To begin I have to thank Jacob D for calling this trip. It sort of piqued my interest and when everyone else bailed I still was determined to do it with my brother. Looking at the route from the Shasta book and Google earth made me wonder just how to get across all the obstacles. I viewed this trip with some trepidation. Shasta is such an imposing feature of northern California. We got our first view from quite a ways away.
We went up Monday, July 8th, and got to Bunny Flat just in time to meet a mother and daughter who had just done the summit. They had started at 4:30 AM and we ran into them at 6:00PM. They were jazzed. Went looking for water around Bunny Flat but didn't see any so went up the road to the ski area but neglected to stop at Panther Meadow where there was some water. We then went down the hill and spent the night at the motel in Mt Shasta City.
Went in Tuesday to see the ranger to find out what he knew of the circumnavigation. We showed him the guide book and the route that guy had chosen, then he started telling us what he thought. He concurred about doing the route clockwise and getting the tiresome scree walking out of the way first.
He wondered about some of the choices in the guide book and suggested some alternative routes. In his years as a ranger he said that he knew of very few people who had completed the circumnavigation and that a lot of people who attempted, turned around at Diller Canyon. From studying the route and looking at google earth we knew that this was going to be a good one. We then headed up the hill to Bunny Flat Trailhead.
Started about 10:30AM and hiked up to he Sierra Club Hut at Horse Camp.
We then proceeded to Hidden Canyon and camped there.
We got there about 1:30 and there were just little puddles by the camp and a little running higher up. Toward mid afternoon the whole thing was flowing pretty good and stayed running all night and then in the morning it stopped running again. We left Hidden Camp traversing north and negotiated some gullys that had snow in them.
We didn't bring ice ax so had to stay off of the stuff. This dictated our route wherever we found it, having to go either high or low to get around it. The whole west side is pretty unstable scree and the guide book has you staying low but the ranger said to stay high so we stayed high above treeline. We took Diller Canyon pretty high and found a way down the cliff band on the south side.
The bottom of the gully was really unstable and you could make a slide just by planting your pole.
We crossed and ascended just to the left of the scree slope on the north side, through the rocks.
At that point we knew there was no turning back. We then climbed heading north and got above tree line and traversed to Whitney Glacier where the springs are marked on the NG Topo Maps. That was the first running water above ground we encountered since Hidden Canyon. There were some patches of snow along the way but all we had were alcohol stoves so melting was out.
The landscape at Whitney Glacier looked as if someone had taken a dump truck and dumped piles and ridges of rock with big house size chunks of ice buried beneath. It was all pretty unstable so we had to watch our step. After getting water we found a little flat spot and proceeded to dig out rocks to make a camp. Not a very hospitable place.
Not wanting to cross this tortured landscape we decided to drop down and go around below it. Found a little ridge to he west of Whitney Creek but found the walls to steep to cross higher up so kept decending looking for a place to cross. Went down quite a ways and finally found a place to cross then started to climb again heading toward Bolam Glacier.
In contrast to Whitney Glacier, Bolam was a quite pleasant place. We filled up with water and plotted our next route climbing out of Bolam and taversing through some pleasant walking, passing to the left of the cliffs between 9600 and 9800 ft. and contouring at that elevation below the cliffs and above a nice bench. Kept contouring around and passed just south of 9535. Was going to keep traversing but found a big now field in our way so descended into a little bowl climbing slightly and coming out at a cliff overlooking Inconstance Creek.
The ranger had told us to stay high along there but there was too much snow on the north side of the gullys so decided to drop down and follow the route in the book. Found a nice steep decent between the cliffs. It was a mix of sand and dirt and turned out to be a pleasant decent. Found water in the drainage just below and camped in between there and Inconstance Creek.
Leaving camp the next morning we traversed between 8400 and 8600 ft.
Gravel Creek was aptly named with the sides of the gully being mostly gravel interspersed with rocks and steep.
Kept contouring at the same elevation crossing Brewer Creek and coming up to some cliffs we had been watching since Inconstance Creek. Checked out the map again and decided to cross Ash Creek at the point suggested in the book and not what the ranger had suggested, which was staying high. Dropped down a little ways and went through a saddle just to the east of 8566 which brought us through a notch overlooking Ash Creek.
We decended to the dry wash to the north of Ash Creek, ascended a little ridge then looked down into Ash Creek.
We found footprints coming up the ridge so we followed them down. The ridge became steeper and the footprints started to decend the steep slope into Ash Creek. Had some fine scree skiing down to Ash Creek coming in at the confluence of the dry wash we had crossed higher up. Got a little water in the creek, ate a little then started to traverse going slightly up toward the more stable and less steep ascent just above the falls.
Got to the top and found the traverse to Cold Creek Springs where we camped for the night. Good water in a nice little creek.
Our next obstacle was Clear and Mud Creeks. The book says to stay high but the description of the decent into Mud Creek sounded kind of hairy and the ranger suggested we drop down and cross at the confluence of the two creeks. Checking out the contour lines on the map showed that this was quite a steep decent but we decided to go that route. Traversed around the head of Pilgrim Creek and crossed a trail where we met some people day hiking. This was at the top of the decent to the confluence.
Started down and followed above a cliff band until we could drop straighter down. Kept moving to the east as we descended and toward the bottom ran into some brush we had to go around and through and finally found our way down to the creek above the confluence.
The last 15 ft was extremely loose and steep and constituted the only butt sliding we did on the whole route.
Walked down the creek till past the confluence and ended up at the bottom of our ascent. It took us almost two and a half hours to get to the bottom.
Got some water there and started our ascent. It was steep but was stable footing and it was in the trees as was the decent.
At one point we went over to the ridge and found an almost vertical drop off of about 80 ft which over looked a giant bare and open space with no vegetation. It also gave us a good view up the creek drainages and the decent we had just negotiated.
It looked as if this ridge could collapse at any time so we back away and continued our ascent. Got to the top and took a little lunch break then found the trail which was marked on the map.
We took the trail, which was actually a road, until it headed south at which point we lift it then traversed around to our way over to Red Fir Ridge. Started climbing again after crossing the ridge and gradually headed west. Ran into a cliff on the way to the meadow and dropped down instead of climbing. Got to the top of the ridge and heard water and when we dropped down and were about to cross the creek when I ran into a trail which led to the camp ground.
Got on the main trail and headed to Panther Flat, hit the road and hiked down to the Bunny Flat parking lot. Altogether 5 days 4 nights.