Shasta: Attempt #1

July 17, 2016

Peter and Solly have been seriously talking about climbing Mt. Shasta for weeks. After a bunch of research and fielding advice from many corners, they felt ready. They did their list-making yesterday, shopped, and packed. Their plan was to hike halfway in, summit tomorrow, then drive home–about a 36-hr adventure. Peter took off at 5:30 this morning to pick up Solly…


Djina got a photo of the two of them:


About a half an hour later, we heard Peter pull in… turns out he’d forgotten his hiking boots. Hey, other than that, totally ready!

They were on their way.

I have to admit, I have been nervous all day. Shasta is not a trivial climb. They’d picked a popular route, far less technical than many of the routes, but it’s still a 14,000′ snow-and-ice-covered peak, vulnerable to avalanches. He’s been hiking and peak bagging his whole life. So has Solly. They are reasonably experienced, level headed guys on a popular trail. But still. The more reading I did, the more nervous I became.

I’ve been scared and worried as a mom before…

Like the time I strapped a 1-yr old Peter securely into his carseat, then closed the car door, to realize I’d not only accidentally locked all the doors, but I’d boneheadedly left the keys inside. This is hard to do, but it can be done if you’re super spacey for just an instant. To make matters worse, it was one of those 100+ degree summer afternoons in Davis. The story goes on, and involves the fire department and busted windows, but suffice to say it was a scary moment (a long 25-minute scary moment).

…  but thinking about those boys on the windy, snowy, icy slopes of Mt. Shasta in crampons may be the most scared and the most worried (a long 36-hour scary moment).

In fact, check this out:

Screen Shot 2016-07-17 at 8.33.23 PM

On top of steep, icy slopes (which they plan to climb in the dark,  wee hours in order to insure a stable surface, using headlamps for light), they are dealing with winds of 20-35mph and a 12-degree wind chill.


It’s after midnight as I write this. He’s texted a few times today, thank goodness for that. We know that they: 1) had breakfast in the town of Mt. Shasta; 2) got their permit; 3) rented an ice axe for Peter; 4) parked at the Bunny Flat trailhead; 5) passed Horse Camp; 6) reached and made camp at the Helen Lake trail camp, their intended overnight spot about halfway up. Pitched their tent on snow. And likely ate a great dinner (pizza, believe it or not, something they bought yesterday and then cut up and froze last night.. how ’bout that).

We also know, because he also texted this, that he is not confident about his ice axe skills and is feeling dubious about their planned 1:00am departure up the mountain. He’s never used an ice axe for self-arrest. He watched a bunch of YouTube videos in the last couple of weeks and thought it looked straight forward. They planned to practice today on their first icy slope. I’m not sure how it went, but evidently it was not as easy as he thought it might be. His deciding to forgo the summit tomorrow is the best news I could have heard. Not because I didn’t want him to bag a premier California peak, but I’m incredibly impressed that he had the good judgment to determine he wasn’t ready. I’m especially impressed that he feels okay about saying so. To me, that is a mountaineer in the making.

He further texted that Solly may go ahead; they met another person at Helen Lake and Solly may join him for the ascent. Peter will wait for Solly at trail camp and go down with him after the climb. As far as we know, that’s the plan. (It’s now just a little before 1:00am… should plans change, I hope he’ll let us know.)

I’m sure he’ll be disappointed, but I know there will be future attempts. We’ve heard many stories from people who said that their number of attempts far outnumbered their actual successes. That, too, is the mark of a good mountaineer, one who lives to tell the tale.

I can hardly wait to see them and hear their stories.



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