One way of describing mountaineering is, “walking uphill while not feeling very well”. Another is a performance sport pushing mental and physical exhaustion. Since last year I’ve completed two Mt. Shasta (14,180′) routes and a Mt. Williamson (14,380′) summit and I am constantly trying to stay mountaineering shape. For those new to the sport it can feel daunting so I thought I’d share what I do and some advice from the mountaineering textbook “Freedom of the Hills”.
On February 5, 2016 I went up to Mt. Shasta City with my friend Michele to attend a free avalanche training from the Mt. Shasta Avalanche Center. Once we saw that low avalanche danger, clear skies and light wind was predicted for the whole weekend we decided to do a summit attempt Sunday morning up the Green Butte route (map 1, map 2, map 3). Spending Saturday night on the mountain somewhere around Green Butte.
“Everyone wants to climb a tallest peak, it is often much more difficult and pristine to climb a second tallest peak.”
At 14,380 ft, Mt. Williamson is the second highest peak in California (5th highest in lower 48). To reach it you must suffer through an unrelenting 10,000 feet of gross elevation gain over 12+ miles. As a result you’ll find yourself mostly alone compared to other 14ers, like Whitney or Shasta where I could see a line of people coming up Avalanche Gultch. When the four of us were on the mountain over August 28-30, 2015 we encountered just two other people trying to summit the mountain the day of, a few trail runners single-day peak bagging and a half dozen other backpackers the entire trip.
On Saturday, May 9th, 2015 at 11am all six members of my group summited Mt. Shasta at 14,179ft via the West Face. The altitude sickness most of us experienced over the last few hundred feet made it an incredible mental hurtle. All of us had a base of hiking, backpacking and rock climbing experience, but this was our first mountaineering trip. Below you can find our planning materials and trip report to assist you on your climb.