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Mt. Shasta Via Casaval Ridge

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Mt Shasta Facts:

  • Its the second highest peak in the Cascades next to Rainier(No.1)
  • Over 15,000 summit attempts are made every year with only a third being successful.
  • Most of the climbing is done via the popular Avalanche Gulch
  • Casaval ridge has an elevation gain of approx 7,300'

Lessons Learned

Shorty after arriving from my Rainier trip I was eager to redeem myself on another mountain. Although I had summited, the ass kicking I received really humbled me and opened my eyes to all the areas I needed to improve on for my next going. After much searching I came across Mt Shasta and instantly knew this one would be next. I booked a winter trip via Casaval ridge, I prefer going on the less popular routes to avoid the crowds. This time around I convinced my good friend Yen to join me which made me that much more excited knowing one of my good buddies was joining me for the adventure. The lead up to this climb was especially difficult and there where times when I considered cancelling the trip, I had lost my grandfather to cancer a month after booking the trip and two months before the climb my younger cousin died of an opioid overdose (Please see passion & purpose for more on this and how I’m using my climbs to raise awareness on opioid addiction). These where very difficult times for me personally and made my summit all the more emotional.

 

Training

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Things where much different this time around. I gave my self considerable amounts of time to train (7 months) and I took my training much more seriously. I trained hard and frequent. I ran 4-5 times a week 5 miles/day on average and did lots of leg work outs, especially exercises that would target my hamstrings and tibialis (down hill muscles). I got on a strict stretching regimen to make sure I had no tightness on my muscles and the best possible range of motion. A good diet got me much leaner and faster for this trip. I had learned my lesson and I wasn't about to commit the same mistakes that nearly prevented me from getting to the summit on Rainier. 

 

Mt Shasta California

After 7 long months, February finally came around and I was all packed up and ready to go. I flew to San Francisco, spent a few days getting to know the the beautiful city before renting a car and heading up north. On route to Shasta we where able to enjoy the amazing ride, taking in all the scenery that surrounded us completely topped in fresh snow. We got to Shasta in the midst of some crappy weather, it was all cloudy and the visibility sucked. So we opted to head to a local restaurant to have one last solid meal before heading up for the climb the next day! We had pasta, steak and potatoes, it was a feast! We where making sure our bellies where completely satisfied before the big day. We where so stuffed we can hardly walk but when we stepped outside, the weather had cleared and Mt. Shasta's massive presence was towering over us in the most incredible of ways. It really was a sight to be seen. At that very moment I knew we where in for a treat!

 Mt Shasta Casaval Ridge Route

Mt Shasta Casaval Ridge Route

 

The Climb

 Mt Shasta approach

Mt Shasta approach

The next morning we all met at the SWS office and introduced ourselves. This time around I was one of the few that had some past mountaineering experience. Despite all my training I was still a bit weary and intimidated by the mountain. To my surprise the guides let us know that due to the bad weather conditions, no group from SWS had reached the summit this winter. But luckly we had a very narrow window where we might be the first to make it up(fingers crossed). After a quick pow wow, gear check and poop bag course (poop bags vary from mountain to mountain, not all poop bags are created equal!), we loaded up our packs and headed for the bunny flats.

 

Upon arrival we quickly realized the snow was soft and deep thanks to a heavy fall the days before. We straped on our snow shoes and began breaking trail. The weather was nice and cool and the mountain was as if you where looking at a Virtual reality post card, it was perfect. We slowly started making our way up to what would be our camp for the next two days. It was a very pleasant day on the mountain and I was feeling great, absolutely no exhaustion or leg pumps. Every hour or so we would stop for a break and a chance to take in the breath taking view's. The last 90 minutes consisted of ascending a fairly steep snow field and before we knew it we had arrived at this ledge that would be our camp for the next 2 days. Everyone dropped their pack, pulled out the shovels and automatically started digging out the tent platform. We dug about 3’ in the deepest section and where able to get some nice cozy spots for the tents where they would be protected from the wind.

 Setting up camp at 10,000'

Setting up camp at 10,000'

As the sun came down, the temperature started dropping quickly and in a blink of an eye it got very very cold. Even with my mitts on, my fingers were so cold they hurt. I figured it was a good idea to get warm so I quickly tucked my self into my sleeping bag and "tried"( hardly a truth when mountaineering) to get a good night’s sleep. This proved very difficult due to the winds pounding on the tent all night long. It was also Yen's first time on a mountain so he was so excited he wasn’t having any sleep either. What seemed like 15 min after I was finally able close my eyes, the guides where shinning their head lamps on our tents to wake us up.

 

Summit Day

 Mt Shasta's Shadow during the sunrise

Mt Shasta's Shadow during the sunrise

It was 2 am, extremely cold and it took some serious will power to get moving.  We drank hot coco, got our gear on and set out to conquer the summit. It was dark out and windy while we roped up and started on the ridge. The wind was picking up the snow and spraying it on my face making for some nice frozen snot. We kept moving along waiting for the sun to rise and warm us up a bit. Eventually It did and we got the most incredible views with Mt Shasta’s shadow casted upon the surrounding landscape. We where also able to get a good view of the ridge we where climbing. It was amazing, full of these huge red rocks protruding from the snow forming whats really the most aesthtic line on the mountain.

 

 Yeniel and I during a rest break on our summit push

Yeniel and I during a rest break on our summit push

We where roped up in two groups of four. By sunrise our group was moving at a considerably slower pace than the other, so we started to worry we wouldn’t make it to the top on time. We had been at it for nearly 6 hours and had yet to make it to Shastina (Shasta’s little sister at 12,335’) and we still had 2000’ of elevation gain to go before making the summit. I was feeling great, my training had proven to work and I was ready to pick up the pace at any moment to race for the top.  The problem was my group members where having a hard time keeping pace and where giving in to exhaustion. By just focusing on putting one foot in front of the other for few hours, we eventually made it to the famous misery hill. By now I could see the first group already making it to the top of the hill. Matt, our group guide sat us down for a second to let us know that our summiting window was closing. We had a choice, either call it a day and start making our way down or haul ass to the top, each one at his best pace and one of us summits on time. At this point we un-roped and he let us know that we had 45 minutes to drop onto misery hill and make it to the top (this is where my training really kicked in). After all the events that happened leading up to this trip and how emotional it was for me, I had to summit on way or another. So I kicked it into high gear and started working my way down onto misery hill on my own and then raced up to the top at a frantic pace. I was able to catch up with the first group just at the beginning of the summit plateau. I felt some guilt leaving my partner to climb up at a slower pace knowing he probably wont make it but knowing he was safe and accompanied by the guide, I decided to push on since this climb meant too much to me. Once I met with the other group, I got a quick drink of water before setting out for the summit pyramid. It was gorgeous once at the plateau, you really get to see how massive of a mountain Shasta really is. Then it’s a short hike before getting to the true summit. We had made it!.

 Misery hill in the back ground

Misery hill in the back ground

 summit plataeu

summit plataeu

 We took some pictures, signed the summit log and hung out for a bit before heading back down to camp. Just as I started making my way off the summit I saw Yen, my climbing partner approaching the top. I raced down to where he was and took the final steps with him. I was ecstatic he had made it and that we where able to get a summit picture together.

 Yeniel and I on the summit!

Yeniel and I on the summit!

The descent 

At this time we really had to start heading down in order to make it to camp before sun down. We descended down the side of Avalanche Gulch in a long and boring slog in knee deep snow. It took about 4 hours to get back down. Once at camp I took off my boots, organized my gear inside the tent and went straight to sleep. After a long day, when I finally laid down on my sleeping bag I was so tired I it felt like I was laying on a temperpedic and In a matter os minutes i was out cold. 

The next morning, we where up around 7 and quickly began packing up since a storm was working its way onto the mountain. We wanted to be out as soon as possible. After a quite uneventful descent we had finally made it back to Bunny Flats. Spirits where high and we where all eager to have a decent meal and get some rest.

After thoughts

All in all even though my physical conditioning was a lot better on Shasta, I still consider Rainier to be much harder both physically and technically. That being said, this is a beautiful mountain with amazing features. I really enjoyed climbing it in the winter since there wasn't any one else on the mountain at the time. Despite the sun beating down on us the whole summit day, it was still cool enough to where we didn't feel fatigued by the sun. I definitely wouldn't mind coming back and climbing it again, maybe try ski mountaineering it instead!

 


HERES A LIST OF THE GEAR I USED, THE PLACES I STAYED AND THE COST BREAK DOWN OF THE TRIP:

Logistics:

Shasta is pretty much far from everything, you don't have many options other than renting a car. Plus the drive is well worth it (amazing scenery). Your nearest air port is Sacramento which is about a 3 hour drive. Once at shasta, your best bet is to stay at the SWS bunk house. There are plenty of restaurant in the area to satisfy your pre climb cravings. From the SWS bunk house, its about a 30 min drive to Bunny Flats, where you will begin your climb. 

 

Cost break down:

  • SWS mountain guides - $825.00 (+ guide tip)
  • Car rental - $235.00
  • Hotel - $166.00 (2 nights)
  • Pre climb food - $74.00
  • Snow Shoe Rentals - $40.00

Total:  Approx $1340.00

Gear List:

Lower Body-

  • La Sportiva Baruntse
  • Point 6 Medium weight Socks
  • Point 6 Heavy weight socks
  • Smart Wool base layer
  • Mountain Hardware ChockStone pants
  • Arc'teryx Alpha SL Pant

Upper Body- 

  • Bight Gear Solstice Hoody Men's (base layer)
  • North face Soft shell hooded Jacket (**Highly Recomended)
  • Mountain Hardware ghost lite jacket
  • Mountain Hardwear Micro Dome (insulating warm hat)
  • Marmot Men's Windstopper Glove (light weight)
  • Marmot Men's Randonnee Glove (medium weight)
  • Marmot Mens Mit

Climbing Gear-

  • Julbo Monte Bianco Glacier Glasses
  • Black Diamond Climbing Helmet
  • Black Diamond Couloir Harness
  • Black Diamond Raven Pro Ice Axe
  • Black Diamond Sabertooth Clip Crampons
  • Osprey 85 Pack 
  • Mountain Hardware 3 degrees sleeping bag
  • MSR Snow Shoes

 

 

Brandon ArrastiaComment