Last Saturday evening Aaron, an AMK co-worker Ryan Barnett, and I drove north for 3 hours in preparation to have an alpine start on the 14,162 foot Mt. Shasta Sunday morning. Jiggles, Ryan, and I started climbing at 4:30AM. We chose a later start to allow for the forecasted strong winds to subside a bit. This is the earliest time of year I have been to the mountain and the snow was all the way down to Bunny Flat Trailhead (6920 feet). (Last May Garret Bean and I summited via West Face and didn’t put crampons on until 10,000 feet.) We walked up the hill (not on the trail or on the herd path in lower Avi Gulch) to HorseCamp (7880 feet). The plan was to NOT take Casaval Ridge due to the forecasted high winds, but the ridge looked good from Horsecamp, and it wasn't windy. We decided to go for it and glad we did! We had epic views as we crawled up the ridge. There are a few nearly vertical sections of snow to climb, loads of very steep / high exposure traverses, and sweet rock formations to negotiate.
Ryan felt poor so he turned back at 11,000 feet via the West Face at about the same time I turned back my first time on the mountain. Aaron and I pushed on and faced some strong winds and low visibility as clouds keep passing through above 12,000 feet. I started to feel like dog feces and got a headache around the 12,000 foot mark. Felt strong and agile up until that point. I was wearing Julbo’s all day, but had multi-sport glasses on instead of one of their glacier glasses and some light reflected off of the snow gave me a mild case of snow blindness and associated headache. The ventilation in the Aero's are amazing for riding and running, but that same ventilation was not ideal for snow. We somehow inched our way up Misery hill (13,800 feet) where we found a bizarre sheltered part of the ridge to watch the ice covered summit rocks get pounded by spindrifts, wind, and clouds. We sat there for a good 5-10 minutes observing the weather and the rime ice encrusted summit pitch. We played it safe and didn't go for the final 300 vertical feet to the summit along with an experienced team of 3 and 2 solos. 1 solo came back to our spot after a failed attempt. The main reason we didn't go for it was the increasing cloud cover. The valley below had a few happy looking clouds, but they quickly changed to a full blanket of white. As the clouds hit the ridge they encompassed the summit. It was a good call in hindsight as the summit stayed in the clouds the rest of the day, and apparently no one reached the summit that day.
We carefully picked our way down to the start of the Avi Gulch descent in very low visibility. After some good ass-sliding we were back to Horse Camp and began slipping and sliding down the soggy herd path back to Ryan and the car after nearly 12 hours on the mountain. My headache increased in severity as I descended. It didn't really go away until I got home at 11PM that night. Although it did improve after a monstrous calzone in the town of Mt. Shasta.
I didn't stop to put Zealios Sun Barrier SPF 45 on my face until 10,000 on the way down, and I have a nasty face burn. Stupid! Been using AfterBurn to heal it. I wore thick/fleecy tights, soft shell pants, DarnTough socks, craft s/s baselayer, l/s thermal shirt, synthetic down jacket, Buff, and lobster mitts the whole time.
I used my jacket's zipper and gloves on and off to regulate temps lower on the mountain. Added a fleece hat and shell jacket at the top of West Face. I used a single Leki pole on the descent, a AS-3 OutThere backpack. I also didn't eat much on the mountain: 100 cal GU Chomps, 2 egg sandwiches (fried egg and English muffin),and 1⁄2 quart bag of scroggin (Australian for Trail Mix). Need to Feed the Machine better!