Climbing Mt. Shasta, Camping on a Glacier, and Skiing Down

Once you’ve got an idea in your head, you have to do something with it — let it die, or act on it. We brought ours to life.

“Let’s climb Mt. Shasta.”


I just wanted to do something fun. Climbing mountains is fun. Or is it? Things that come with climbing a mountain or can come with climbing a mountain:

  • A diet primarily based on beef-jerky and energy bars.
  • Snow.
  • Snow in your face.
  • Snow in your boots.
  • Snow in your tent.
  • Wind.
  • Wind in your face.
  • Wind outside of your tent (which subsequently makes you think that the big bad wolf is outside about to blow your goddamned tent down the goddamned mountain.)
  • Wind inside of your tent, because the wind can be everywhere.
  • Discomfort caused by “rural” or “ancient” methods of relieving oneself.
  • Pride in overcoming the challenge of the previous point.
  • Tiredness.
  • Sleep deprivation.
  • Exhaustion.
  • Fear.
  • Joy.

Let me elaborate on that.

I flew back on a Thursday night to meet up with my dad. He was my climbing partner at the youthful age of sixty-one. My dad can kick your dad’s ass (unless your dad knows jujitsu, and is in his 20s, and you can read this, somehow.) We drove up to Shasta from the bay area, approximately a 4.5-hour drive and spent the night at the Best Western. Holy shit. Have you ever stayed at a Best Western? It’s what I imagine staying at the Ritz Carlton is like, or maybe just the Carlton. We slept like babies that had a fresh pair of diapers and woke up the next morning for some buffetfest. Eggs, sausage, pancakes, the works, everything I ever wanted and dreamed of — I have big dreams.

We shot over to the meeting spot and met the guide and the other two gents in the group. I was the youngest by 21 years. I promised everyone I would make it to the top before them. I did this simply by standing there and not speaking. Oh, the power of youthfulness.

We drove over to the backside of Shasta; made it to our beginning trail over there and got our backpacks on. I mention this because backpacks are often trivial, unless you’re climbing a mountain, staying two nights there, and skiing down it. In that case, you need things like: food, water, plastic bags, ice axes, shovels, transceivers, avalanche probes, ski crampons, skis, ski skins, ski boots, ski clothing, ski poles, bandaids, camping stoves, fuel, alleve (optional), pepto bismol (optional, but recommended), toothbrush/toothpaste (optional, but not advised), sleeping bag, a mat for your sleeping bag, and a giant fucking backpack to carry all of the aforementioned. Also optional: bringing a girl with you to keep you warm at night, but in that case, you’d probably want to bring a toothbrush/toothpaste. See gear:


We got on our merry way. Peculiar to me was the entire setup I had going on my feet. I never went ski touring before in my life. What do you mean my heel comes up? What do you mean I won’t slide backwards on this hill? Are you sure these skin things work? They work. They just don’t work as well as you’d hope when you have 0 experience. As such, my first 15 minutes on this randonee setup was, to say the least, exciting.

Remember when you were a baby learning how to walk? Me neither, but that’s how I felt.

We hiked from 7,000 to 10,000 feet and made camp. We used our shovels to flatten an area and then we pitched our tents right there on the mountainside.


As the night rolled in, the wind picked up, a lot. I’ve never camped at 10,000 feet. I’ve also never camped at 10,000 feet when there’s 30-45 mph winds outside. Shit, I’ve hardly even camped. We cooked dinner inside the tent, which, apparently, is generally a no-no because you can asphyxiate yourself if you don’t have air coming through it. (Asphyxiation is bad.) Also, you can pretty much blow up your tent, which is not an advisable action either. But we cooked inside anyway, all five of us in a 4-person tent, which was really like a 3-person tent. It was cozy.


Dad didn’t know I took this picture of us:

After getting the water boiling, we ate ramen and other choice gourmet foods (actually wasn’t that bad). Then we went to bed. Then the wind picked up even more. And it was snowing.

Tent vs. wind: which one would you bet on?

Our tent survived the night, and so did we. But we missed our chance to summit, because to summit, we needed to leave at 5 a.m.. At 5 a.m., there was a fortified storm outside, and we hardly had a fort protecting us.

The wind finally died down around 8 a.m. and we went ski touring, climbing up to about 11,000 feet. We saw stuff like this:


And this:


And this:


After touring around on the glacier, we went back to camp. The weather was OK and we were actually able to cook from outside of the tent that evening. After eating, we went to bed. Around 10 p.m., the wind picked up. It howled throughout the night which made for ideal sleeping conditions, up until the morning. At 7 a.m., we were all up and the objective was clear: get the hell out of dodge. A blizzard had come, in May, and it was up in our grill, eating all of our meat and vegetables. We packed up in an hour, slapped on the skis and made our way down.

Good news: some decent powder.
Bad news: not for long.

Once we were down to about 8,000 feet, the snow became ice and the terrain shifted away from the smooth plane it once was, and it became somewhat of a minefield filled with “suncups.” These do not make for ideal skiing conditions. But, we made it look as good as we could and we powered through.


Once we got towards closer to the car, the snow was bountiful:


After making it back to the car, we drove to the Goat-Tavern bar back in Shasta City. I had a beer and I washed my hands, with soap. I couldn’t tell you which one I enjoyed more.


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