July 13-15, 2007
We departed Eugene at 11:30 a.m. Friday (July 13, 2007) and arrived at the Bunny Flats Trailhead at 4:30 p.m. Since there were only two of us we opted to hike directly to the Sierra Club Cabin at Horse Camp for the night ($5.00 per person camp fee). We had the area to ourselves and it was a perfect night to camp. What a treat.
We departed Horse Camp at 7:15 a.m. Saturday and made it to Helen Lake at 10:00 a.m. We set up camp and socialized with the other climbers and learned a lot from the folks who had already summited. The dearth of snow was clear from Shasta city, so we were both ready to be flexible with our route up. We learned that all the folks who had stayed to the left of the heart summited, but virtually all the folks who had gone to the right did not.
While Steve and I rested Saturday, two women camped near us and we learned that one, Kat had some symptoms of altitude sickness. Her friend Brianne saw to her as best she could and through the evening she showed signs of improving. Obviously Kat would be ill advised to try to go any higher, and she decided not to. As this left Brianne alone and we were a party of two, I invited her to climb with us and she accepted.
The three of us departed Lake Helen at 3:33 a.m. Sunday, we were the first climbers to leave camp, although three more groups of two each were only a few minutes behind us.
We chose a route that allowed us to make use of our crampons all but about 200 yards of the way up. We stayed to the left side of the gulch, which put us close to the rock fall area, but it was very early and pretty cold and we went through that stretch without talking. Then it was easy to cross 200 yards of scree and continue up past the Heart. While crossing the scree we could hear the torrent of water under our feet. It was like standing on a rushing river, but the rock was dry!
Once above the Heart we turned a hard left to continue on the snow up a snow ledge that had an incline of about 45 degrees. This was a very challenging stretch and all three of us did it without mishap. Going through the Red Banks was not an option due to the lack of snow.
Once we crested the snow ledge it was an easy walk across the ice to Misery Hill. Above Misery Hill we crossed a ridge where we were rewarded with a wonderful view of Shastina. Then we crossed the last ice field and climbed to the true summit, summiting at 8:38 a.m. for an ascent time of 5:05. The wind on the summit was fierce as it had been ever since we had gotten above the Heart so we did not stay long!
The down climb was four hours and not a lot of fun as we had to descend on the scree once the glissade ended, which was much shorter than normal, again due to the lack of snow.
This was the most difficult climb I have led to date, and as such the most rewarding. I was very proud of my climb partners, although both were new to mountaineering they climbed with strength, tenacity and intelligence during a difficult and at times dangerous climb.
Climbers were: Steve Kuhn and Kim Sawyer, leader.