Monday, June 01, 2009

Shasta Prep

I have a mountain of food in the living room and I'm just not really up to organizing it, so I've asked for Patricia's help. I'm getting less and less thrilled with playing house in the mountains. I like to climb things, but the mechanics of going on a trip into the mountains I am not fond of. If I could keep up with groups, I could just always go on group trips. Problem is that I like to do my own trips and itineraries as I'm pretty good at route finding. Maybe I should just hire someone to help me prep for a trip (menu creation and organizing). I don't know who does that, but someone must. There are plenty of underemployed guides who cook. While I'm dreaming I could just have my own sherpa and a cook too.

It's likely going to be wet and rainy at Shasta. I don't know whether I'm disappointed about that or relieved. given that my goal is just to get above Helen Lake (hopefully up to the Red Banks), that should be completely doable in the wet, but if the temperature doesn't drop enough at night to refreeze the snow, it would mean being in soft snow the whole time and that just won't work and I would not be inclined to leave at midnight which is what it would take for me to get that far as I climb slower than average. Mountaineers leave at night because frozen snow is much easier to climb (using crampons), and mountain weather in the afternoon is unstable so it's best to head down at noon. I can climb to Helen in the dark as I've done that part of the trip more than twice. I've been as far as 50-50 Flat (which is not flat just not as steep) around 4 times, as far as Spring Hill more than 6 as I can reach it during a day trip from the Bunny Flat trailhead. So the lower part of the route I know well - well enough to know that the trail to Horse Camp is actually harder than just staying in Avalanche Gulch proper and then traversing left at the treeline.

However past Helen is where things get really steep and really tough (though no crevasses fortunately). The slope on the part of the route just below the Red Banks is over 30 degrees. It's that part that I want to try just to see how it is. Fortunately I have good ice axe skills (I'm a glissading queen) and am good at self arresting (using an ice ax to stop yourself when you fall on a snow slope), however a 30 degree slope is usually not where you want to test your skills as simply hanging on to the ice ax in that scenario is really hard and if the snow is firm you may not be able to get the pick into the snow and you may find yourself taking a fast trip back down to Helen. This happens to a Shasta climber one or twice a year though deaths aren't common fortunately (there's a dangling modifier in there but it's too awkward to fix - I'll assume you understand that it's not just one Shasta climber that this happens to.)

For the most part we're going to be hanging out at the Sierra Club's beautiful "Horse" Camp. There are no longer any horses there, in fact you can't even have dogs there, though you can outside of the Sierra Club property. In fact you can take your dog as far as Helen. Which dog would be a fun question as Yoshi is in better shape and there are hardly any dogs there but he's such a nervous boy. Trek is more resilient about the outdoors, in the snow there would be no poop to find and eat or roll in, and she'd love the quiet though she's currently not in as good of shape but we're working on that. I'm supposed to be writing about a snow trip and I'm again writing about my dogs - what does this mean?


Elf said...

"I'll assume you understand that it's not just one Shasta climber that this happens to." Although wouldn't it be nice for everyone else if it were just the same one every time instead of someone different each time? Some evil climbing Sisyphus type, doomed to fall off a mountain over and over? While the rest of you always got down safely?

Ellen said...

Now that's a sacrificial climbing lamb. this climber could have a permanent (abeit brief) job in the Himalayas.