start of an “unmaintained climber’s trail” sign and up the Collier Glacier.

Second option: Take Obsidian Trail all the way to a T-junction at the Pacific Crest Trail.

  • Go left (north) here to reach the “unmaintained climber’s trail” sign and continue towards the Collier Glacier on your right (our ascent).
  • Go right (south) here and follow a dry stream bed up a colorful, flowered valley towards the Renfrew Glacier on your left (our descent).

Whichever way you go, you’ll be directly facing both North Sister (to your left) and Middle Sister (on your right). Aim for the saddle between the two.

Pro tip: Use your crampons early on. The rock is incredibly difficult to navigate; you’ll save a lot of time by doing as much snow + glacier travel as possible (take it from this guy and this guy).

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Some people complete both mountains in one climb, often camping overnight in the saddle between the two, but it should be noted that North Sister’s summit requires difficult class-4 climbing where a rope and helmet are mandatory. Furthermore, North Sister is infamous in Cascade climbing for its rotten and crumbly rock – you should expect plenty of loose rock and rockfall should you attempt this climb.

Once you reach the saddle between North and Middle, continue to your right by scrambling and bouldering over razor-sharp volcanic rock. Once you reach Middle’s ridge, you should find a faint climber’s trail that leads you up the final 800 feet to the summit. Parts of this climb are super sketchy with vertigo-inducing exposure. Like the rest of the climb, it’s easy to get off-trail, so go slowly and think ahead when visually planning your route.

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Looking up Middle Sister’s ridgeline to the summit. You can see a hiker coming up the snowfield on the left, which is the eastern approach.

From the top you have close-up views of South Sister, Broken Top, and Mt. Bachelor to the north, and North Sister, Mt. Jefferson, and Mt. Washington to the south.

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After ascending the Collier Glacier (slightly right looking down), we decided to descend via the Renfrew Glacier (directly below Middle Sister’s summit ridge). We wore our crampons down until the snowfield ended, and followed a large natural gully for a few miles until we eventually hit the PCT again. It was tough to find our location, even with compass and map, but we turned right and in under 2 miles joined up with the Obsidian Trail intersection again. Bear left, and continue 5.5 miles to the trailhead parking lot.

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Overall: Incredibly strenuous day, mostly due to boulder-hopping and route-finding, but an awesome and exhilarating undertaking for the truly adventurous.

Boundary Peak via Queen Mine; Highpoint of Nevada

Nina and I met in June while climbing Mt. Baker and immediately bonded over this shared ambition to explore the highest peaks of the west coast. Just a month after exchanging contact information we put together a plan to meet halfway between San Francisco and Orange County to hike up the tallest mountain in Nevada, Boundary Peak (13,140′).

And actually, two days before we were meeting, we decided to tack White Mountain Peak (14,252′) onto our travel plans for a 13er and 14er two-fer weekend.

Let’s talk about getting there. You’ll find the beginning of a gravel road 9 miles east of Benton off of Highway 6, on your right (south) side of the road, just across from an abandoned ranch (see Summitpost for more detailed directions). I realize now that many of the sites I was using as a reference were as many as a dozen years old, and the 6.2 mile gravel road between Highway 6 and Queen Mine has severely deteriorated since then. I drive a 4WD Jeep Liberty Sports Edition, and sincerely doubted my car’s ability to get through the ruts and deep gouges that tore up this washed-out road. Maybe the conditions have worsened in just the last two years – a trip report I read from 2013 said this road was “easy peasy” in a 4×4 pickup.

In comparison, the following day we drove up the arduous 17-mile White Mountain Peak gravel path, which is labeled as a 4WD-only road by the National Forest Service, and we found this much more passable than the Queen Mine route. Either way, we were happy to get out of the car to start our climb.

We left my car at Queen Mine proper, an obviously large flat area next to a couple of open mine shafts. There was about 700 vertical feet, 1 mile, of road walking until we reached the trailhead register at Kennedy Point and our real hike began.

The Queen Mine trailhead register.

The Queen Mine trailhead register.

This first part of the hike was steep, and I could feel the altitude at 10,000 ft. sucking at my lungs. It didn’t take too long to ascend this first ridge, which flattens out after just a thousand feet into a nice sloping meadow where you can see wild horses, deer, and marmots. The Trail Canyon saddle slopes down to the left of this ridge and is unofficially “marked” with a pile of rocks and logs that created a perfect morning break spot to fuel up and hydrate before tackling the peak.

Here’s an overall breakdown of our timing:

  • 7:00am: Left Queen Mine trailhead
  • 8:30am: Took a break at the Trail Canyon saddle
  • 10:15am: Reached the summit of Boundary Peak
  • 11:00am: Departed the summit
  • 12:30pm: Took a second break at the Trail Canyon saddle
  • 1:45pm: Arrived back at the car
Our first views of Boundary Peak, a little less than a thousand feet above the trailhead... with wild horses!

Our first views of Boundary Peak, a little less than a thousand feet above the trailhead… with wild horses!

These first views were quite intimidating, but it was really only from this point that we could see the entire mountain. As soon as we descended to the Trail Canyon saddle, we could only see that first false-summit on the right. In fact, we’d forgotten about this image and believed that we were walking up to this first (much shorter) peak, to the actual summit.

Finally heading up the actual peak.

Finally heading up Boundary Peak.

You can see what we thought was the true summit here, when we really had an extra 1.5 hours and near a thousand vertical feet to gain still. The trail was reasonably sloped, covered in rocks and scree. It might’ve taken us just as much time to go up as it did to return since we were constantly slipping on the unstable conditions.

Looking down at Trail Canyon saddle. Farther to the right you can see the slightly uphill path that leads to Queen Mine.

Looking down at Trail Canyon saddle. Farther to the right you can see the slightly uphill path that leads to Queen Mine.

Our favorite view of Boundary Peak.

Our favorite view of Boundary Peak.

This was the “ah-hah” moment where we realized we were very, very miscalculated in our summit estimating. Overall, the trail was well-defined, and we never had too much of a problem finding the path once we’d wandered off. There were parts we chose to follow rock paths and bouldered up to avoid unnecessary elevation gain or loss, but the ridge was relatively easy to follow.

Looking across Nevada at the summit.

Looking across Nevada at the summit.

Reaching the summit felt like quite the accomplishment! We could see across Nevada and over to the Sierras and Yosemite region of California. On the top, Montgomery Peak (13,442′) loomed back at us from California. We speculated where the state border actually laid, and contemplated a second summit, but couldn’t spot a good trail and noted that the final 800 or so feet looked a little too sketchy.

Summit of Boundary Peak.

Summit of Boundary Peak, looking across to Montgomery Peak, a few hundred feet higher.

Looking down the ridge we ascended from the summit.

Looking down the ridge we ascended from the summit.

Returning down the way we came, we used the ridge above as a natural handrail and made our own path until we met with the Trail Canyon saddle again. We had run into 3 other groups during the day, and all 3 had also come from Queen Mine. Notably – we were also the only women we saw on the mountain that day (girl power!)

Returning through the meadow until dipping down to the left to Queen Mine.

Returning through the meadow until dipping down to the left to Queen Mine.

Looking down the valley from Queen Mine.

Looking down the valley from Queen Mine.

Below you can see where we chose to park – at the entrance to the abandoned Queen Mine. You can faintly see the road continuing up the ridge on steep switchbacks that take you 700′ up to Kennedy Point and the official trailhead. I never got a shot in the morning, but there was enough room for a few cars and tents with a firepit just to the right of my Jeep. By the time we arrived back at the car in the early afternoon, it was hot. The cool breeze that had kept us company at altitude disappeared once we’d reached the valley. Since this is one of the most remote desert hikes, and there are no sources of water along the trail, I’d highly recommend bringing three liters of water.

This is my recommended parking spot, next to the Queen Mine, before the super-rugged road conditions start to the traditional trailhead.

This is my recommended parking spot, next to the Queen Mine, before the super-rugged road conditions start to the traditional trailhead.

Leaving the trailhead, we were back in Bishop by 3:00pm… With just enough time to feed our hiker hunger and get ready for our ascent of White Mountain Peak in the morning.

QUICK STATS

  • Length: 10.4 miles
  • Trailhead: 9,200 ft.
  • Summit: 13,146 ft.
  • Elevation gain: 4,000 ft.
  • Time: 6:45 total, 6:00 moving

A few resources I found really helpful before this climb…

Climb Mt. Baker (10,781 ft.) via the Easton Glacier Route

Summit the third-highest mountain Washington at 10,781 ft., the most heavily glaciated peak of the Cascade Range volcanoes after Mt. Rainier.

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Overview: 16 miles roundtrip, 7,600 ft. elevation gain

The Easton Glacier route is one of the mountain’s most popular and likewise, most crowded. Check out Mt. Baker’s Squak Glacier route or Coleman Deming Glacier route for an alternative climb with similar difficulty.

You’ll start out at Schreibers Meadow Trailhead (3,200 ft.). To get there, exit off of I-5 north of Mount Vernon, head east on Highway 20, and turn left on Baker Lake Road. Follow this past Rocky Creek Bridge, taking a left on Forest Road 12 and a right on Forest Road 13. The parking lot is huge – but will still fill up during summer weekends. There’s plenty of roadside parking leading up to the TH. Don’t forget your NW Forest Pass parking permit!

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Hiking up Railroad Grade.

Start your hike out on Railroad Grade trail, and after a couple miles, keep right to continue up Railroad Grade itself. (We missed this turnoff and had a fun scramble up a creek bed to meet the trail – might have been more fun without our overnight camping gear.) Railroad Grade itself is a rocky moraine that looks and feels like a ridge. Follow the clearly-defined trail up to a huge area of flat camping spots, around 6,500 ft. In busy season this will look like a tent city, there must have been 50-75 people when we were there in late June.

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Superb North Cascade camping views.

Above the campsites you’ll start your glacier travel on Easton Glacier, and at this point the route will vary depending on time of year and snow season. You’ll likely cross a few snow bridges across the larger crevasses; I’ve never heard of ladder crossings being used on this route. Since Mt. Baker is the second most heavily glaciated peak of all the Cascade volcanoes, there are huge crevasse dangers on summit day. Stay roped up to your team and make sure everybody has had training on crevasse rescue techniques.

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Keep northwest towards the Crater Rim at 9,750 ft., where you’ll smell the “rotten egg” sulphur gas coming from the crater. The last 1,000 ft. are the most difficult of the day and take you up a combination of icy rock and snow to the base of The Roman Wall: the crux of your climb – both equally intimidating and thrilling. Ascend carefully up this steep grade, which can be 40-45 degrees and often icy.

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Heading up the Roman Wall.

Once you’ve breached the top of the wall, you’ll have a clear view of the Grant’s Peak – the true summit – just across a long plateau. Take your time making it to the top and soak in the views of Glacier Peak and the North Cascades stretching out below you.

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Summit plateau towards Grant’s Peak, Mt. Baker’s official summit name.

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As always, begin early (alpine start ~ midnight to 2am) so you have the advantage of hard, frozen snow for your crampons to grip into. On your descent, be aware of crevasse dangers and wary of any snow bridges that might have melted out from the sun.

Surprisingly, there are no permits required to climb Mt. Baker, but I recommend one person in your party to fill out a trail registration at the trailhead.

Packing List:

  • Northwest Forest Pass Trailhead Parking Permit
  • Trekking poles
  • Ice axe
  • Crampons
  • Crampon-compatible mountaineering boots
  • Helmet
  • Alpine harness, rope, ice tools
  • Overnight snow camping gear (tent, stove, cookware, sleeping bag, etc.)
  • Headlamp + extra batteries
  • Navigational gear
  • 2+ liters of water
  • Means to boil or treat water with iodine
  • Plenty of food
  • Blue bags for human waste
  • First aid kit, emergency GPS spotter
  • Emergency bivvy or shelter
  • Sun protection, storm protection, plenty of layers!

Mt. Shasta Summit Climb via Avalanche Gulch (14,179 ft.)

Mt. Shasta (14,180 ft.) is a spectacular beginner mountaineering experience. Great for serious hikers who want to take the next step into high-altitude alpine climbing.

Overview:

  • Length: 11 miles
  • Elevation gain: 7,300 ft.
  • Summit: 14,179 ft.
  • Time: 4:15 am – 5:30 pm
  • Total time: 13.25 hours

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The Avalanche Gulch route is the second easiest, non-technical route to the summit of Mt. Shasta after the Clear Creek Route, but is by far the most popular. Many people complete this climb in one day from the trailhead, but you also have the opportunity to overnight at Horse Camp (7,950 ft.) or Helen Lake (10,400 ft.).

Begin at Bunny Flat Trailhead (6,940 ft.), off of Everitt Memorial Highway. This road and parking lot are snow plowed year-round and you’ll run into plenty of families using the area to sled, hike, or picnic in the summer. Follow the signs for 2 miles to Horse Camp where you’ll find a cabin and large, flat areas for camping.

Pro tip: If you’re lucky enough to stumble upon this place alone, the cabin makes for a great overnight shelter. There are long, wide benches great for sleeping, and a small wood stove that’s easy to use. Be sure you bring a sleeping pad – the benches absorb cold air and will leave you hypothermic without an extra layer between your bag and the wood. This is also a good place to leave extra gear (tent, stove, etc.) for your summit push.

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Brian at daybreak, scoping out our route for the day.

 

Even if the trail is snowed over, from Horse Camp your route should be obvious. Staring up the southern flanks of Mt. Shasta, follow the natural channel of Avalanche Gulch all the way up to Helen Lake.

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Looking up Avalanche Gulch, Helen Lake is the long horizontal shelf right in the middle.

Since this is a southern approach, depending on when you choose to begin in the morning, the sun will be blocked by the eastern Sargents Ridge and Green Butte Ridge. It’s important to do as much snow travel in the dark as possible so that your legs aren’t sinking into soft, melted snow on your ascent. I highly recommend an early alpine start (around 2am) if you’re beginning from the trailhead so that you can avoid the uncomfortable and harsh radiation that the sun will reflect from the snow.

Above Helen Lake, you’ll see a large rock formation called The Heart, and above this up on the ridge line, a protruding formation to The Heart’s right called Thumb Rock. Climb in between these two landmarks until you reach Red Banks (12,800 ft.). This photo and this photo should help you visualize this. You can also choose to approach Red Banks farther to the left up a steep chimney, the groups we saw doing this were roped up to one another.

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Steep grades going up to Helen Lake in Avalanche Gulch.

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Some groups are roped together towards the steepest part of the climb, up Red Banks.

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Continue up the Red Banks ridgeline until you reach Misery Hill (13,800 ft.), a landmark that’s rightfully earned its name. It isn’t until the top of this hill that you can actually see the true summit for the first time. The summit pyramid is a rough pile of rock and ice that makes for an easy and fun scramble to the top of Mt. Shasta (14,180 ft.).

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First view of the summit.

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All smiles at the summit!

On your descent you may have the opportunity to glissade part of the gulch – pack an extra layer of pants or slick material that you don’t care about ripping up. Remember to take off your crampons and use your boots and ice axe as brakes as you glissade.

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Be prepared for any typical mountain climate emergencies. Winds, storms, and whiteout conditions can occur on the mountain at any time and delay or completely stop an exit attempt. Because Mt. Shasta is an isolated volcano, solitary from any mountain range, it is more susceptible to these types of crises.

Be wary of AMS and descend at first signs of symptoms.

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Mt. Adams Summit Climb

Photos from Mt. Adams, August 19, 2011 with Dad.

  • Length: 11.5 miles
  • Elevation gain: 6,676 ft.
  • Summit: 12,276 ft.
  • Time: 4:45 am – 7:15 pm
  • Total time: 14.5 hours

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Under dressed: Part 1.

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Barely any snow on the lower half of the mountain from being later in the season.

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Under dressed: Part 2.
Before we owned trekking poles, and before I owned gloves that weren’t cotton.

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Our first climb with crampons.

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Under dressed: Part 3.
We like to look back at these photos and laugh at ourselves for donning all-cotton outfits in these conditions.

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At the false summit with Mt. St. Helens in the background.

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On top of the true summit. We met our now-friend Brian partway up the mountain, and he took me up the last 700 ft.

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Finding a good glissade path down.

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