Climbing Mt Shasta via Casaval Ridge- TR

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Harlen
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Climbing Mt Shasta via Casaval Ridge- TR

Post by Harlen » Sun May 05, 2019 3:19 pm

Just returned from trip up to Mt. Shasta. I've never been up there due to my lack of imagination- I couldn't wrap my head around a single mountain, and how to plan a backpacking trip around it. I know now that it is such a giant, multi-peaked, fascinating canyoned thing that one could easily plan a trip up one side, down the other, and all around its geologic wonders. This time I went up just to climb the mountain, because I saw at least three good clear days ( 4/2 - 4/4 ), and photos of Casaval Ridge route looked very appealing. There are some interesting descriptions of this route, such as: "Casaval is a moderate climb with big risk aesthetics." And: "Most of the route is not particularly technical, but a fall would be tragic." The first leaves me wondering- "risk aesthetics" is becoming a contradictory term for me as I age. Here is the attractive language: "... it climbs to 13,400 in a single line dotted with gendarmes, traverses, and exposed ridges... options are almost infinite."

My original plan was to race up on Thursday 4/2 and camp at the edge of the treeline; then reach the famous Helen Lake basecamp on Friday, climb higher-sleep lower at Helen, which is 10,443, and then climb up on Saturday. Instead, I packed in pretty far on Thursday, finishing in the dark at about 9,600.'

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Looking up the massive avalanche path at the base of Avalanche Gully. The forest is nearly all fir trees.


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Friday dawned so beautifully, that I decided to make use of what promised to be a bright blue, calm and beautiful day.

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I traversed up and over to a point on the Casaval Ridge called "the 1st Window," seen here to the right of the tallest spire. I found a big red tent perched there. The owner was not home, but I got to know him well later on- Oh my!

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The red stain here is part of him left on the snow after regaining the ridge- more to come.


The route is everything it was cranked up to be, except for the "falls would be tragic" part- I never felt the need for anything beyond the usual caution, and rather than "tragic," it looked like more a matter of losing a lot of skin off of one's ass if you missed your one chance at a self-arrest- (ask my new friend).

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The beauty of the route is in the wonderful array of pinnacles, spires, and wildly textured ice formations higher up. There are endless options, and I chose to criss-cross a bit, and climb on the rock here and there- you really can make the path anything you like- including a lot more extreme than I did.

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Steep! and very icy on this north side of the Casaval- imagine what you'd look like if you had slid down 400 feet of this!

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This was extreme enough for me. You see the route I chose from the moats at the base of the lower rock onto fissures in the snowfield, to "duck-walking steps up. There were even a few sections where front-pointing was needed.

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As seen here, one could finish the Casaval with an ice climb up these last gendarmes. I knew I was going to be dead tired before the 4,600' upward were over, so I left the wilder options for another day.


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I had to chose this one variation that placed me right up against- and even under, a fantastic red cliff hung with ice. I was happy to just climb under them- like a slow ride on a hollow, icy wave.
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Last edited by Harlen on Wed May 08, 2019 5:52 pm, edited 8 times in total.








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Climbing Mt Shasta via Casaval Ridge- TR Part 2

Post by Harlen » Sun May 05, 2019 4:06 pm

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The top of the Casaval is beautiful, but you must descend to the base of "Misery Hill" for the end of the climb. There are some wonderful rock and ice formations on the way.

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In the distance to the lower right you see "Thumb Rock," just south of the regular route.


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This icy sculpture is part of the summit rocks.


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The summit of Mt Shasta.


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Now which exactly is the very top?


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I reckon this is it.


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This is the fastest way down for sure!

The summit is just about 250' above the terrace at the top of 800" "Misery Hill," all of it easy hiking. The views from the summit were wonderful, but very different from the view off a Sierra mountaintop. I could see Lassen to the south east, and another big Cascade volcano far to the north- which one is it? Part of me was keen to carry on north and climb another of these Cascade volcanoes, but a greater part wanted to get back into the Sierras again with Bearzy. I thought I would at least climb Mount Lassen on Saturday, since I had climbed Shasta a day earlier than expected. It was not to be. I had told the bloodied-up climber that I would check on him before I went out if I saw his red tent on the ridge. He had said not to worry, he would find an easy way back to his camp and straggle down that day or tomorrow. I got his boot off to check on the hurt leg- no abrasion, no bruising, no severe pain upon my squeezing, perhaps a slight swelling. This was above the ankle where he said he had hit a rock on the slide down. Soon after I had left him, at a very safe place on the ridge, I encountered that red trail in the snow. I went back and asked the climber where the bleeding was, and he said he had torn up his ass on the way down. The blood on the snow came from scooting along to ice it, and clean off excess blood. I lifted his shirt and checked his back- red rash, but no bleeding, and no back injury. Nope, his backside had taken the brunt of the punishment. He said it was fine, just abraded down- no deep wounds. I left again with some reluctance- he assured me that he needed no help back to camp. He had all the right gear and then some- a fine technical tool along with his 70cm axe, and really fine crampons. He said he had slipped off and went 4 or 500 feet down the icy slope. We agreed that he was one lucky f$#%&er, and parted again.

My camp was a mile and 800' below his, and very late in the day, on my way back from the climb, I veered up toward his camp on the ridge since the red tent was still there. I called and called, to no response. I thought he was likely sleeping it off or couldn't hear me since I dislike loud yelling. Then I made a mistake that caused me some lost sleep, and the SAR members among us to shake their heads- I left for my camp without determining whether he had made it back or not. No excuse, just a bad error. Luckily, he had made it back, had heard my calls, but said: "I was so crashed out I didn't want to get out of the bag to acknowledge." Later that night I began to worry that he could have fallen again, and might be at the bottom of the west face freezing what was left of his ass off. I really should have carried on up, but I was exhausted, and had already packed my crampons away... all weak excuses. In the morning as I was heading up to check on him- with food, and hot coffee waiting in a thermos, he emerged and started shakily down my side of the ridge. I met him near the top,and soon found that he was no worse, and I was very, very glad. I told him how I felt, and said at least let me take your pack as a penance. He said "that would be great."


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Here he is with a 15 lb. load; the other half of my gear went into his much bigger pack. He made it less than a mile like this, and then after a few cussings let me know he was still hurting, I took the pack back and tied it on top. I now weighed 260 or more lbs. instead my 185, and began to post-hole and do my own quiet cursing. We made it out 3 hrs. later; he was very grateful, but I had no more energy to race up Lassen on the way home. In the end, it was differently satisfying to participate in another climber's adventure- we both lucked out.

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Casaval Ridge in shadow form.
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Last edited by Harlen on Tue May 07, 2019 6:28 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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Re: Climbing Mt Shasta via Casaval Ridge- TR

Post by austex » Mon May 06, 2019 3:21 am

Harlen;
All I can say is thanks. People like you make this round orb a much better happier place!
Also awesome ice features!

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Re: Climbing Mt Shasta via Casaval Ridge- TR

Post by Harlen » Tue May 07, 2019 11:36 am

Hi Kristine.
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Re: Climbing Mt Shasta via Casaval Ridge- TR

Post by Harlen » Tue May 07, 2019 12:00 pm

Gazelle wrote:
Did you summit shasta via the ridge? If so how was it I want to do that route soon?
Hi Kristine, Yes I did make the summit via Casaval. From the top you need to drop down to the base of the regular "Avie Gulch" route, slog up Misery Hill and then climb the summit rocks. Regarding the Casaval route, I'd say it is currently in perfect condition. Barring any new heavy snowfall, the avalanche risk will continue to be wet snow- point release. My understanding is that this risk, along with increasingly poor snow conditions, will increase as spring moves on to early summer, at which point the Casaval route becomes a poor choice. It is described as a winter-spring route isn't it? So much of the route is right up against dark rock- you're often right in the moats, that with the higher temps, that snow is going to be unstable. Though the climbing is moderate, it's true that in parts a slide could lead to serious injury.

However, even later in the season, a fast and experienced climber such as you could probably choose the right early morning- a cold one, and shoot through the steep bits before it softened up. The upper ridge eases off, and you would probably need snow shoes for the finish. And Kristine, I'd recommend the Helen Lake base, and an entry onto the Casaval Ridge at the place called "the 1st Window." That will give you a head start on the melting snow, and the most beautiful section of the route also begins there. Best of luck, Ian.

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The red arrow points to Lake Helen basecamp, which is behind this hill. The top is the "1st Window."


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Closeup of "1st Window," it is just right of the big spire.
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Re: Climbing Mt Shasta via Casaval Ridge- TR

Post by balzaccom » Tue May 07, 2019 6:06 pm

You can edit your post, then delete what you want to remove...

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Re: Climbing Mt Shasta via Casaval Ridge- TR

Post by Harlen » Tue May 07, 2019 6:23 pm

Thanks Paul. Still unable to erase the whole thing. No matter, I don't mind saying Hi to Gazelle twice. :)

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Re: Climbing Mt Shasta via Casaval Ridge- TR

Post by c9h13no3 » Wed May 08, 2019 10:23 am

-500 points for no ski descent.

I'll clean up all this drool later.... :drool: I had planned to ski this in May, but work is conspiring to keep me grounded.
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Re: Climbing Mt Shasta via Casaval Ridge- TR

Post by Harlen » Wed May 08, 2019 5:19 pm

c9h13no3 writes:
-500 points for no ski descent.
and:
No one cares that you tele
I just can't win with you!
I'll do my next trip with one crampon and one ski :nod:

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Re: Climbing Mt Shasta via Casaval Ridge- TR

Post by c9h13no3 » Wed May 08, 2019 6:33 pm

Harlen wrote:
Wed May 08, 2019 5:19 pm
c9h13no3 writes:
-500 points for no ski descent.
and:
No one cares that you tele
I just can't win with you!
I'll do my next trip with one crampon and one ski :nod:
Ski descents are always better than no ski descents. On the tele thing... this is all I've got.

And everyone knows you wear the crampons on your hands. Stop trolling.
"Adventure is just bad planning." - Roald Amundsen
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