Thursday, May 2, 2013

Shasta Revisited: Casaval Ridge w/ Avy Gulch ski descent

After a six day backcountry ski trip and a day of rock climbing I was... how do you say? Bushed? Wei, I sink so! But you know, like, when in Rome and all that good shit. So since I had to drive right by Mt. Shasta with all my ski gear and because I could... really just because I could, I mean there was absolutely no enjoyment in it at this point, just pure ego. But regardless of why, all that matters now is that I did, and it was actually mildly enjoyable. I even had fun for a few minutes. And all it really takes is a few minutes plus your ego reveling in your ability to crush and "ta-da!" All I remember now is how awesome it was. "Yeah, I am awesome. So cool. Everyone probably wants to be me. Rock and Ice or Powder Magazine should do a feature on me because I'm so great..." I'm off in dream land while my body slowly processes mitochondrial waste products from its thorough thrashing and tries to figure out how to rebuild all that atrophied muscle. Anyway, Rock and Ice isn't going to interview me because it actually wasn't very cool and I'm really pretty pathetic so I'm going to write it up myself... you know, keep stroking that ego!

Mount Shasta from Mount Shasta. Casaval Ridge descends towards the viewer.

So I arrived at the Bunny Flat Trailhead the day before, just after soloing Cosmic Wall and having grabbed some food in Mt. Shasta (the town). I didn't have much water because I only had two liter bottles. They were less than a liter each actually. I planned to melt some snow at the trailhead but naively underestimated the traffic this place gets, even in winter. I set up my tent on the asphault next to the car and started digging in the snow bank for clean snow. I got down to some good looking stuff and fired up the stove. After an hour of work melting about 3 liters of water I was at a loss. Everything tasted nasty, like ski wax, road salt and squirrel pee. I threw the water out and was trying to figure out what to do when a car pulls up. No one gets out. It just sits there facing the mountain which is alight with alpenglow from the already-set sun. Then this weird new-age trance music starts to play. This seems somewhat normal. Mt. Shasta (the town) is full of mystical crystal shops and new-age meditation centers. Some people believe the mountain is one of the seven shakras which is... well I'm not really sure. Anyway, I'm trying to decide whether to melt more snow or drive all the way down to town to buy more water. The last light fades on the mountain, I really need to get to bed if I'm going to do this. The new-age car pulls out and turns around. I raise my hand half-heartedly to get their attention. The car stops and the window rolls down, an older couple occupies the front seats.

"You guys don't happen to have any water do you? I'm almost out and the snow has this awful chemical taste."

"Sure we do!" says the guy. While he rummages in the trunk the lady asks me what I'm doing. "Climbing the Mountain? Wow!" Then the man hands me a full 1.5L bottle and refuses anything in exchange. If he was looking for good karma he can have all he wants. Sending good vibes your way man! You are awesome!

Approaching Casaval Ridge that morning.

On the lower section of the Casaval.

I slept like a baby and left the car at 6:30am. Skinned over to Casaval Ridge and started the actual climbing. At first I was a little disappointed. The ridge is a line of decaying rock towers (typical of the Cascade volcanoes) and there is no way to climb them so I was just traversing the snow field next to them. Then things started to get steeper, more exposed. Every time I thought it was going to cliff out there was a notch letting you traverse to the other side of the ridge. Two short sections of 50ish degree snow even made it feel like climbing. Where the terrain section ended (~12,500ft?) I started to bonk. I would take two steps and feel completely exhausted. I forced myself to find a manageable pace and keep moving, but it didn't last for long. The last eight days were finally catching up to me. I bonked numerous times before the bottom of Misery Hill. When I got there the hill was completely exposed scree. Realizing that I would not be able to ski from the summit, I ditched my skis there.

Heading up...

Looking down...

I got to the summit at 1pm and thought I would be the only one there that day, but I turned around to see two telemarkers from Bozeman coming up from the Hotlum-Wintun. We chatted briefly and I snapped some pictures before cruising back down to my skis. I had planned to ski the West Face but it looked so bare I just headed straight down Avalanche Gulch. The ski run was less than exceptional, thick mashed potatoes. I arrived at the car just before 3pm. By 3:30 I was in Mt. Shasta getting a snack for the drive home.

The uber-deluxe Shasta summit registry.

Summit shot, courtesy of the Bozeman boys.

Time to ski!

Casaval Ridge on the left and Avy Gulch straight ahead, from the car.

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