Mount Shasta- Konwakiton Glacier
May 14-15, 2009

Photos and story by Jason

"I first met Chang San-Feng above the forest,
near the clear spring,
when gathering clouds darkened the day,
and Mt. Shasta was silent.

His long beard was black as emptiness,
ear lobes to his shoulders,
holding obsidian in his hand,
pointing to the sun,
eyes staring into infinity,
his long body clothed in silence.

We exchanged "hellos"
smiled and bowed,
a barbarian and an Immortal,
both panting from the climb,
ten-thousand echoes
between our rocky minds.

After billions upon billions of heartbeats past
(for he must have been 888 years old),
I was so bold
as to ask the ancient one
for the sacred mantra of yore.
He lifted his whisk,
and brushed my face,
I could not speak,
my lips were stone,
ideas stopped -
I was alone."

- Michael P. Garofalo, Meetings with Master Chang San-Feng

Day One:

When freedom appears fleeting, it is best to leave home and responsibility behind. In our case, we jumped in our cars and took I5 south. Our destination: California and Mount Shasta. Since we are both broke dirtbags-in-training, we tried to live up to the name. Overall, on this excursion, we were beginning to feel unworthy of the title.

In the Town of Shasta, it is night and we'd been driving all day. The weather is as I would imagine California weather to be, perfect. Above a night's star-pricked gaze looked on as we searched high and low for a place to camp. No where was acceptable! Neither of us wanted to camp on the side of a gravel road. It was a dust bowl. There were no campgrounds open that we could find, at least nearby. And the KOA, the one campground open couldn't be found. As far as we could tell, it appeared to be a persons yard with a tractor in the middle! We dubbed this acronym for KOA: Kamp On Astroturf.

Dirtbag Failure #1: A cheap hotel in the town of Weed.

Dirtbag Success #1: Free Movie

Day Two:

A terrible hotel bed was pleasant enough to keep eyes shuttered until 9a.m. After leaving we stopped to get maps and breakfast, being in no particular hurry...bringing us to the parking area and up the trail (in non-record breaking speeds) at 2p.m. We lumbered on in, not knowing particularly where we were going, to a camp at tree line on the Avalanche Gulch Route, the most popular on the mountain.

Dirtbag Failure #2: Water within walking distance of camp is nice when you know about it?

Dirtbag Success #2: Top Ramen is good for breakfast, lunch or dinner!

Day Three:

Our laziness had been prolific, but there comes a time when feet must hit the snow. Once we did, there was no stopping us; we were having a blast.

The Avalanche Gulch Route was lonely except for a few interlopers here and there. It is 7000-ft of climbing from the car to the summit, which lies at just over 14,000-ft. We had climbed in a short way the day before, knocking off 1000-ft. Mathematically it appeared an easy proposition to get to the top even if we left an hour after first light. Neither of us had a watch.

The snow was icy making for challenging skinning. Christy had ski crampons and managed to get to a flattish area above high camp, where many of the climbers spend the night before climbing (~10.5k).

We eventually had to submit to the icy forces that lay before us and don crampons and boots for the Headwall. On the drive in we had called Amar and Kyle, two other friends and they had said they would be coming down from Washington. We didn't expect to see them, but at about 12k, up comes two climbers. No matter how my eyes squinted I couldn't be sure it was them until they were close. With a hoot from me, they returned it. ~ It's a small world after all.

We took a break near the Tooth before grinding our way up Misery Hill. By then Christy was feeling the effects of the day while the rest of us were in good spirits. Kyle and I lingered just far enough away to be a pest, chatting and I'm sure annoying Christy to no end and yet on she went until we arrived on the summit plateau and pulled up to the Pyramid. By then there was no stopping her.

On the summit we took turns climbing to the top. A few feet below, we thought of melting water, but decided to do so further down the mountain. I wasn't expecting to ski anything special, but Amar wanted to look at the Konwakiton Glacier. Always up for adventure, we all dropped off the summit, scrapping and scratching our way down until we arrived at the top of the headwall overlooking our route. Conditions were excellent!

It was difficult to pull up for photos, but with tired legs the respite was thanked for. Kyle was nice enough to ski by me several times. Otherwise we raced to the bottom, passed under the glacier towers and sun glistening chutes to a snowfield at the bottom, the end of our run. From there we climbed 300-ft and traversed back around the mountain to Avalanche Gulch.

More great skiing followed. We expected it to be less than ideal given the lateness of the day. There was no mank, no crust, just plain vanilla that we were pleased to scope up one turn at a time.

At camp Christy and I decided to leave a day early. There were lots of people, a long drive and responsibilities to return to. We both agreed that Shasta was an amazing ski mountain. Nearly every route is skiable and access is just can't beat skiing to the car!

Dirtbag Failure #3: Don't drive to California and leave 2 days later

Dirtbag Success #3: We skied and that's what really counts dirtbag or not!

Next adventure: Diller Headwall on Middle Sister...

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