Mt. Shasta
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M R
(houseguest) - F
Mt. Shasta on 12/03/2011 21:13:27 MST Print View

I'm planning on climbing Mt. Shasta over memorial day next year. I have never done any mountaineering, so first I need to learn my way around self-arresting, glissading, etc.
I'd like to take a day course somewhere near Mt. Shasta that will go over this stuff. Any recommendations?
Thanks!

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Mt. Shasta on 12/03/2011 21:25:52 MST Print View

If you are located in Minnesota, this could be a problem. I don't think Minnesota has much in the way of steep mountains.

The town of Mount Shasta has a couple of guide services for when you get that far, but that may not be until Memorial Day. Most guide services get busy in the late springtime.

--B.G.--

Brian Austin
(footeab) - F

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Re: Mt. Shasta on 12/04/2011 06:56:39 MST Print View

I know this is a tall order in Minnesota, but if you can find a snow covered 25-30+ degree slope about 50 feet high before the slope goes lower you can learn self arrest by yourself very quickly and easily. Also practice head first downhill on your back with a pack, but ONLY after you have practiced without a pack.

The icier conditions the better, but NOT initially. Ripping up your face/hands first off is not a great first impression to give yourself or bouncing an ice pick off the ice and deflecting it into your face is also not kind. If in powder you will find that slipping even without ANY self arrest use at all on a 25 degree slope you probably won't go anywhere or much of anywhere. Also in powder conditions you will quickly learn that your legs will act far better as a self arrest technique than any ice axe pick or adze. In soft snow use the adze. This all comes with experience and no "class" will teach you this any faster than simply going out and doing it.

I have been through Wisconsin area more than Minnesota and there certainly are some hills to practice on. They were all near the Mississippi River though. River cuts/ravines are your friend if you can find an area without trees to practice on. Same in Minnesota. Though the part of Minnesota I did travel through looked pretty darned close to a pancake griddle or a billiard table for flatness!

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Mt. Shasta on 12/04/2011 07:33:29 MST Print View

Are you planning on doing Mt Shasta by yourself?

Will you be getting ice axe, crampons, and rope?

M R
(houseguest) - F
Re: Mt. Shasta on 12/04/2011 16:07:01 MST Print View

@brian: yeah, there isn't much in the way of hills where I am. Though I could take a weekend a drive somewhere. I'll check around.

I'm planning on doing Mt. Shasta with a friend. I'll probably be buying an ice axe and renting the rest of the gear.

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Mt. Shasta on 12/04/2011 17:38:44 MST Print View

The rope would depend on which route you plan for Shasta. The north side routes tend to go over glaciers. Glaciers have crevasses that you can fall into, so roping together might be important. The standard route on Shasta is on the southwestern side. Although it kind of skirts around one glacier, you really are not on any glacier, so the rope is often left behind. I think of the twenty-odd times that I led up Shasta on the standard route, we carried a small 5mm rope more than half of those times. Obviously a 5mm rope is not enough to handle a fall into a crevasse, but it was more as a guideline rope in case the group was walking through a cloud. However, we never actually used it.

Ice axe and crampons are virtually required, though. I think I made it to the summit once without putting on the crampons, but that was an unusual Memorial Day.

--B.G.--

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Re: Mt. Shasta on 12/04/2011 18:08:34 MST Print View

If you and your friend have no mountaineering experience that might not be so wise. Maybe just be conservative and turn around if conditions are bad.

You could practice self arrest on your way up. Find a steep slope with an easy run-out. Practice several times - take a leap and start sliding, roll onto stomach and stick ice axe tip in and stop. Also try out the crampons.

Brian Austin
(footeab) - F

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Re: Re: Mt. Shasta on 12/04/2011 19:11:05 MST Print View

Agree with Jerry here on 2nd paragraph. Same with BG above.

Take beginners route SW side. One caveat.

Not sure if you have had any experience in operating in a white out conditions, but it is something you MUST be aware of. This is especially true when descending. It is quite easy to get "lost" in a white out descending as all routes are "down" and you can find yourself traveling to the right or left more than you intend and find yourself on the wrong side of the mountain in bad terrain. That is ok, with a compass and knowledge on how to use it(assuming you have keeping track of where you are that is, of course if you did you wouldn't have descended the wrong direction to start with <^;^>, if you don't mind the extra walk, but aggravating.

Worst whiteout I have ever been in was actually driving Through Minnesota/Wisconsin forget which state. I literally could not see 10 feet ahead nor the other side of a 2 lane road and was praying that same yahoo coming the other direction would stay in their lane! Had my drivers side window down and was staring at the stripes in the center of the road to tell me where I was "going."

If you have been on a large lake/ocean in super dense fog you know what I mean when I say that there is no "horizon". This is also true in a true whiteout on a mountain as well. Snow/clouds all look the same. Have to move via compass only. Well I use a compass as a crude "pointer" and rather use an altimeter for true navigation, but this requires KNOWING where you are instead of walking for 3 days, pulling out the map compass, and altimeter and trying to figure out where you are.

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Re: Re: Mt. Shasta on 12/04/2011 19:25:22 MST Print View

Shasta used to be quite challenging when the clouds dropped in. You could just follow foot tracks and hope that they went in the correct direction. However, that is one place where new technology shines...GPS. If you let the GPS receiver capture the tracklog on the way up, then you can just follow it on the way back down. The problem is that at 14,000 feet, we sometimes become rather brain-challenged in the thin air. It is not uncommon to forget which button to push to get some GPS function.

--B.G.--

Charles Henry
(Chuckie_Cheese)

Locale: Arizona and British Columbia
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Mt. Shasta on 12/05/2011 01:44:59 MST Print View

One person's crazy opinion here:

I never learned self-arrest formally. I've used it once or twice on an unavoidably steep descent turned into involuntary glissade, but I simply don't fall on easy terrain, and difficult terrain if I fell...it would be over, immediately. This is after three seasons on snow and many snowy ascents, and alot of glacier/snowfield travel, often solo.

I would just study the moves beforehand and practice for a few hours until it's relatively smooth. Chances are in real life, stopping is either trivial, or impossible (you die). Self-arrest is useful, but in most falls isn't really a very powerful tool as mountaineering schools seem to present.

EDIT: If you do fall though, and aren't stopping even using your ice axe, don't give up, fight for your life all the way down until you can't. Slowing yourself down might make the difference between a bad injury to a terrible injury.

Edited by Chuckie_Cheese on 12/05/2011 01:47:18 MST.

Matt Dickstein
(mirabela) - F
In your situation, a guide is worth the $$ on 12/05/2011 19:10:54 MST Print View

I'd suggest you do the climb with a guide -- Shasta Mountain Guides is a pretty good outfit. A pretty typical package is a 3-day trip, with instruction & moving toward high camp on days 1 and 2, and a summit bid day 3.

Totally worth it, IMO. You'll learn a lot this way, and have an improved margin of safety (and better odds of success) for your summit bid.

For late May, the SW side (Avalanche Gulch) route is a good bet, or you can do a fun variation via Green Butte ridge.

The east side Hotlum-Wintun ridge route is awesome, about equivalent in difficulty and technical demands and somewhat less troubled by rockfall danger, but you'll have trouble getting to the trailhead before late June.

ROBERT TANGEN
(RobertM2S) - M

Locale: Lake Tahoe
Dangerous advice on 12/05/2011 21:10:53 MST Print View

jerry adams said, “stick your ice axe tip in and stop.” This is a dangerously misleading phrase. The ice axe does not have a tip. It has a spike and a pick. The spike is at the bottom end of the shaft. If you try to stop yourself by sticking your spike into the snow, you better have the arm and hand strength of a 500 lb gorilla. The pick is part of the head. It is the long, skinny, sharp thingy. If you just randomly stick the pick in the snow and, say, grab the shaft with both hands, the axe will probably be ripped out of your hands. Don’t be a Darwin pin-up boy.

Charles Henry
(Chuckie_Cheese)

Locale: Arizona and British Columbia
Re: Dangerous advice on 12/05/2011 21:21:42 MST Print View

Note this isn't always true, if the snow is soft, such as baked in the hot sun all day and is like an slushie, the spike may actually be the (only) way to slow down your descent.

ROBERT TANGEN
(RobertM2S) - M

Locale: Lake Tahoe
Dangerous advice on 12/05/2011 21:29:51 MST Print View

If the snow is too soft to use the pick, you can use the adze, but if the snow is 3 feet of unconsolidated snow, I for one don't have the arm and hand strength to stick the shaft in and grab the head and keep the shaft still pointing straight down. Besides, you are not using the spike in this case, you're using the shaft, and the presence or absnce of the spike is irrelevant. Your hand strength may vary.

a b
(Ice-axe)
The Iceaxe on 12/05/2011 21:35:15 MST Print View

The ice axe has a Pick, Adze, and Point.
During a self arrest situation it is the pick you drive into the snow while holding the shaft of the axe close to your body and arching your body to provide as much force as you can muster.
The adze is most often used to chop steps.
The point (shaft of the axe opposite the pick and adze) can be driven into the snow on the uphill side during a traverse or climb in order to self belay (provide stability).
I highly recommend taking a snow skills course that teaches ice axe self arrest such as Ned Tibbets at Mountain Education. http://mountaineducation.org/

Charles Henry
(Chuckie_Cheese)

Locale: Arizona and British Columbia
Re: Dangerous advice on 12/05/2011 21:37:11 MST Print View

Umm...If your sticking the spike in your sticking the shaft in.

Also it's impossible to stick the entire 3 foot ice axe in a self-arrest, you'r holding the shaft at some point, maybe only a foot above the spike, so only a foot is in the soft snow.

This doesn't have anything to do about hand strength. You can use your hand strength as best you can or you can give your hands a rest and perhaps fall to your death.

ROBERT TANGEN
(RobertM2S) - M

Locale: Lake Tahoe
Ice axe parts on 12/05/2011 21:41:22 MST Print View

WIKIPEDIA: "An ice axe consists of at least five components:

Head — usually made of steel and featuring a pick and adze. A hole in the center is provided for attaching a wrist leash or carabiner.
Pick — the toothed pointed end of the head, typically slightly curved (aiding both in ergonomics and self-arrest).
Adze — the flat, wide end of the head used for chopping steps in hard snow and ice.
Shaft — straight or slightly angled, typically wider front-to-back than side-to-side, flat on the sides and smoothly rounded on the ends. Traditional shafts were made of wood, but are now almost exclusively of lightweight metals (such as aluminum or titanium) or composite (including fiberglass, Kevlar or carbon filament).
Spike, or ferrule — a steel point at the base of the shaft used for balance and safety when the axe is held by its head in walking stick fashion."

a b
(Ice-axe)
Hand strength on 12/05/2011 21:49:55 MST Print View

As a side note about hand strength.
When you fall on a snow slope, if you do not arrest immediately, the momentum of your sliding body can easily rip and iceaxe out of your grasp.
A lanyard is mandatory equiptment.
I made a lanyard out of a 1 inch wide pices of nylon webbing.
In the photo below you can just see it.
I kept it knotted to the head of my axe and the other end slip knotted around the opposite wrist on the downhill side of the way I traversed the snowslope.
Also a good set of well fitting gloves.
I prefer neoprene gloves for their insulating ability, even when wet, and their improved grip on the aluminum shaft of my axe.
The most important thing of all is to have the axe in your hands at the proper time.
The most important thing of all is to have the axe in your hands at the proper time.
(repetition intentional)
People have been hurt and killed with their axe still securely fixed to their pack instead of in their hands.
WHEN you fall on an icy snow slope and careen out of control wearing your slick goretex rain pants and jacket you will have only a fraction of a second to react before you reach speeds to high to do anything meaning ful to avoid the rocks 1,000 feet below you which your body slams into at 60 MPH.
Not to spread fear.
Memorial day sounds like a lot of crusted and icy snow on Shasta to me.
Get an axe and learn how to use it before you need to.
.Early june in the San Juans of Colorado.
.You fall in a snow chute and can't arrest you keep falling.

Edited by Ice-axe on 12/05/2011 21:59:04 MST.

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Ice axe parts on 12/05/2011 21:50:51 MST Print View

The last part is the wrist strap that slides up and down the shaft with a metal ring.

There is generally one more part, and that is the stop. That is the screw located near the middle or bottom of the shaft, and it keeps the slide ring from sliding off.

Some ice axes do not have a slide ring on the wrist strap. Instead, the wrist strap is permanently tied to the hole in the axe head.

--B.G.--

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Hand strength on 12/05/2011 21:56:55 MST Print View

"Memorial day sounds like a lot of crusted and icy snow on Shasta to me."

I led up there for 26 Memorial Day climbs. The problem was that the snow condition was a little unpredictable. On some years it would be soft ice cream snow at the bottom, then medium snow toward the top. On other years, it would be medium snow at the bottom, and solid ice at the top. Where it got really tricky was where weather and melting would cause the conditions to be inverted, like where the snow was softer up high, and then it turned to ice as you descended. You really need to be prepared for anything, including avalanche.

--B.G.--