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 Mt Shasta

February 15th-18th, 2008

Success on Mt. Shasta in Winter but great weather.

Those present:  Adrian Crane, Deborah Steinberg Derek Castle, Carey Gregg, Brien Crothers, Ray Kablanow, Vance Roget, and Mark Richardson, Christopher Crane, Johnathan Crane, Melissa Griffith, Griff Griffith, Brian B.

Pictures on Flicker


Shasta At Night

There was a full moon on Mt. Shasta, and complete quiet all around me.  I found myself awake in the middle of the night on this usually windy wintry mountain, and as I stepped outside my tent the steep icy  slopes we had ascended less than 24 hours before were bathed in moonlight, glowing almost fluorescently.  The city lights of Shasta City were below, and I could just make out Mt. Lassen in the distance.  There were no clouds to block my view of the stars that could be seen despite the bright moon above me.  The light was like that between two worlds, that of sunshine, and that of night.  I felt like an animal with night vision, able to observe potential prey and potential predators.  The silence was broken by the crunching of my boots in the snow, and the sound of a marmot shuffling away as it found a scrap of food near our stove.  I started to chill so I stuffed my hat farther over my ears, put on my hood, and buried my always cold hands deep into my pockets.  As I soaked up my surroundings I realized I wasn’t as exhausted as I should have felt having climbed 9 hours to reach the summit before returning to base camp.  Actually I was buzzing with a sense of accomplishment, having failed at an earlier attempt at the summit last winter.  I almost didn’t make it to the summit this time either.  We had to move at a pace that would allow us to make it to the summit by 1 pm, and one person in our climbing party was having difficulty keeping up.  As we were all roped together, unless you all moved at about the same speed, your pace depended on that of the slowest person in the group.  We came upon another climbing party in our group with the same issue, so we roped the two slowest climbers together so they could move at their own pace.  There was also the problem with my crampons, which are necessary to keep your boots firmly planted in the hard snow and ice.  They were loosening and falling off frequently, and every few minutes I had to readjust them or put them back on.  Finally one of my crampons broke completely.  I had finally reached a point where I felt determined to summit beyond all doubt, and I was forlorn  that I would have to give up and turn back having come all this way!  Not only that, but all we had climbed was rather treacherous to consider descending with only one crampon.  Miraculously, Adrian, my climbing partner who always climbs with a bit of string and duct tape, was able to re-engineer my crampon so that I could continue on.  I told Adrian, “I think I can make it.  My first goal is to the top of that slope,” pointing about 800 vertical feet above me.  Reflecting on my accomplishment in the evening quiet, I realized it was really all about determination with a little luck thrown in.  Then I heard the marmot scurry back, feeling lucky he found a lone peanut in the snow.

 Deborah Steinberg


Casaval Ridge Route

By Deborah Steinberg

Before this trip I had once before attempted but not reached the summit of Mt. Shasta in winter the year before with Adrian, Ray, Derek, and Carey, and actually made the summit in summer with Adrian, Derek, Carey and Noelle.  I decided that if I was to summit in winter on the more difficult Casaval Ridge Route, I was going to have to prepare and get in shape.  I joined a gym and spent hours a week on the stairmaster for months, and did lots of leg presses and leg extensions.  For this trip we decided to take 4 days in order to have an extra day to acclimatize and make the trip easier on summit day, and it was a good thing, because the Bunny Flat trailhead parking lot was closed because they hadn't cleared the road yet, so we had to start out lower at McBride Springs. Our destination the first night was to be at Horse Camp, but as we had to climb in from the lower area, we had to gain about 3000' to get to Bunny Flat. Since we just drove in that day (left Modesto on Fri at 6am), we arrived in Shasta at 11am, went to get our boots rented at 5th season (I got a 7 ½  mens, but i should have gotten a 7 i think, because my boots gave me blisters the whole trip), ate lunch at Burger Express, and it was 1:30 before we head out from McBride Springs. We had fantastic, clear, non-windy weather the entire weekend, almost unheard of at Shasta in February, or any other time of year.  We set out with sleds so we could set up a storage tent at a lower camp and pull more gear, but even so we were only able to climb the first night until about 5:30 PM, and we ended up setting up camp on a narrow ridge in the trees about 500 feet below Horse Camp. Those climbing with us at that point were: myself, Adrian Crane, Derek Castle, Carey Gregg, Brien Crothers, Ray Kablanow, Vance Roget, and Mark Richardson. Vance was the chief sled dog, and Carey had a hard time keeping up with his pace, which was pretty brisk.  Later that night Griff and Melissa Griffiths joined us after arriving and climbing in the dark. Adrian was still waiting on his sons Johnathan and Christopher to arrive and catch up, and was texting them in the middle of the night, because he still had phone service. Adrian, Derek, and I shared a tent, and were joking quite a bit the first night. Sometimes we would here people laughing at our jokes from other tents, so our spirits were pretty good.  That night the raccoons got to a lot of our food, and animal theft ended up plaguing us the rest of the trip.  We awoke the next morning fairly leisurely and set out with snow shoes for our advanced base camp at 9500 feet.  We had seen the camp last year occupied by a climbing school, and thought it would be the highest camp that would be possible before summit day.  We passed Horse Camp after about an hour, and picked up another climber there (Brian B.) whose party had not arrived yet.  As well, Jonathan and Christopher finally caught up to us as well.  Unfortunately Jonathan was sick even before he left, so wasn’t feeling well when we arrived at camp. It was fairly steep in some sections to get to camp, and we were all a little exhausted after climbing about 4 hours that day.  Once we needed crampons to climb instead of snowshoes, we left our snow shoes at last years’ campsite, so we wouldn’t have to carry the weight all the way to our advanced base camp.  All 13 of us camped on a saddle that had gorgeous views from every direction of the town of Shasta, the mountain itself, and mountains beyond.  As we discussed strategy for summiting the following day, Derek and Ray felt that they were not strong enough to try a go for the summit, and since Jonathan was sick, Christopher decided to go back the next day as well.  On the way up to camp we noticed that the parking lot to Bunny Flat had opened that day.  Ray and Derek decided that they would descend on Sunday taking the tent that Adrian, Derek, and I had slept in, then travel down to our original camp, pick up the storage tent and sleds, then move the vehicles to Bunny Flat so that when we descended after Summit Day we would not have to travel as far.  The rest of us broke up into climbing parties (Adrian, myself, & Carey;  Melissa, Griff, and Brian B.; Vance, Mark, & Brien C;)    I wasn’t very hungry, but it was just as well, because I noticed that I had left my food at the lower camp.  From Saturday night on I relied on others generous donations of food.  Fortunately for me, Mark had brought a huge surplus of food, and was more than willing to share so he wouldn’t be stuck with carrying the weight down the mountain.  After going to bed full from all the leftover food offers, we awoke at 3:00 am, and I myself was very anxious.  My legs felt like jell-o, and I was hoping I wasn’t getting a cold. I forced myself to choke down a breakfast cookie, because I knew as soon as I started exerting any energy I was going to be needing it.  At 4:30 am I strapped on my crampons, but soon after we began climbing with headlamps I started experiencing trouble keeping them on my boots.  I had to make an effort to regularly check them and tighten them, and Adrian was constantly re-strapping them for me.  Our parties roped up together for most of our climbing that was on the north side of Casaval ridge.  I consciously decided not to look down as I followed with Adrian in front of me and Carey behind.  After a few hours, Carey started to fatigue, and being in the middle there were times when Adrian was pulling on me, but I was dragging Carey.  Finally, we caught up with Vance, Mark, and Brien C., who were in a similar situation in that Brien was starting to fall back, while Vance and Mark wanted to go full-steam ahead.  At first Adrian suggested that I rope up with Vance and Mark, and Adrian go on with Brian and Carey, but I was vigorously protesting, knowing there was no way I could keep up with them.  I suggested we rope up Carey with Brien, and create a new party, but Adrian had not brought another rope.  Finally, Adrian got the idea to cut one of our ropes.  Thus we set off as three parties of 2 that were better matched for speed.  A little while later I reached an epiphany.  I was exhausted, but we had climbed nearly 3500 vertical feet of the 5100 we would need to climb.  I realized that 1500 more vertical feet must be doable, until Adrian mentioned that it would be about 3 hours longer.  But then I thought about how all these circumstances of perfect weather, being in great shape, and not being sick made it a “now or never” situation for me.  If I couldn’t summit this weekend, I never would.  So I promised Adrian that he never had to take me to the summit again if he got me there this weekend.  As a matter of fact, I think I promised him I would never even bother to attempt it again!  Soon after, my crampons actually broke, and I thought I would have to face up to not seeing my dream.  Fortunately Adrian was able to rig up with a little string a workable repair, and we continued on.  We faced a horrifically steep slope ahead of us, and I told Adrian, “The top of that ridge is my first goal.”  Once we reached the top of my first goal I felt a huge sense of accomplishment and determination.  It was extremely windy at the top of that ridge, but we moved down a few feet to an area much more sheltered. We had met up with Griff, Melissa, and Brian B. who had been moving along nicely at this point, but Griff was starting to feel the effects of elevation as we were over 13,000’.  We ate a bit as we faced the infamous “Misery Hill” that is filled with icy loose shell-like scree that sounds like china breaking as it rolls down the hill behind you as you climb.  To get there we first had to climb downhill, which feels like such a waste of elevation gain when you are trying to make it to the summit, and you are completely breathless and exhausted.  I saw others ahead of us traversing the hill, and I asked, “Should I traverse it in switchbacks?”  Adrian said that no, you might as well just go straight up because that was the fastest way.  “Do I have to go to the top of the hill, or can we just go around it?”  “All the way to the top” was my response.  I ate some more sugary foods and started out ahead of Adrian, slogging along 5 steps at a time, then resting for a few moments before continuing.  Finally at the top of the hill, we could see the summit ahead of us.  We really only had to traverse a spooky ice field the size of 3 football fields and then climb a little 200’ rock that was the summit.  It seemed to take us forever to walk across the ice field, because it was like walking in sand and very slow.  Finally at the foot of the summit we saw two climbers coming down.  It was 11:45 am.  We made our way to the summit finally at about 12 noon, and Vance and Mark were there to greet us.  Soon after, we were joined by Melissa, Griff, and Brian B.  They said Carey and Brian C. were waiting for us below Misery Hill, deciding not to go on ahead.  Griff wasn’t looking too good, but was elated to be at the summit.  We took the necessary summit photos and signed the log book, strategizing how we would get down the treacherously steep slopes we had climbed.  Griff was swaying and not feeling well, so we roped him up with Melissa and Mark.  It was amazingly hot with the sun beating down on us, and we all stripped down to as little clothing as we could modestly muster. We had decided to take an alternate route through Avalanche Gulch which would be steep, but more direct, and it would be possible to glissade through parts.  Glissading is basically sliding on your side down the ice, using your ice ax as a brake.  It actually takes a fair amount of energy to keep yourself in control by laying on your ax, but to me it was preferable to walking, since I am famously slow downhill.  We eventually found ourselves at Helen Lake whereupon we traversed northwest for a mile or so to our campsite on the saddle.  We arrived in camp elated and exhausted to find the ravens had visited our camp and taken more food!  Since our tent was gone with Derek and Ray, Adrian and I slept in Brien C.’s big 3-person expedition tent with Brien and Mark  It really amazed me that you could stay reasonably comfortable in 10 degree weather if you are just moving or have the right gear and sleeping in a tent.  The only time it was truly cold was when you took breaks from climbing, or had to remove your gloves to light your stove.  At camp we were melting snow for water endlessly it seemed, so we’d have enough water for our bottles and “ just add boiling water” meals.  Carey usually took charge of this task, and I tried to help, but I always felt a little guilty that I wasn’t doing more of this basic but needed chore.  By Sunday night we had run out of most of our hot meals, and were relying on snack foods, and various odds and ends.  But after reaching our campground exhausted after reaching the summit, I really was not very hungry, and ate very little anyway.  Notoriously a poor sleeper while camping, I had to get up and go to the bathroom about 5 times that night!  The next morning we left for our vehicles at Bunny Flat.  After about a third of the way down, Ray came up to meet me as I was once again fixing my crampon.  I asked Ray what he was doing there and he said “to switch packs with you,” and threw down is little tiny fanny pack.  I protested as best that I could that it was not necessary, and  I could make it down the mountain with my humongous pack, but honestly, when someone really wants to do me a favor I have a hard time turning them down.  The best part was instead of everyone waiting an hour for me in the parking lot, I was there with everyone else.  After returning our rented boots at 5th Season, we all met up at Burger Express for one last meal before the long drive home.  “So, Adrian, what’s our next Adventure?”  I knew some of the adventure racers in our group, notably Melissa and Mark, were going to do a race in Baja in a month, but I was really interested in more mountains.  Adrian mentioned that he has always wanted to climb all the 14ers in California, so I guess that is what’s in store for me!         Deborah

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