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Lassen Peak previously climbed Fri, May 11, 2001|
later climbed Thu, Jun 21, 2007
I was on the road leaving San Jose at 3a, meeting Tom and Ron in Berkeley an hour later. They were up and nearly ready when I arrived, and we were on the road 15 minutes later. Ron had not gotten much sleep the night before, having arrived late at Tom's house in Berkeley, driving in from Fresno. So while I drove and Tom and I talked shop to help keep the driver awake, Ron sacked out in the back of the car and slept soundly for the next 2 hours.
We were heading north on I5 when daylight found us, and arrived in Lassen NP around 8a. We were low on gas, but had found the gas station at Mineral just outside the park's south entrance closed, so figured we'd climb first, call AAA later. There was still lots of snow in the park, but very few people. In fact, we saw none on the whole drive in. We stopped at Bumpass Hell for a potty break (nothing like a little sulpher to get the pipes flowing), and headed to the parking lot just south of the pass. The snow was plowed 10 feet high all around the parking lot which looked to have been recently cleared. While we were packing up our gear another car arrived, a couple of guys out for some snowboarding after a climb.
We headed out at 9a, crampons on, axes in hand. We traversed diagonally up along the South Face, heading for the couloir on the left side of the rocks found on that side of the peak. It's the steepest snow that can be found on the South Face, and I figured it would give Ron and Tom a good taste of what to expect climbing the top of Avalanche Gulch the next day. There was more snow in the couloir than I had found last year, and it was continuous all the way to the top of the couloir. I climbed ahead of the other two, and about a quarter of the way up the couloir I headed for the rocks on the right side. Even better than climbing the couloir, I was more interested in finding some interesting rock climbing, so I took off my crampons and packed them away. I told the others where I was going and they chose to continue up the couloir. I headed up, around a corner and just out of sight of the two over class 3 rock. A little scary - just like I like it.
A minute after I lost sight of them, they heard a buzzing in the air and Tom got hit in the hand with a golfball-sized rock that had dislodged from above. He yelled out, more bruised than broken, and then called me. When I appeared to the side of them to see what the commotion was, they realized that I wasn't to blame for knocking rocks down on them. In fact I could see other pieces of ice and rock breaking off the walls around the couloir as I talked to them. The sun was beginning to warm up the place, and the couloir had come alive. I felt a bit bad leading them into such a trap, but all I could do at this point was suggest they climb out of there without delay.
I left them again to continue climbing the rock which was quite good. I really like this little bit of rock for the quality of the climbing I found there. When I topped out onto the SE ridge, Ron and Tom were well ahead of me, having heeded the advice I gave them earlier. Tom removed his crampons, and the two of us climbed up the mostly rocky ridge towards the summit. Ron left his crampons on and chose to follow a route that afforded the most snow travel. Mt. Shasta came into view as we crested the crater rim, about 80 miles distance. We all reached the summit together at 11a. There were other climbers who had come up as well, but all of them were there to ski the fine East Slopes with about 1500 feet of descent. After a break and the usual summit photos, I suggested we circle the crater rim to help with our acclimatization and burn another hour at altitude. Ron didn't want to take off his crampons because he was climbing in his snowboarding boots and wanted to save the bottoms of the soles. I'd heard of removing crampons when travelling over rock to save the crampon points, but this was the first I'd seen the crampons sacrificed to save the boots. Tom and I started around the crater in a clockwise fashion while Ron took a direct line over to the other side of the crater. There were a few interesting rock sections, but mostly just a casual hike around. We met up half an hour later and Ron had gotten there much faster due to the easier travelling across snow. Tom and I had found the NW side of the crater rim an incredibly loose ridge of dirt, mud, and rock, and the amount of debris that we sent down with each step was almost embarassing. We then all continued around the crater rim back to the SE side (where for fun we struggled to surmount a small 2-foot cornice), and went back to the South Face.
Ron chose to descend the same couloir we'd climbed, I chose yet another rock route down the center, and Tom chose to descend through snow on the easier slopes to the east. I found the rock descent again to be class 3, and quite fun even if not as scary. By the time I reached the bottom of the rock, I could see Ron halfway down to the parking lot already - he was certainly choosing the fastest routes today! I had a fine glissade at the top, but in the lower half of the face the snow was getting much too soft. I saw Tom to my left also glissading, so I traversed over to his line and took advantage of the trough he had put in the snow to make an even faster descent than he'd been able to. Tom and I then walked back together to the parking lot at 12:45p where we found Ron already putting out all his wet gear to dry. We had a fine lunch of tortillas and hummus (courtesy Ron), and sat around while our stuff dried. The parking lot was alive with visitors, most stopping for only five or ten minutes to play in the snow, and then heading out again.
So much for acclimatization. We drove over the pass and found gas at the store at Manzanita Lake. We found snacks and beer too, which we'd forgotten to pack in our cooler for after the climb. We then headed out on SR89 heading for Mt. Shasta, stopping for half an hour at Burney Falls to take in the sights there (if you haven't been there and you're driving by, the entrance fee is the best $2 you'll ever spend). We arrived in the town of Mt. Shasta in late afternoon, checked into our motel, then went and found a nice Mexican restaurant for dinner. Margaritas, burritos, beer, back to the motel for hot tub, and to bed around 8p. That Mexican food would come back to haunt me the next day...
For more information see these SummitPost pages: Lassen Peak
This page last updated: Thu Nov 12 13:13:13 2015
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