Bay Area Backcountry Buddies Message Board › West face of Shasta Trip Report: Skip the plastic boots.
San Francisco, CA
So let me start by saying that if you decide to climb Shasta and go to rent equipment from REI, when they tell you that plastic expedition boots are the only way to do it, tell them that they are completely full of shit and find somewhere else to rent crampons and an ice axe. But more on that later.
Overall this was a fantastic trip that succeeded far beyond my best estimates. 12 people made it to the summit on a long day, 8 hours, 5000 feet of climbing. Everyone did an amazing job to get to the top of this steep and challenging climb.
We congregated at Bunny Flat at the base of the mountain on Friday night. The weather was unseasonably warm as we threw down our sleeping bags for the night. In the morning we collected our gear and set out for Hidden Valley. It's only a few miles but all uphill. Still we all reached the camp at 9200 ft by noon after stopping at Horse camp for a drink and rest. Upon arriving at Hidden Valley we found the Plateau littered with tents. There were about 20 people on a guided expedition that had gone up at 2am. We watched them as they descended the upper slopes of Shasta in the afternoon.
On Sunday morning at 2am several of us woke up and started to get ready to leave by 3am, the rest following at 4am. The unseasonably warm temperatures continued as it was 45 degrees in the morning and the snow was soft and hard to walk on. As we gained elevation it firmed up and the traction improved. The sky slowly lightened and around daybreak the two groups had consolidated and we were making good progress. As we hiked higher and higher progress slowed. Around 12000 feet the effects of the altitude were becoming clear. There were times when you could see someone just ahead of you but you knew that it would take you an hour to reach where they were. Nevertheless the summit of Shastina slowly fell below us and by 10 am we had all arrived at the small flat spot at the top of the West Face. The weather was perfect and a few of the faster climbers settled down for a nap in the sun while they waited for everyone else to get to there. Misery Hill and the summit were finally visible after being obscured by the false summit that were now on top of.
Two people were having problems with their boots and reporting a lot of pain. Still they pushed on but a lesson was learned. Skip the rented plastic boots. If they don't fit correctly you're going to suffer unnecessarily. For the easier routes on Shasta you're much better off with sturdy boots that fit you (and you're comfortable in) and a set of strap on crampons.
Misery Hill failed to live up to it's name as everyone pretty much plowed up it. It even seemed like a minor obstacle after the climbing we had done all morning. At the top of the hill the path up the summit block was apparent, outlined by the string of people going up and down. One of the rangers at the top estimated 200 people were trying to reach the summit from Avalanche Gulch. On the West Face 14 people climbed. Which would you prefer??
Everyone was on top by 12:15, exactly on time. We relaxed, took photos and congratulated each other. The gentle breezes and warm temps reminded me that I had gotten up at 2 am, I felt a nap coming on. But instead around 1pm we started descending. After hiking back to the top of the West Face one by one people started glissading. The first bit was a bit scary but then the angle let up and real speed could be built up. It's amazing that the mountain that took you hours to climb can be descended in just a few minutes.
When everyone was back at Hidden Valley we packed up and hiked out to the cars. A successful trip, almost everyone got to the top and everyone returned safely. Not sure what more could have been asked for. Thanks to all that came, you were great.