McCLOUD FALLS, SHASTA SKIING, CASTLE DOME (4,966'), LASSEN PEAK (10,452') July 9-12, 1995

Gaining a new partner, I happily motored us up Interstate 5 in my 60 mpg. Arriving to the Shasta-Trinity National Forest in late afternoon, I thought of something to do. I had the directions to get to all of the McCloud Falls, said to be scenic. The driving was part dirt road, but we got to all of the falls for plenty of photos. Other people were enjoying this, some fishing and swimming. I recall some mosquitoes, but it was cool and nice enough.

We camped at a spot along the Everett Memorial Highway, and woke up to a sight of Black Butte in clouds. Our objective today was to ski as far as we could get up Mt. Shasta.

The snow was firm, and others were carrying their skis. We got to Helen Lake in due time, and had lunch. Volunteers were packing up the climbers' poop in large garbage bags. It was to be carried off the mountain. I saw one skier that I knew, and offered some help. Glad though, I didn't have to pack any of that smelly stuff inside my ski pack! Though it was mostly frozen, and didn't smell much, then.

We started down after seeing the skier carrying the load off, and had a fine run for this time of year. 1995 was a heavier than normal snow year. Back to about the cars in an hour, we enjoyed drinks and then the load-bearing skier appeared. He had made a stop at the Sierra Club hut. One of the truest locals, he was to write several guidebooks on the climbing, hiking, and skiing ops about this part of the U.S.A.

We motored up to a vista point opposite the mountain, on the side of Mt. Eddy. This leads from the Lake Siskiyou Road, to a fine pullout, where I snapped a few photos of Mt. Shasta.

So next, we would hike and climb Castle Dome in the Castle Crags State Park. We had some climbing gear, and this was a big must-do for me. The rangers refuse to give directions or advice, except not to do it. I knew it was class 4 or less, so route-finding was the only problem.

Hiking up good trail to the base of the upper dome, we looked at the friction slabs that led up around the dome to its presumably weak side. We clambered up the class 3 friction moves, not too bad. This leads to a brushy ledge, which goes right around the upper dome.

There is a highly exposed traverse, over a thousand foot sheer drop, although you don't see this as you're on it. This leads left into a deep dirt gully, which climbs up to a slot. Above to the right is another friction slope, and I wanted a rope. My partner led up some easy formations, and gave me a belay. I chose the easiest sections, and didn't need the rope on my downclimb. We summited nicely, and I placed a register. That wasn't to last long.

The view of Mt. Shasta wasn't much better than from below, so I didn't waste film. We stayed on top for a while, then we downclimbed, knowing the rock was good and the holds were secure.

Back to the car, we left for our next peak, Lassen. We must have camped somewhere, and the next day, were able to drive up to a point slightly short of the summit trail parking lot. The snow berms were up to 25 feet high. I always wanted pictures of this!

We used our skis ascending the trail route, and soon topped out. I snapped a few photos, and never had seen so much snow here this time of year. I would hardly think it was mid-July!

Enough with the rests, we tele'ed down the slight ridge to the right of the south bowl, and I lost my edges at one point, skittering down the snow slopes till I could try to pole arrest. I came to a stop, and became more careful for the rest of the way down.

Both free with time, we decided this was enough, and headed home. We kept in touch by phone and e-mail, then went our own climbing ways. He loves to resort ski, while I bag peaks.

I wrote of our fun in the Ski Mountaineers Mugelnoos newsletter, and then the next year, a group from Southern California set out to do the peaks skiing down all the way from each of them. I attended one of the trips, and we skied the Devastated Area on Lassen's east side, then up as far as one wished up Avalanche Gulch, with two making the summit.

Skiing up these peaks isn't that hard, as it depends more on the snow. I've had good luck on conditions, and see other people doing this. I'd hike and ski more up here, but now I've been to Lake Helen on skis four times, and about to the top of Lassen twice (on skis). It can get old, though, as I once so found on our local Pyramid Peak.

I still have all of my backcountry ski gear, which sits mainly in the closet and storage. Haven't used any since 2003. I was using my winter clothing in lieu of heating for my former place, saving lots on my bills. Nylon does rot, and boots fall apart. Maybe someday I'll find another good bc ski partner; it's great exercise!