Sunday, July 12, 2009

Shasta Climb - Part 2

After oatmeal and cereal breakfast, we departed for Helen lake which is at 10443' by heading to the Causeway - the rock steps created by a caretaker named Olbermann. The causeway look nice and neat but not good for hiking, certainly not with a heavy pack. At the end of the causeway the trail started to get very steep and soon enough we entered a snow slope, up the Helen Lake and beyond.

The climb was not bad for me. A few in the team though had some problem, mostly because they were not used to carry that much weight. This was when I appreciated the gym and hiking sessions I have gotten so far. I could keep on going while others requested breaks to catch up with breathing. I was also glad my headaches were gone. I must have been something else.

We reached to Helen lake 2pm-ish. The day was beautiful and sunny. We scouted the snow slope for area to pitch our tents. Not so lucky. We had to use the shovel to dig some area to make it flatter. Jason and Burr were doing the digging while Walter and I doing the stampede to pack the snow and even it out. Shortly we had a nice little sweet spot where we called it home for the day and we could all take a power nap before our snow school.

Trying to pack the snow for the tent
The snow school was supposed to be on the first day but since Horse camp had no snow, we did today. Jason was our instructor. We learned a lot in this, mostly basic climbing and snow traversing techniques, and most important thing, how to rescue ourselves. It was a fun session. However, in one of the practice of falling on the steep snow slope face down, I had spasm on my back. At first when it happened, i was like, Oh no, this is it, I broke my back. It was so painful that I could not even speak when Jason asked me if I was ok, I could only let out a few words. As soon as it happened, I rolled over on my back, using the snow to ease the pain and made sure one hand holding on to the ice axe (or I would slip down the slope). Magically, after like two mins, the pain went away and I felt like almost nothing had happened. Everyone was happy for me cuz they were really concerned. So was I. this would be my first taste of the danger of snow climbing. Now looking back to this little incident, I am glad I handle the way I did. I was so much in pain but still able to stay calm and made the right decision. This is one of the most important things to do on the mountain.

Me in front on our tent

After the snow school, we were starving as there was no lunch. Good thing Lynnette prepared a pasta dinner for us. A very early dinner at 4pm. It's here we started to melt the snow for drinking water. The snow here is not a pure as the one in the North Pole. It has interesting taste, might be due to the fungus on the surface of the rocks that the snow covered, so might be other stuffs we did not want to guess. Mind you that the park has a very strict rule on human waste. All solid waste, ie. poop, will need to be packed and brought down to the designated bin at the beginning of the trail head.

Speaking of waste management, we were given two small packages in which we have a sheet of paper printed with nested circles, much like a dartboard, some substance like cat litter to absorb the moisture and the smell of the poop. The technique for this is to squad down, aim at the center and do your business. Once done, apply the litter on top and grab the edges, sorta folder the sheet and put it into the Ziploc bag and tow it out of sight in a black garbage bag and carry that garbage bag inside your backpack.

We went to bed at around 6pm after packing for the summit the next day. We only packed the most essential items for the climb and leave everything behind inside the tents. The plan is to get up at 1am and have quick breakfast, put on our gears and hope to leave for the summit by 3am the latest.
It was so hot inside the tent because it was a 4 season tent and the sun was still out. My sleeping bag was 0F degree (approx -18C) rating, so that did not help either. That night, Burr did not need to pee as much but snored. Despite my attempt to put myself to sleep, the heat, the light, the snoring and the anxiety of the climb and possibly the altitude kept me awake pretty much all night. Again, we had wake up call soon after I started to actually falling asleep.

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