The road to Shasta climbed and fell and then climbed again as we passed through the Trinity National Forest and along several coastal rivers. In one last attention grabbing finale the 7% grade down to Whiskeytown (an actual place, not just a state of mind) pitched and banked it’s way down a dizzying 9 mile stretch with back-to-back 20 mph curves. This along with the twisty descent from Trinity Aretes left Robyn feeling like a 12 year old after riding The Zipper for the 14th time at the state fair. We took a breather at a campground along the road, had a snack, and finished out our stint on the 299 to Redding.
Redding is at the junction of 299 and I-5. It’s unfortunate we didn’t really get to head into town because the junction of these two roads produced a kind of human that was less than enjoyable to be around. We high tailed it north as quick as possible and arrived along the shore of Lake Shasta by lunch time. Being the weekend you can imagine the mad house we found but who can blame them. It was a perfect 75F in the shade and warm enough to swim in the sun. House boats were moored in strings 60 boats long, and the lake glowed an emerald green right up to the red sand beaches…
First impressions likely get more weight in forming opinions then they deserve, regardless Mt. Shasta both mountain and town were aglow in the low evening light as we arrived. Mt Shasta towers above its surroundings at an elevation of 14,180 ft. The streets of town were well taken care of, and quaint homes lined the streets full of happy residents walking dogs and enjoying outdoor seating at one of several eateries and pubs along the main drag. We spent 3 great nights in Mt. Shasta, taking time to scope rentals, job listings and nearby towns. We have long singled out Mt. Shasta as a possible ending town for our trip as it is one of the few western towns to provide an avalanche center in which I could land a forecasting position. This, along with its charm, and proximity to mountains, rivers, lakes and climbing have elevated Mt. Shasta as the place to beat.
I got a hold of Nick, a forecaster at the Mt. Shasta Avalanche Center and went in one morning to get a feel for the office and any opportunities they may have to incorporate me into the fold for next season. The reception I got was very welcoming but of course the story of the center (as with most these days) was a lack of funding. They currently have 2 unfilled full time positions open but money is no guarantee. In the end we agreed that if Shasta was our final choice of where to live they would be happy to work on building a position and find funding. Odds are that it will be mostly volunteer to start, but the opportunity to work in the system will be a valuable resume builder. We also drove a few miles north to the nearby town of Weed, CA home to the College of the Siskious. School was out for the summer, but the college was very charming perched among large trees and a welcoming green lawn. With the college only minutes away, and two small communities to provide options for work, Robyn will have several options to pursue for employment.
So. Town is charming? Check. Career opportunities? Check. Good skiing? Check. What about climbing?
Well my internet searches before visiting we’re coming back slim, and this seemed as if it could be the only downfall of the area. Enter Styles, the owner of a gear shop called Base Camp. Styles enthusiastically debunked the myth that climbing was scarce. He pulled out a guidebook he was currently working on and proceeded to show us a few areas within 2 hours that boasted well over 300 routes. There was basalt rimrock, overhanging pump-fest limestone and the iconic skyline of Castle Crags Wilderness dotted with adventurous granite domes. To get a taste of something different we decided to check out Castle Crags, our eyes set on the objective of climbing Mt. Hubris (aka the Ogre) via the 6 pitch 5.6 route Cosmic Wall.
Hand drawn map in hand we loaded our packs with trad gear and headed up the Pacific Crest Trail climbing 3,000 feet in about 4 miles before rounding a bend and laying eyes on the crags. Before leaving the trailhead Nick from the avalanche center invited us to dinner, and since it was already 3:30 PM or so we decided to scramble atop some of the rocks to get a view and to verify that we were in fact on the correct trail before stashing our gear and planning to return in the morning.
Back in town, we got a hold of Nick and met him at his cool little home halfway between Shasta and Weed. We enjoyed a great BBQ on the back patio and met his wife Hany (sorry if that is spelled wrong..) as well as a handful of friends that all came to enjoy the evening with us. A few of his friends were guides on Mt. Shasta and others worked for the forest service and all seemed to be down to earth great people. It’s funny too, that all the people I really got to talk to in Mt. Shasta spoke of how great the recreation was without having the “scene” of the more popular destinations. This is something Robyn and I are looking for as well, a great location without the mass influx of tourism and glam. That evening we parked the bus in Nick and Hany’s driveway and planned an early rise for our trek back to Castle Crags. Thanks a ton to Nick, Hany, Drew and Drew, Paula and Brett for entertaining us! Shasta is certainly the location to beat in our search for a new home.
Back to the crags and stashed gear, we lugged up the final ridge line to Mt. Hubris and bushwhacked our way to the descent gully. Here we left our packs full of anything we wouldn’t need on our route, pulled on our harnesses, racked up, lathered on some sun screen and scrambled to the base of the Cosmic Wall. For us, the Cosmic Wall represented a huge leap forward in our climbing skills. Placing gear, route finding and packing for a day on the wall is much different than our average single pitch crag day. Most documents show the Cosmic Wall as a 6 pitch route, but others suggest 5 with some simul-climbing to eliminate a pitch and hanging belay. Simul-climbing is when the leader and second climb simultaneously. The leader places the gear and the second cleans it, all at the same time rather than the leader climbing to a belay, stopping and belaying the second up. If done safely and correctly simul-climbing can save enormous amounts of time. Robyn and I gave this technique a go and were able to stretch the first and third pitches to 200 ft each allowing a more natural belay ledge at the end of each. Although the entire route was amazing, the 4th and 5th pitches certainly standout in my mind. Pitch 4 was straight vertical following a juggy flake system that ate mid-size cams and led to the final belay notch. The final knife ridge was the most exposed climbing we have ever done. It was quite literally a knife ridge. Hands on the ridge and feet on either side. Placing gear as I went it was a dizzying feeling to reach down near my feet to clip as several hundred feet of exposure fell away on either side. Snapping some photos at the summit, signing the summit register and taking in the views of Shasta and the massive spires of granite to our West was a great feeling we will never forget. All in all, the day was a big one. we left the car at 8:00 AM hiked for 3 hours, stayed on route (including a leisurely lunch at the top of the 3rd pitch) for 5 hours and returned to Vincent at 7:00 PM. Including the previous day we hiked 16 miles gaining more than 6,000 ft.
Our time in Mt. Shasta was amazing. We enjoyed perfect sunny skies, friendly faces, a wild adventure climb and some quality rest days as well. Currently I am sitting in front of the Truckee Library and we plan to climb some hard granite at Donner Summit this afternoon to prep us for Yosemite and Tuolumne Meadows. We wanted to stop at Mt. Lassen National Park but it was still closed due to snow 🙁 I forget that the mountains around here are pretty high elevation. Mt Lassen is over 10,000 ft and there is still a good amount of snow above 8 or 9,000 at this point despite the low snow season in the Sierra. That’s all for now, Robyn is itching to get back on her route Moon Shadow 5.10d – here’s hoping the next post reports a send!