MT. SHASTA (14,162') 3X VIA HOTLUM ICEFALL September 19-20, 1981
of the best outings that the local Sierra Club ever ran, I found
that I was approved to go, despite once being declared unqualified
for a regular Shasta climb, in spite of my shortly, later, doing
the U-Notch Couloir on North Palisade! We drove up Saturday morning,
and the leader took us to an nondescript dirt road on the north
or east side of this great mountain.
Somewhat arbitrarily parking in the forest, we started our backpack up the lower, rubble slopes
of the volcano.
The six of us were all accomplished mountaineers, with one fellow from Peru. Carrying ropes and gear, our packs were pretty heavy. We arrived at our base camp near a small pond. Having little then to do, I snapped a lot of photos, and we had a nice sunset.
In the morning, the nearby flowing stream was frozen. I had no way to scoop up some water, except from the pond. It appeared murky with minerals and other runoff, but it became my water source for the climb. I was to suffer some possible parasite or even mild poisoning, with stomach upset and severe diarrhea, later, but I foolishly decided to do this with that being the only water that I had.
We climbed up to the Hotlum Glacier, and the climb up the ice fall was absolutely spectacular! This was my first big experience with such deep crevasses, and I was leading our second rope team of three! I led, following the first team, and then they got out of sight. Coming to crampon tracks over a knife-edge bridge of frozen snow, I declined this precarious lead, and led down and around this deep crevasse. The last climber in my rope team was pretty tired or even sick, and I was loath to have him follow over this section, with a terrible fall quite possible.
The climb up this glacier wasn't hard in any way, just requiring good navigation and avoiding the obvious crevasses. Nobody wanted to slip into one, as I heard another group claiming to do this had said. About a thousand or so feet higher, we roped up at one steeper section to get to rock rubble, with the ice then all below us.
One climber began to heave Gatorade, apparently from the altitude. He seemed fine otherwise. We might have had some easy class 3, and passed by rock pinnacles and other features most climbers might never know were here.
With a short way left to the summit, we topped out and posed for pictures, and enjoyed the views. I snapped one photo of the register.
The days were shorter, so we had to get back home, this day, too. The leader took us down part of the Wintun Glacier, and we traversed under the steep couloir where I heard some doctors were killed, later. It was then back to the Hotlum Glacier, and then down it back to camp. One teacher on this trip began to panic, losing the normal technique of downclimbing easy ice. Sad to see fear circumvent basic technique, I braced for a fall or slip, but he finally climbed down, as we talked to him, and then we were to gentler slope angles.
It was easy cramponing back down to the lower end of the snow, and we hastily packed up for the pack back out to the cars. That went so smoothly, and we motored out to the highway, and then back home without additional event.
I was to hear about fiascos on other, later trips. Once, a climber broke a leg, and the leader, having a job to get back to, left him with another climber to be rescued later. Then, another group was slow, one of them having some beginner trouble with her equipment, but being an Executive Committee member, couldn't be refused attendance despite weak climbing credentials. In a snowstorm, the leader left them to their slow packing up camp (as they are), and they spent another night out, not being able to find their cars!
Glad to not have to deal with most of this, I did once receive a phone call from a worried mother about her son. Missing him coming home on time, she wondered where he was and what, if anything, had happened. I had to phone about, the leader not answering his phone, and found, by my knowledge of local peak people, that there had been an accident. The son was O.K., just that he had refused to abandon the hurt climber, to stick with him till presumably a heli-rescue. None of these trips were under my jurisdiction, by my climbing section, or however by the other peak section, but I am experienced with problems by other leaders, and handled it all quite well, I think.
Danger, and thus mountain beauty, seem to attract climbers, but I didn't deem this much of any hazardous route, having done it so safely. These events never made any news, or gained any much attention in the local chapter activities. Competent climbers will do these routes easily, as they require only some basic ice climbing, and not any difficult rock climbing. The average angles are not that steep, although the inexperienced and totally inept will find a way to endanger or injure themselves. Plenty of those types in this area.
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