| Mt Shasta: 1st California 14er from Clear Creek TH
Clear Creek TH: 6400'?
Distance: Not sure, but maybe 11 to 13 miles RT?
Trail: Class 1 all the way
Fee Station at the TH: $20 for required permit when hiking above 10,000' and a poop bag which consists of a paper bag with cat litter inside stuffed into a 1 gallon ziploc bag.
I did my 1st climb of a California 14er on my 20th Anny vacation while in the great state of California. After several months of training on Castle Rock, Goat Mountain, Quandary, Grays and Torreys, N. Maroon and Capital, it was time to put it to the test on this big hill and see what I could do. I had to make it count, cause I only had one chance at it. I knew the weather would be good from monitoring it for 6 weeks, all the fires were contained in Nor Cal, so it was gonna be somewhat clear. I set out from Tracy, CA in a Hinda Insight, about 270 miles, from a friend's house, long boring drive. Got to the TH late, but still some daylight and car camped dreaming about Bigfoot. Set out at 5 am, spring at 6:47 am, summit at 2 pm, spring again at 4:45 pm and back at the TH at 5:50 pm. Nice long day and the weather was great, no lenticulars, and a steady 40 mph wind high on the mountain.
Anyway, I planned to head out by 3 am, but I hate walking in the dark and finally hit the trail at 5 am, paid my $20, grabbed my poop bag. Il Son Parte' (in english, that's Off to the Races) I started off with just 16oz of water and planned to fill up at the spring. I think my pack weighed about 35lbs with all the food I stuffed inside which was poptarts, GU, and PB&J sands. I brought along raingear and crampons just encase, and a bag of red geo-tape to make markers with encase a heavy lenticular settles on the summit. I poled my way up the good dusty trail in the thick forest with my headlamp blazing the way. Occasionally the trail went through a meadow as it wound it's way along the Northside rim of Mud Creek canyon. At the top of a long meadow, the trail actually goes down to the spring, which was nice, and I got there just before the sunrise. Not a real spectacular sunrise, but just a red ball coming up, turning the area pink and looking somewhat like Mars.
As I sat there on a rock at the clear flowing spring, I actually thought about going back. I was looking up at the mountain and the huge elevation finally had some perspective for me, it looked daunting that I still had at least 5,400' to go after hiking for an hour and 40 min and about 2,200'. When you're alone, you can do what you want, I had to battle myself as well as the mountain. It was still early and I had all day and finally decided to just give it a try and see what happens. I spent almost an hour there and finally pumped my water and started up again carrying another 148oz of water. The only nice grass on the entire mountain is right here within 18" of the spring, that's it!
A good dusty class 1 trail continues up, sometimes with very loose scree, other times nice switchbacking trail. In picture 2, you can see a ridge on the left, the trail followed beyond that roughly parallel. A couple of nice camping spots were in there with retaining walls built around. It was not too bad a climb, but you can see why a spring climb makes so much more sense. After the trail crossed over a tiny ridge heading north, a very nice switchbacking trail takes you up an endless broad slope toward the rubber duckie and a towering cliff face above it. The gentle breeze blowing now picked up to maybe 40 mph and each step sent a small cloud of dust screaming away. I learned to keep my mouth shut whenever I turned into the wind, when I did, I usually got a mouthful of dust. Nothing grows up here, it's all dirt and rocks, no pikas, no marmots, birds or even bugs, strange place up here on Shasta.
I would take a break every hour/hour and a half and eat one sand, 1 poptart and a GU. I never got hungry or tired, I ate pretty well. I could see what I believed to be Shastarama Pt on Sargents Ridge to the West. Mud Creek was to the South and very deeply inset, and which drained the Konwackiton Glacier. When I got to the rubber duckie I took another break, put on my windbreaker, ate. Legend has it that the Atlanteans live in a city deep inside the mountain. I say too many Californians are smoking dope! Somehow, I started going toward the Wintun Ridge Route, which hugs the glacier somewhat and so I just climbed straight upslope to the top on talus figuring I would regain the trail again, which I did on the ridge leading to the summit. You know what they say, when in doubt, just climb up to the top and see where that gets you. This worked out pretty good for me on what came next.
At first sight, I figured I was looking at a false summit, so I didn't get my hopes up just yet. I walked up the trail to a rise on white rock, very loose and I had to get my poles back out cause it was like walking on ball-bearings. That's when I saw the Whitney Glacier and I knew the summit was near, about time too! It was about 1:30 something and I walked on the edge of the glacier. The suncups were shallow, but I still walked carefully even though I was only a couple feet from the rocks, that, that was a first time I seen those! 2 summits appeared, I tried to remember that the true summit was north of the glacier, so I turned up this talus slope to the right and climbed about a 100' to a small gulley. At the end of the gully was a headwall about 50' high and shear, so I climbed to the right some more and went around a corner and climbed up a narrow chimney, maybe class 5 about 40' to the summit. I didn't know if this was actually the top, so I was hoping I wouldn't have to climb down this crap and an easier way was just around the otherside. As I climbed over that little crag, I took in the whole scene, the head of the Whitney Glacier was just spectacular, even the bergschrund was visible. I had never before seen a glacier, much less this much snow and ice in September. I snapped a shot of the other craggy summit to the West and looked at some other points to the near north as well. I was thinking they were higher and started over there when I almost tripped over the square box register. I wasn't looking for a box, but a cylinder, that's what I know. I yelled out in complete surprise that I was finally at the top at 2pm. I signed in and quickly went down the easy way on a trail to the glacier from the northside of the summit. You go through a small saddle before you get to the glacier. I saw quite a few bamboo wands left over from the winter/spring climbs, so my tape would have been a good idea if it had been foggy, in theory anyway, never tested it though. I wanted to get back before dark, so I had a turn around time for 3, and maybe 4 at the outside, cause I didn't know how long it would really take to get down from this monster. I figured it would be hard to see where to go with the featureless slope. I'm still old school and don't use GPS.
It didn't take me long to get back to that place where the trail turned white and I could see where I made my little detour. I walked to the end of the ridge and just started plunge stepping down the trail. I was eating up the slope at an incredible pace and once I re-crossed that little ridge, it was more straight down the slope just like on Bross, but only 4 times higher. The descent was just across a little depression in the slope from the uphill trail, you can't miss it from above. As usual a cloud of dust blew behind me, my face was grayed caked sunscreen.
At about 4:45, I got back to the spring and briefly talked to a couple campers about the upper mountain, they wanted me to stay awhile and BS, but I needed to keep going to beat the dark, my wife was probably wondering where the hell I was cause my phone had long since died at 7:30 am. I used my digital camera for the time, it incredibly had the correct time posted on the latest picture, good thing to know!
This time I got to see the huge trees on the way down, wow, these are giants compared to Colorado trees, they must have been over a 100' high and had lime green moss growing on the trunks. I heard the birds singing for the 1st time in a long time here, strange sounds too, I couldn't tell you what they were, never heard them before. Kept hustling down the trail and got back at 5:50pm for a 3 hour and 50 minute descent from the top. 12 hour, 50 min day with a 9 hour stroll to the top, not bad for an intro to the Cascades! And I put the un-used poop bag back at the TH podium.
I'm glad I persevered.
The Clear Creek Route was not technical at all, just a big huge climb. Well, the climbing at the very top was exciting, but overall really just like doing Grays Peak forever and ever! My original plan was to do the Avy Gulch Route, but the Rangers suggested Clear Creek because of heavy rockfall in the upper gulch around the Red Banks and such. No biggee for me, I just wanted to do it from an easy route. I was only sore from all the poling I did really, knees ached a little from the tremendous plunge. In-N-Out never tasted better after that!
From I-5 south of Mt Shasta City, take the exit for hwy 89 to McCloud, CA, about 10 miles East. Drive about 3 miles East of town and turn left on Pilgrim Creek Rd (Rd 31) and go 5 miles. At this point, turn left on Widow Creek Rd (41N15) and go another 5 miles on a well maintained dirt road. At an intersection with McKenzie Butte Rd, take a side road 41N61 slightly left, large brown signs point the way to the TH at each of the following intersections from here, it's about 2.5 miles. This is a good dirt road and a car will do well the rest of the way. There is a nice permanent restroom at the TH.
When you turn on Pilgrim Creek Rd, be sure to stop at the corner and say Hi to Charley from Oceanside, he was squatting in a tent a 100 yards away, corky little guy, gave him my gallon of water and some poptarts. Regret not going into Mt Shasta City, but I wanted to get back to basecamp in Tracy and relax in the hot tub.
If your interested in further reading about this mountain, there is a book, "The Mt Shasta BooK: Guide to Hiking, Climbing, Skiing & Exploring the Mtn & Surrounding Area" by Andrew Selters & Michael Zanger. You can get it on Amazon.com and there are also a couple other books on Avalanche Gulch too, along with the books on the legends inside the mountain!
Some useful numbers:
Mt Shasta Ranger Station (530) 926-4511
Mt Shasta Ranger Station Avalanche report (530) 926-9613
The 5th Season (climbing and skiing report) 24 hr recorded message (530) 930-5555
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):