Ski Mountaineering

Skiing Mt Shasta

May 24-27, 1991

Leaders: Reiner Stenzel, Howard Schultz, Greg Jordan, Ken Deemer

I remember an earlier Memorial Day trip to Shasta: Huddled in a tent on the Casaval Ridge, hoping the fly would not tear from the wind and snowload, total whiteout, everything wet, real misery. It could only get better next time, I thought; and so it did in 1991.

Five SMSrs got together for the long weekend required for the long drive through California. It was Lisa Freundlich, Howard Schultz, Ken Deemer, Greg Jordan and Reiner Stenzel. On Friday, 5/24, we drove north, camped on the Sacramento River banks, then finished the rest of the drive on Saturday morning. It was beautiful spring weather and our moods were high as we spotted a big white mountain from the distance while driving up Interstate 5.

By midday we arrived at Bunny Flats, packed and skied toward the base of the mountain. We set up camp north of the Sierra Club Hut and enjoyed a wonderful afternoon/evening in best spring weather.

Sunday was our day to climb/ski Mt Shasta. To assure success we took the standard route up along Avalanche Gully. We started before sunrise, carrying the skis on the packs. We passed Helen Lake and tent city where we were joined by dozens/hundreds of climbers who spend the night up there. For the ascent to the Red Banks we used crampons and ice axe.

The crowds were spreading out above Misery Hill. Next came a whiff of foul air. We mutually accused each other, then apologized since we realized the sulfuric scent came from some fumeroles along the way.

Greg and I summitted by 11:30am. We enjoyed the unobstructed views from this high summit. Puffy summer clouds were around us but of no concern. The summit block consists of rimed vulcanic rock which is not suited for skiing. Nevertheless, a group of Swiss climbers brought their randonee gear to the summit and descended from the top with quick jump/wedel turns.

Telemarking the upper mountain was a bit challenging since it was mostly on sastrugi, frozen windslabs in plain English. But this is expected at 14,000' elevation and would greatly change on our 7000' descent. Already at Misery Hill the snow became smoother and we could parallel easily. Actually, it was a Pleasure Hill.

At the Redbanks Greg and I met up with the rest of our group who were still ascending. We had a nice rest before skiing the steeper slopes down from the Redbanks. The snow in Avalanche Gully was wonderful spring snow and the skiing was a delight, provided one would stay out of the deep trenches carved out by the many hikers.

Telemarking Shasta in perfect weather was a dream come through. Turn after turn we flew down the mountain, only occasionally interrupted to catch breath and recover. But the downhill run usually goes too fast and by early afternoon we were already back at camp. In the evening the group was reunited and we shared the adventures of the day.

Monday, Memorial Day, was another long day. We skied out early and then drove some 10+ hours home. But sharing the ride with three drivers made life easier.

It was a great Memorial Day weekend with the nicest group of friends, the best weather and a great mountain. We already thought of coming back, as we did a few years later.

Reporter: Reiner Stenzel

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