July 5, 1999
It was a decision made at the last minute. The original plan was to climb Mt. Rainier. But knowing that the weather is notoriously bad on Mt. Rainier, the back-up plan was to go south and do a north-side route on Mt. Shasta. Based on the weather, it was a “no-brainer” to cancel the trip to Mt. Rainier. There was a storm on the mountain for the weekend. But the weather in Northern California was also questionable. Thanks to generous professional meteorological micro-processing by Rich Anselmo, we made our plan. The only good day for a summit attempt would be Monday, July 5. But that would mean traveling on Saturday afternoon, climbing to high camp on Sunday, summiting on Monday, coming all the way out, and then driving back to Eugene. Hey, everyone was ready to do it! This was as much of an adventure as climbing Mt. Rainier, because no one on the team had ever done the Hotlum-Bolan Ridge route on Mt. Shasta. It is a north side route, and the road had just opened up all the way to the trailhead the week before.
The team met in Weed to caravan to the trailhead over roads that were really awful, even by Oregon standards. We camped at the trailhead and just finished dinner when it started to snow. But the next day the imposing 14,000-ft. bulk of Mt. Shasta was visible above us. The use trail to the base of the glaciers was also a pleasant surprise. It was free of snow and in good condition. After a 3000-ft. elevation hike with full packs, we found a place free of snow to camp on a small mesa in a wonderful alpine setting at about 10,000 ft. We rested in sheltered places in the rocks studying our route and watching the clouds blow in and off the mountain. The plan was to get up at 1:00 p.m. and start at 2:30. The route ascends the broad ridge between the Hotlum Glacier and the Bolan Glacier. We were warned of a large bergschrund that had opened on the Hotlum Glacier. It is very visible going up, but coming down it is hard to see and several climbers had already fallen in this season.
We picked a route from camp well right of the crevasses and ascended by moonlight and headlamps up the very steep snow. The slope was sustained 45 to 50 degrees, but the conditions were perfect for crampons. The sky was absolutely clear and the stars were incredible. The night was calm. Everyone was thinking, “Thank you, Rich”. His forecast was right on. As the day advanced we reached a large step at 12,000 ft. and made our way across to a rock band. A snow slope to the right that avoided the rock climbing was exposed and icy, so we chose to scramble up the rock. At one point the climbing was a little more than a scramble, possibly 5.5, but no one had any problems reaching the rocky rim, where another scramble through a mostly ice-free chute put us within an easy walk to the summit pinnacle. Not a cloud in sight with only moderate winds. What an extraordinary feeling! It was 10:30 when the last of our team signed the summit register. The high from such an adventure is what makes the long descent possible.
It was after midnight when we arrived back in Eugene, totally exhausted but amazingly happy. Climbers were Chris Miller, Deb Carver, Benjamin Donner, Bill Johnson, Don Harrold and Cathy Wilks. Special thanks to Doug Nelson for his help as assistant leader. The climb was led by John Pegg.