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| |-+  July-August 2003 Backcountry Trip Reports
| | |-+  July 5, 2003, West Face Gully, Mt Shasta
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Author Topic: July 5, 2003, West Face Gully, Mt Shasta  (Read 2042 times)

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July 5, 2003, West Face Gully, Mt Shasta
« on: 07/08/03, 05:04 PM »

Ski Descent:  From near a rockband at 12,200' to Hidden Valley floor. 3,000 vf
Distance: Total round trip was about 9 miles.  

Inspired by Amar's Andalkar's reports of a 200% snowpack at Bunny Flats in early May, and my own confirming visit later in the month for business, a summer trip to Mount Shasta seemed all but certain.  If there ever was a year to ski Shasta late season, I reasoned, this was the year.  In a happy turn of events, what was to be a solo tour to Mt Shasta for 4th of July, turned duo as Andrei, a friend from Colorado, made a surprise purchase of a plane fare just two days before departure.  I delighted in an idle afternoon ski up to Sunrise to scope Mt Rainier objectives after work and waited for Andrei to arrive early 4th of July.

The nine hour drive from Sea Tac airport went without a hitch, and we were able to gather food, drinks and permits well before dark in Mt Shasta City - which streets were closed due to the annual parade - and took stock of our situation.

O foolish ones to take Mt Shasta for granted!  It is She who calls the shots, and She would have none of my plans.  At home I had envisioned a ski of Diller Canyon and the north side of Shastina, but the ugly silence in the cab as we viewed the routes from the highway told the tale.  At least we knew where all the snow from the South Side came from - the NW quadrant of Shastina was bare!  An evil tribe of Lemurian windriders had swooped every last dollop of snow from Diller Canyon and transported it to the Heathers.

In contrast, Andrei and I sat in awe of the abundant snow on the South side of the mountain in the Food King parking lot.  Avalanche Gulch looked like it was still high June.  Even the West Face Gully had a very large and tasty belly remaining between the exposed ridges.  Consoled, we hit camp with two new objectives:

1.  Take whatever Shasta deems us worthy of imbiding.
2.  Enjoy every last bit of it.

Summer skiing, btw is a far different sport than the ease of early June.  Temps were forecast for the 80s near town on Saturday and the sun was blistering as soon as it hit the sky.  We had thought a wake up of 4 am would have done the deed, but the walk to Hidden Valley was a cruel 1.5 miles from Horse Camp, a section I had skied, but never climbed.  We made it into Hidden Valley just as the sun began to creep up the West Face side.  

Scores of climbers thread their way up the Gully well before us, and Andrei and I took our time and waited out the sun.  We reasoned early that there would be no continuous ski from the ridge so a Summit bid was not compelling. This meant our goals had shifted: we could simply ski the best line in the bowl we could find with, of course, the best snow.  This line of reasoning remained as the new way of thinking for the weekend, our July trip became like a mid-February powder quest when quality of snow outways quantity at every velvety turn.

By mid morning, at our leisurely Bank Holiday pace, we found ourselves about 3/4 of the way up the couloir.  The slope, canted slightly south to maximize its exposure to the sun, was like an open air microwave.  We hit the large rock band that effectively marked the start of the Serious Business and made camp in the talus.  All around us the snow had quickly gone from velvety corn to loose mashies and the situation wasn't improving.  After a long lunch break we skied off onto the hanging snowfield avoiding like the plague any boot trampled corn snow.  The snow in the crux bottleneck at the couloir entrance had the best snow yet and made the aggrevating runnels down to Hidden Valley bearable.  

From there we made a run for the car, and arrived at 5:20 pm, an unexpectedly big day, and more of the same for the morning.

Our two day adventure on Shasta: Left route - West Face Gully, right route - Castle Rock Couloir:

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