I like to set big goals. That's partly the reason I originally created the Six-Pack of Peaks Challenge. Creating a goal, and developing a plan to achieve that goal helps keep me focused on the things that matter to me.
This year, one of my big goals is to climb Mount Shasta. At 14,179 feet above sea level it's a considerable peak–the fifth highest in California and the second highest in the Cascades. Shasta is the 11th most prominent peak in the US. John Muir climbed it, and it's home to seven named glaciers.
Most of the peaks I've summited were hike-ups, with the exception of Banner Peak. Hike-ups are mountains that have a trail nearly all the way to the summit. They don't require any technical gear or skill, just the fitness and gear to survive the weather.
Mount Shasta in contrast, requires crampons, ice axe, helmet and self-arrest skills. The route we are taking goes up the rather ominously named Avalanche Gulch; the same route John Muir took over a century ago, and generally considered one of the easiest routes.
Avalanche Gulch may be easier, but it's not easy. This route (there is no trail) climbs 7,000 vertical feet. If we're lucky, we'll have nice frozen snowpack to walk on top of. Which is why we're hiking it over two days.
Day One, we climb to Helen Lake at 10,400 feet. It's the typical "base camp" for climbers taking two or even three days to summit on this route.
On Day Two, we wake up at 2 or 3 am and climb by headlamp while the snow is frozen and firm–better conditions for avoiding rock and ice fall that can occur when the sun warms things up. If we can make good progress, we might even catch the sunrise. Then, we descend all the way back to the trailhead. It's a descent of 7,000 feet, and a sure-fire bet that our legs will be toast by the end.
Our crew consists of outdoor friends I originally met online: Chris Sunnen (The Last Adventurer); Josh McNair and his wife Amy (California Through My Lens); Paulina Dao and her beau (Little Grunts); and John Soltys (Moosefish) – a great crew!
Training for Shasta
I've been hiking some longer hikes on the weekends, such as the NorCal Six-Pack of Peaks, and will continue to do so up until our Shasta trek. During workdays, I'm hitting Equinox with a focus on lower body, core strength and cardio. I love the Pursuit cycling classes at Equinox. They incorporate game play that exploits my competitive nature for better results. Two weeks ago I ran the Oakland Half Marathon with nearly zero running before hand; just cycling and hiking, and turned in my best time since 2012.
I'm running the Grand Teton Half Marathon at the beginning of June, and climbing Mount Baldy for the Climb for Heroes the day after that. These should either break me or harden my body, and it will definitely help prepare me for higher elevations. From that weekend, I have just two weeks until Shasta, so I'll begin to taper off.
I'm feeling the stoke.
And I'm climbing Mount Shasta in...
Photo credit: Ruben Garcia