Ski Mountaineering

Mts Lassen and Shasta
May 25-27, 1996

Leader: Reiner Stenzel

Ten telemarkers from various parts of California converged to Lassen Park for a weekend of skiing. These were Pete Yamagata from Sacramento, Richard Contreras from Mountain View, Reed Moore from San Diego, Peter Mason via Mammoth, and from the Los Angeles area Pat and Gerry Holleman, Diann Fried, Pete Matulavich, Eddie Nunez, and myself. On Sat we met at Emigrant Pass (6,446') where the northern park road was closed. The goal was to ski the northeastern slopes of Lassen Peak (10,457') which had excellent snow coverage. We started at about 11 am, hiked for 30 min through the forested area near the road, and then skinned up above a creek at the base of the Devastated Area (6,800'). We ascended the broad NE gully which got progressively steeper as we approached the summit. After traversing to the right we skied up the north ridge to the summit plateau. There were a few hot spots on this active volcano where snow, mud and steam mixed. Some volcanic rocks were heavily rimed producing a bizarre landscape.

In the afternoon the earlier winds had calmed down, the sky was dark blue, and the view of Mt. Shasta in the northwest was spectacular. After everybody had climbed the summit block we prepared for our 4 PM ski descent. We traversed/kickstepped the hard upper slope until we reached the central sun-filled NE gully. From then on it was a telemarker's heaven: over 3,000 vertical feet and several miles of spring snow in wide open terrain. The fun was only limited by the strength of the legs. And that was needed since further down the snow got deep and the snakes were waiting at each turn. The group was stretched out with Reed in the lead and Pete Y. doing the sweep.

After regrouping at the bottom and hiking the last 30 min through the forest we were back at the cars by about 6:30 PM. Due to the good weather and snow we became ambitious and decided to ski Mt. Shasta the next day, so we drove to Shasta City, joined for a late dinner in town, and finally arrived at Bunny Flat by midnight.

Only four of us (Reed, Pete M., Diann, and myself) were willing to get up by 4 am for the summit assault. The rest slept well to enjoy a more leisurely ski day.

By dawn we ascended the Green Butte Ridge Route. Pete and Diann later descended into the Avalanch Gully while Reed and I continued up the Sargent's Ridge Route. This was a fine mountaineering route with >45 deg slopes. At the Red Banks we joined the standard route via Misery Hill and skied up close to the summit block, After 8.5 hours and 7,000' higher Reed and I stood on the summit of Mt. Shasta (14,162'). We enjoyed the views and talked to climbers while ominous dark clouds began to billow in the south. It was time to get off this exposed mountain. By 2 PM we skied down the crusty slopes of the upper mountain, then dropped over the Red Banks into Avalanch Gully which had superb corn snow down to Helen Lake. There the weather caught up with us. Thick clouds sank down, it started to snow and we were in a dense whiteout. The skiing slowed down dramatically as we had to feel our way down in the uniform, white environment. Staying closely in sight and following hikers' tracks down Avalanch Gully we made it to the Sierra Club Hut. Thunder accompanied us on the way back to Bunny Flat. Around 4:30 PM we were back at the cars, and then the weather turned really nasty with heavy rain and lightning. Later, we heard that somebody died that night on the North face of Mt. Shasta. The other participants enjoyed their skiing in Avalanch Gully and escaped before the weather turned bad. After a farewell dinner in town we all dispersed on our ways home. My carpool with Diann, Pete, and Eddie drove a few hours South to the Sacramento River where we spent the night in my VW bus in a spectacular thunderstorm.

On Memorial Day we leisurely cruised home. It took a few days to recover from this 11,000' ski weekend, but the memories of a great ski adventure with fine friends remain.

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