Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Shasta Climb - Part 1

I left work at 7pm on Thursday heading north to Redding for the night and Mt Shasta the following day. The traffic was really bad. It’s expected however, cuz this was the long weekend. I brought my leftover from lunch, so-called Americanized fried rice from Yan Can (Cook) and some stirred fried vegetables. Driving and eating fried rice is not the best combination, so I pulled over on the side of a road waiting out for traffic to easy off and filling my stomach. The dinner didn’t take me long and I was off on the road again. I did not get to Redding until 11:30pm, one hour later than I expected. Checked in this shady motel, with some interesting looking people in the lobby and I was off to bed.

9am on Friday, I was at the meeting place. I got introduced to the guides, Lynnette and Jason and other team members. We went over our stuffs and rent the missing ones. It turned out I packed more than what I needed and rent more than what I wanted to. I spent total of $270 (ouch!) for the rentals and gears. I brought along my sleeping bag and mountaineering shoes but unable to used them. My sleeping bag is too thin for the mountain (I actually now think it would have been ok too if I took the risk) and my shoes are too new for this big trip (I later really appreciated my decision to rent a pair of used and well worn shoes). So I rented these gears along with ice axe, trekking pole and crampons. I got ripped off on the glacier sun glasses and some other stuffs but I had to get them. I had thought I could get away with what I had but Lynnette is too tough :)

Lynnette is our main guide. She’s about my height, but boy, her voice projects. One of the loudest girl I met. She’s been guiding this trip for 3 years. She’s a very interesting character and seems to have gone through a lot. She works as guide for the summer and odd jobs such as sales person at a gear shop, substitute teacher and others for the rest of the year.

Jason is the “sous-guide” (I made up this word, after sous-chef). He is quiet, definite not as loud as his mate. This guy has better work schedule than Lynnette. He works at a ski slope in Alaska for the winter so that works out great for him.

The group has 5 people: Myself, David and Kate - a couple from Pennsylvania and Walter and Burr - two guys from Orange County. David teaches in a college and has PhD in economics. His wife Kate just quit her job to return to school for her PhD on immigration. Walter and Burr are buddies and both are cosmetic surgeons. All of us are new to mountaineering. Kate and David however have taken some mountaineering course in Colorado prior to this trip.

After settling with our gears and instructions, we packed them and put the backpack on for the first time. Man, it was heavy. It’s gotta be at least 50 lbs, and that we had been on the trail yet. That scared me, how the hell am I going to carry this piece of rock on the mountain? Besides the weight, my backpack was a little too big for my size. I tightened the belt – all the way to the point I couldn’t anymore - around my belly button but it kept sagging down. So it was like the pack rest on the upper part of my butt. Not a good posture. I wish I had bigger hip for once. After adjusting the straps and all, it felt better but still it didn’t fit me too well. Nothing I could do anyway, so I moved on.

We drove to the trail head at Bunny Flat and started the climb. It was 12:30pm. All of us started to feel the weight. And the heat! This was crazy, carrying huge backpack and in the middle of the day. The trail to the Horse Camp was actually not that steep but the weight and the heat could kill. So about a quarter of the way, we stop for the first break and Lynnette told us to introduced ourselves, and what mountaineering experience we have had. She also laid out the climbing plan. It was different from what people received prior to the trip. We were supposed to climb to the first camp, get some lessons, move to higher camp, more lessons and the last day is the summit day. Lynnette said it changed to climb to Helen Lake (higher camp) on the first day, get learn some techniques, second day to the summit and back to camp, and the 3rd day for descend. Most of the team was surprised to hear it but no objection to this new plan. We continued the 2 mile trek to Horse camp.

The Horse camp situated at 7800 feet, at the base of Avalanche Gulch. The camp was a refuge, built in the 20s of last century. Simple tiny stone house with nothing much in it. I don’t know if they really allow people to sleep in there. When we reached there, I was so tired and hungry. I did not have proper breakfast and certainly no lunch yet and carry the heaviest bag ever in the heat. You can imagine how I ate :) The huge turkey with cheese sandwich I bought before the coming to the Bunny Flat disappeared quickly in my mouth. At this time, it was clear to Lynnette and Jason that there was no way this group could make it to Helen Lake in time, so they changed the plan one more time, back to the original. Everyone was glad to rest but we were definitely concerned about the crazy 3rd day.

We setup the camp site and pitched the tents. This is when I felt the AMS. I got pounding headache. I couldn’t move too fast and was not as active. I kept on drinking water. Burr offered Diamox to fight it but I refused. I drank just too much water that evening, total of 4 litters, kept on peeing. Good thing I have other things to eat too or I would lose all minerals. Drinking that much water in short amount of time is very dangerous. Good thing nothing happened to me.

Walter, Burr and I shared a tent. That night we went to bed at 9pm so that we could get up early the next day at 5. I could not sleep at all, the headache still bugged me and plus Burr kept waking everyone by going in and out of the tent to pee. The guy is older (he’s 62) tall and of bigger frame, so he kicked things and us around while crawling in and out of the tent. Only when it was late (or early in the morning) that I could get some rest. But that’s when Lynnette had the morning call. The only good thing was my headache disappeared. Not able to have a good rest is definitely a bad thing on trip like this. You need all the focus for the climb and do not want to make mistake.

The trail head where we started the climb

1 comment:

Lan said...

kg anh KHai
em la HOang Lan, rat mong muon duoc contact voi anh qua dia chi email cua em tai: vulanchi2004@yahoo.com
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