PCT Day 85: Side Quest #2 Climbing Mount Shasta

Today I woke up at 4:30am at base camp on the clear creek route Mount Shasta. I ate a bean and cheese burrito for breakfast and sorted through my pack in the morning twilight. I was leaving behind anything I didn’t need to get up the mountain today. I only took my backpack, trekking poles, helmet, water bottles, snacks, first aid kit, and my sleeping bag in case it was too cold on top. The group of us all started at the same time. I stopped to grab a liter of water so I had a total of three for the climb. I didn’t expect to see any water again until we got back down to the same spring.

I quickly fell behind Galleleio and Boom but stayed ahead of Diva and Midnight quite a bit. I was hiking alone in the middle of our group. The “trail” went straight up and the soil under my feet was completely loose. It was an ashy gravel. Every step I would slide backwards. It was exhausting. I couldn’t get over how steep the grade was. It made me feel like I could just slide down the mountain at any moment or tumble a bunch of rocks on top of my friends. I had to use my upper body quite a bit. Digging my trekking poles into the sandy gravel made me feel a bit more secure and probably did help me not slide as much. I caught up to Galleleio and Boom as soon as the sun was rising. It was an incredible view and the light was super cool. We all took a break together to wait for Diva and Midnight to catch up. When I realized we were only at 10k feet and still had so much longer to go, I just laughed. How on earth could it be taking this long! Oh wait, it’s the steepest thing I’ve ever hiked.

We got up and started hiking again. This time I was leading the way and it made me nervous not to have anyone ahead of me picking the route. It was hard to see which direction you should go. The “trail” was very faint and it looked like you could pretty much go anywhere. Galleleio ended up way off course. The anxiety was making my legs shake and I knew I would feel super depleted by the end of the hike. It seemed like the footing never got better. Eventually I made my way into some faint switch backs with more solid footing and it made me feel a bit secure. Looking down at how steep the grade we were climbing was made me dizzy. When I finally made it to the red UFO rock which is a landmark on the route, I sat down for a break and to calm my nerves. Everyone else eventually caught up and we all prepared for the push to the summit. The UFO rock was at 12,800 feet. Here is where we all put on our helmets because the rock fall potential was higher between the UFO rock and the summit.

The last part to the summit was the hardest part. I had to route find on bigger looser rocks and the soil felt more slippery than before. I was using my hands to hold on to some of the bigger more stable rocks. I stayed by Midnight and Diva to make me feel better. I was in front again and had to pick the way to go. I was so scared to knock rocks down on my friends below me. Eventually the really bad rocky part ended and I had to keep walking up more steep slippery sand all the way to the summit. I could see a group being guided in front of me so I decided to stick near them. Right before the summit there was a big snow field to cross but it wasn’t dangerous if I fell on it. It flattened out at the bottom. I was so proud of myself when I made it to the summit. I think Shasta is probably the single hardest and scariest thing I’ve ever done in the mountains. It was cold on top and we all hung out for a bit. The view was incredible. Nothing in the distance was remotely close to the same height as Shasta. It was cold at the top and I was shivering. I did carry my sleeping bag up but I figured we would leave as soon as I got it out. Despite not being hungry because of the altitude, I ate half of my subway sandwich I saved for the summit. After getting a picture and signing the summit log, we headed down. I couldn’t wait to be back on solid ground.

The way down went so slow. I gripped my trekking poles so tight because it felt like it would be even easier to slide on the way down than on the way up. I was really nervous but seeing the group in front of me made me feel better. After UFO rock, I missed the switch backs I took up and ended up going straight down the mountain. As I mentioned I was incredibly steep and I was constantly slipping and falling on my back because I couldn’t grip the ground. The rocks were constantly getting in my shoes and it ended up hurting my feet. It was way too steep to stop and fix anything. I could see Boom taking lots of falls in front of me and Trail Diva also falling right behind me. I was so relieved when we finally made it back down to base camp. We did it! I am still shocked that Galleleio made it up and down without poles. By the end I was incredibly dehydrated because I never felt stable enough to take a sip of water. The corners of my lips were cracked and a little bleeding. The temperature difference at camp was drastic. Down here it was hot and I was in a tank top and shorts.

We walked back down to the parking lot hoping to get a fast hitch. We ended up sitting there for almost three hours. The only two ladies that came down the mountain didn’t stop for us despite their empty vehicle. A girl named Stephanie who fights fire in Oregon gave us a ride back to town. We all crammed into a small vehicle and it was an extremely uncomfortable ride back to Shasta. Once we got there we got slushies at the gas station, returned our helmets and went out to Thai to celebrate. It was the first time I ordered my Thai food mild because my lips were so bad. I felt absolutely destroyed from Shasta. I was glad when we finally walked to the KOA in the dark to set up camp for the night. I just wanted to lay down.

Happy Trails!

-Early Bird

Published by Deserrae Potts

Thru Hiker Blogger

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