A Journey To Summit Mt. Shasta — Trip Report
This last weekend (June 23) a group of us, with age ranging from the 20s to 50s, hiked the Avalanche Gulch route to the top of Mt. Shasta as part of Asha Silicon Valley to raise funds for education in India. This post is a trip report to summarize our journey not just of Mt. Shasta but the training and the motivation as well.
Asha Climbing Team Starting for Mt. Shasta Avalanche Gulch Route
Why Mt. Shasta and Why Asha for Education?
At **14,179ft **Mt. Shasta is the second highest volcano in the United States! Mountaineering to the top of Shasta is a test of your physical abilities and determination. The trip requires a careful plan and training in using ice ax and crampons to traverse hard snow and ice fields. Many choose to do it with a professional mountaineering company.
On the other hand, one-sixth of humanity is illiterate and about 350+ million people in India (i.e more than the US population) can’t read and write. Asha for Education is slowly but surely making a dent in this space with over 2 million dollars annually disbursed to more than 400 projects in India.
What better way to combine these two challenges and come up with a way to make a dent in it individually! So we as volunteers with Asha decided to fundraise for education in India and do it by tackling the grandeur of hike up Mt. Shasta. Asha Climbing Silicon Valley was born!
A group of hikers signed up back in February 2019 for the climb with ages ranging from the 20s to 50s! Since March 17th they tenaciously completed over 15 group training hikes gradually increasing backpack loads from 0 to 40 pounds and mileage from 4 to 14 miles! Each climber made a huge commitment to methodically train for the 14er!
Starting from mountaineering shoes to gear for an overnight trip to gear for being able to travel on hard snow and ice fields — the participants had to shop for a bunch of it — this is the side of mountaineering which puts off some people or excites the gear nerds! But all of this is necessary to have a fun and safe climb. In our climb, we found a few things we did miss in our initial list and recommended them for the next group — you can never have enough gear ;).
An Example Pack (Photo: Courtesy of Krishna Dase)
In addition to endurance and gear — the participants had to learn snow travel skills like — rest steps, plunge steps, French technique with crampons, ice ax arrest and more. We did that by a snow skills field trip near Castle peak on May 25th!
Practicing Snow Skills
The Avalanche Gulch route is one of the most popular routes up Mt. Shasta and with the awesome snow this year it has weeks of good climbing on it. The basecamp is at Lake Helen and the crux of the climb is going up to Red banks with 2000 ft of 20–35-degree slopes.
Avalanche Gulch Route (Photo Credit — Timberline Trails)
Finally, Our Journey!
We started the hike up at Bunny Flat trailhead around 10:45 am. With a group of 7 climbers with ages ranging from the 20s to 50s, we were beaming with high spirits ready for the challenge. With two breaks we reached the basecamp of Lake Helen at around 4 pm, gaining about 3000 ft. Everyone felt strong but also tired after carrying 40+ lbs of huge backpacks!
Approach to Lake Helen from Bunny Flats
We spent the next 3 hours setting up camp and boiling water for everyone! It takes a long time to boils 21+ liters of water at 10,400 ft!!
Base Camp at Lake Helen!
Two of us decided to stay back at the base camp since they were not feeling great and wanted to give the team the best chance to summit. So our team reduced to 5 on the summit bid. We started close to 4 am with the string of lights ahead of us and about 2000ft of nearly 35-degree slope getting us to top of red banks!
The string of lights at 4 am going up to Red Banks!
Almost on top of Red Banks!
We got to the top of Red Banks around 7:15 am and felt strong. It was lovely to see a group of newbies do such a strong push on a steep slope! Next up was Misery Hill which adds another 700ft but sucks the life out of you. Shriyansh almost wanted to give up but thanks to Ashish’s cheering on we pushed ahead and got to top of it in decent time. We were near the summit block by 9:30 am and Shriyansh was sprinting way ahead of me and Ashish — making us feel that he was joking when he said he wants to quit!
The Last party (Me + Ashish) coming up on Top of Misery Hill!
The Trip Down!
We started our journey down around 11:30 am and were at the base camp by 2 pm. We did glissade part of the Red Banks thanks to some tips from the rangers for the newbies in our group. Ice Axes can be dangerous especially when glissading — Shriyansh got a hole in outer pants to prove that!
We took a couple of hours of rest at the base camp and started our journey back down to trailhead around 4:30 pm. We got a bit lost, I guess with big packs and tired legs our brain led us a little astray. However, with a good detour, we came down back to the trailhead at around 8:30 pm!
The Crew Back at the trailhead — the journey is never complete without getting lost!
Our next group is going up the mountain this weekend (June 28), please wish them good luck and awesome weather. We were super lucky to have great weather!
Additionally, we are super fortunate to have gotten a great education and be in the place we are — we are lucky, not all of us are that lucky. Please consider supporting Asha and donating to one of the climbers fundraising climbs.