The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

If suffering is part of the human condition, I was a human as I care to be last weekend. Avalanche Gulch may be the easiest, or at least most direct, route to the top, but that mountain is a mean prospect — regardless of the approach. I coursed through ever emotion and left no muscle untouched. Here’s the photographic proof;

Setting out — Blissfully ignorant.

Moments after Brian wondered aloud about Tim and crew, homeboy appeared out of nowhere.
We chatted at Horse Camp a bit; about his experience, the best routes up the gulch, conditions and what not.

Heading up to Helen Lake. It’s about midway up the gulch, and much farther than it looks

Me in the throes of a narcoleptic fit. Yes, I stopped for rest and literally fell asleep — on my feet.

Brian pitching base camp at Helen Lake, 10,000 feet.

A view spied due south from Helen Lake.

Sunset to the west.

Dawn looking up to Red Banks (center portion of ridge line) from Helen. Click this image for a little perspective, I counted nearly 50 climbers ahead of us.

Brian on the east side of The Heart just before Red Banks. This is where the work began.

Brian at the foot of Red Banks.

The top of one of Red Bank’s steep chutes.

There’s a lengthy hill at the top of Red Banks we mistook for Misery Hill. It wasn’t.

Summit Plateau with the promised land in sight. Again, enlarge this picture, I counted 18 climbers ahead of us.

One for the record book.

And another.

Mustering smiles even felt like work.

My low point back at Helen. Somewhere between packing the tent and filtering drinking water, I just stopped.

Somehow made it through the rough patch, donned the pack and bombed the hill back to Horse Camp. Brian and I joked that carrying that pack was like climbing the mountain with a midget on your back.

Art Saucedo made it!

Shasta proved to be too much for myself, Rob, and John. Art was the only one who persevered and made it all the way. After being overcome with disequilibrium at the side of “the heart”, I took a break in the rocks and proceeded to get worse and commenced with vomiting. Me and Art had been going together up that time, he kept on of course. After five minutes of wiping frozen vomit from my mouth and nose I quit.
John had stopped an hour earlier and slept in the fetal position for about 30-45 minutes. He then woke up refreshed and made it past the Red Banks and within about 45 minutes of the summit.
I passed Rob on my way down. He kept on for a bit and quit about the same place I did.
Honestly, this was the hardest fu**ing thing I ever done. Mt. Whitney may be longer and higher, but this was more intense.
When I got back to camp I said that I would never try Mt. Shasta again, but now I think I might. Personally, I was not as aerobically fit as I needed to be. I would also get some new and different gear. I would take a different more direct rout up. We should have planned our route more carefully; we wasted precious energy early in the rocks.
May 2008 is on my mind…