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Shasta
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Ben Crowell
(bcrowell) - F

Locale: Southern California
Shasta on 06/29/2010 18:47:22 MDT Print View

My 13-year-old daughter and I just got back from an attempt on Shasta. We camped the first night at Horse Camp, the second at Lake Helen, and had intended to summit today. However, she was really feeling the altitude starting at about 9000 ft (headaches, shortness of breath), didn't get any sleep at Helen, and wasn't feeling better in the morning, so we decided not to attempt the summit.

It's strange how unpredictable altitude sickness is. In the past I've done several hikes with her at altitudes of up to 12,000 ft, and she never got any altitude sickness -- I was always the one who would feel it more. I think she may have been more susceptible because she had just finished school and had been celebrating by sleeping until noon. Because of a series of recent severe injuries from chunks of ice falling off of Red Banks, we were told to make sure and head for the summit early. I kept gradually getting her up earlier and earlier every day, but waking at 5 still felt pretty extreme to her.

This was still a cool trip. The extreme prominence of Shasta meant that we got incredible views, even from Helen. We took a course in the use of crampons and ice axes, and we both thought that the practice in self-arrest was the most fun part of the trip. This was my first time camping in snow, and I learned a lot of new skills, like snow-anchoring our tents with shopping bags full of snow. Got my 80's-vintage stove to light at 10,000 ft, which was a feat in and of itself.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Shasta on 06/29/2010 19:25:39 MDT Print View

Sounds like you had a lot fun, a new type of camping, and additional knowledge/experience. Can't beat that.

Altitude affects people in different ways. You made the right decision to skip the peak. So often we have a goal, and make poor decisions to reach them. The smart people know when to bail. The mountaing will be there to climb for the rest of you lives (unless it erupts!).

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Shasta on 06/29/2010 19:36:51 MDT Print View

Over the years, I had led maybe 100 climbers up Shasta, so I can say that it is not shocking to have one person react this way. Sometimes it is a strange mixture of altitude, dehydration, over-fatigue, anxiety, sunburn, eye strain, and other factors, and you'll never know for sure what hit her.

Most of the time, you can leave the victim in camp and everybody else goes to the summit. However, if they don't feel comfortable with that, or if symptoms progress, the only safe thing is to get them marching down the hill while they still can. Often they come back to life when they reach timberline again.

Supposedly pre-adolescent victims are common, so let her toughen up for a couple of years and let her try it again if she wants.

--B.G.--

Ben Crowell
(bcrowell) - F

Locale: Southern California
Re: Re: Shasta on 06/29/2010 20:57:02 MDT Print View

B.G. wrote: "Most of the time, you can leave the victim in camp and everybody else goes to the summit."
Yeah, we discussed that option, and I was tempted, but I wasn't really comfortable with it. It was only the two of us, and if something had gone wrong for her (worsening sickness) or for me (while summiting), it could have turned into a situation that I wouldn't have wanted make her handle at her age. And I wanted to make sure that she would remember the trip as being fun.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Re: Shasta on 06/29/2010 21:14:54 MDT Print View

Benjamin, that is perfectly understandable.

One year, I had a person who had an anxiety attack in the middle of the night before the summit. That person's tentmate came to my tent, woke me, and I had to go check on them. Once I figure out that there was no serious malady, I issued one pill to take with water. The victim took it, and two hours later the whole problem had gone away. Guess what the pill was. A salt tablet. Kind of a placebo.

I've never had any climber get _serious_ altitude problems below 16,000 feet, but the less serious problems can be hard to sort out.

--B.G.--