Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Mt. Shasta

Winter solstice, 2006

Solstice, the moment when we move from one year to the next, from one full circle into a new path. A revolution. Rod and I started this one with skiing up Mt. Shasta, and a whole year of adventure and learning ahead. The perfect cycle/circle. We begin our circumnavigation of Earth, climbing monuments of peace and power. We will build our roots in Central and South America, grow our spirit in Africa and Europe, bear the fruits of our practice in Central Asia, Harvest lessons learned in East Asia, and be back to Shasta next solstice to complete the circle.

She Mount, Mt. Shasta, a fiery old woman. Strength and Power of love is what she sent us to find this year. It felt good walking up her slope, and just when we started, the sky cleared up to a beautiful sunset and views of her whole mass blessing us.

We got a late afternoon start, it took hours to leave town. A million stops, a light and steady snow fall, the mountain hidden almost as if there was nothing there. Then, finally up to Bunny Flat to approach the summit via the Casaval ridge. We skinned across the first meadow as the sky started to clear and we got our first look at an ice covered, winter Shasta. Beautiful spires of ice blown rock and white against the deep blue sky. On top of a small knoll we stopped to pay tribute to the spirit of this monument and to ask for teachings during our climb.

We made it to ~8000 feet at the base of the ridge, still below tree line, after dark and set up The Slug, our tent. We were testing the JetBoil stove, and had a terrible time melting snow for dinner and drinking water. The stove would flame up, and then have a 'simmer' size flame that barely put out enough heat to warm hands, let alone melt snow. It took 3 hours to melt 2.5 L. The problem was probably cold fuel canisters.

After setting the alarm to wake us up at 2:00am, we settled into an easy sleep. At about 1:00 am the rumbling and cracking of heavy winds started up, and by 2:00, 30mph gusts were tearing through the forest. Plumes of snow off the ridges indicated ~80-100 mph gusts, so we decided to wait and see if anything changed by dawn. When the sun came up, the winds were as strong as ever, so we gave up the idea of a summit, and took a short walk up the ridge. Wind gusts were stumblely, and snow stability sketchy (south and west faces highly wind loaded), so we turned around. Despite not being able to summit Shasta now, spending solstice on her, getting to sit and play on her slopes, and receiving our trip's mission, was great. And, launched the trip well. Happily, we skied out and headed to town for a yummy lunch.


toot said...

I had one experience on Shasta. It was in early summer, about 25 years ago. We camped out just above the road and got an early start (of course). Hiking up the Southwest side is fine because the snow at that time of year will remain firm for most of the ascent. With skis on our back, scrambling up the Red Banks was a hoot. Then came Misery Hill. Yes, we were in Misery. There was a Japanese fella who was with us who had done Mt. Fujiama. At the bottom of Misery Hill, he said in his thick accent "I think crimb Mt. Shasta easy. NOT easy!!!!" We did not summit, but were satisfied with a good ski down.

That evening after dark in Camp, there was a group of three hikers who were School Teachers that saw our campfire on their way down from the summit. They were terribly disoriented and "out of gas". Of course, we took them in, got them straight and found their transportation. Always feels good to help a fellow earth traveler out.

The weather on any Mountain can pan out fast. It is always a crap shoot.

Toot Joslin

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