Siskiyou National Forest/Wilderness Area, CA
Avalanche Gulch Trail
10.0 miles roundtrip, elevation gain/loss ~7500' (complete)
Approximate elevations (start-peak) 6500-14162'
Hiked July 13-15, 1998 - Duration ~2 days.
MAPS PHOTOS SLIDESHOW LINKS BOOKS
This was my first major trip on snow, and the first time I've backpacked on
snow. Ben and I set off from L.A. early on July 12th, and after about 12 hours of driving,
got to the base of Shasta. We overnighted near the trailhead, and the next morning we were
off. There was snow all the way down to the start of the trailhead, which was unusual for
this time of year. After about an hour of hiking, we made it up to Horse Camp, where the
Sierra Club cabin is. We rested, replenished our water bottles in the spring and headed
off to Helen Lake. There were a few short, steep climbs to get up to Helen Lake at
10,400', and the snow was very slushy in the late morning. It was quite a workout with our
big packs still on our backs. We made it up to Helen Lake and set up the tent around
2:30pm, there were only four or five other groups camping there. I was feeling the 10,400'
altitude, so I crashed into my sleeping bag and slept for a few hours. Around 6pm we ate
some dinner and sat around in the brutal sun (even though we were wearing SPF 30+
sunblock, we both got burnt). The sun went down around 9pm and we went to sleep, hoping
for an early start the next day. Sometime around midnight, my thermarest sleeping pad
popped a leak, and I spent the rest of the night sleeping directly on the snow, freezing
the whole time. Around 5am, we got up, made some oatmeal and started the long climb up the
Red Banks. They were very icy and steep, we climbed slowly and took lots of breaks. After
a couple of hours of intense climbing, I finally crested the Red Banks. I was hoping to
find a nice flat spot to rest but there were none, just more climbing ahead. Also after
passing the Red Banks, a vicious wind came up and we were getting blown around by 30mph+
winds. Ben's thermometer was reading below 30°F.
The next obstacle on the trail
was Misery Hill, another 800 vertical feet of climbing. About ¾ the way up Misery Hill, I
decided to turn around. It was very cold, very windy, and I was exhausted from four hours
of intense climbing. Ben continued on to the summit, spending a few minutes there before
starting the long slide down (his photos to come soon). The highlight of the trip was the
fun we had sliding down the trail. Shasta is steep and slick, just right for sliding on
your butt all the way down. I made it down to the tents at Helen Lake in about 30 minutes.
I packed my stuff up and slid down to the Sierra Club cabin in another 40 minutes, and
walked the last 45 minutes out to the car. It was a great trip, it was exhausting, but I
really enjoyed living on snow for a few days. It took about three days of resting to feel
100% again, and my skin is still peeling from the sunburn. I will climb this mountain
again, and with so much snow, it will remain climb-able probably up into September.
Hike photos (16 total)
RealVideo slideshow (requires the new RealPlayer
The Shasta Cam (live)
Shasta Area Climbing Page
Shasta - The ultimate guide to climbing Shasta, great for beginners.
Shasta Book: A Guide to Hiking, Climbing, Skiing, and Exploring the Mountain Area
California's Fourteeners - a great book
about all the 14,000' peaks in California (Shasta is one of them)
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