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shASSta -- 14,000 feet of pain, May 2002

Kevin's bachelor party.  The plan was simple:  convene at the base of Mt. Shasta, bag the summit, and use various snowsliding implements to descend.  The weather started out nice enough, but in a fitting tribute to the end of Kevin's turbulent single life, a late season blizzard moved in and kicked our butts.

"Vini, vidi, we got fricken vici'd":

I wasn't sure what was more bizarre -- the fact that Kevin was finally getting hitched, or that he wanted to celebrate the passing of his bachelorhood by climbing Mount Shasta for the fifth time. 

We came from all corners of the country.  The USS Otherprise was brought up from San Diego, en route to its home in Portland.  The Hopkins family drove down from Seattle.  Joel came from wherever it is that Joel comes from.  The DL crew flew in from Chicago.  Kirk drove everyone up from the Bay Area.  Griffin and I showed up to round out the team.  Many of us were return players from the successful 1999 climb via Avy Gulch.  We were fired up.  After breakfast at the Bear, and a mandatory stop at the Fifth Season, we set the radios to 4-20 and headed up to Bunny Flat.

The day started out good enough -- great weather and pleasant skinning/hiking brought us up to treeline near Horse Camp.  Above treeline, the wind picked up a bit and a few clouds started to form.  We had heard about a storm moving in late Sunday, but we saw no cause for concern this early.  We figured we would get up to advanced camp at Lake Helen (10,500'), get an alpine start and be off the mountain before the storm hit.

We figured wrong.

Shortly after setting up camp, a cloud descended from the summit and enveloped the Lake Helen area.  Visibility was measured in feet, and you nearly got lost walking from tent to tent.  Hoping for the best, we set our alarms for 3am and went to sleep.

Waking at that ungodly hour, the clouds were still there and you still couldn't see your friends.  We rallied the troops, but ultimately decided to bag it -- winds were high, routefinding was by braille, and it looked like this might actually be the storm coming in, not just some innocent fog bank.  Once back into the bivy sack, it started to snow.  By the time I crawled out at 7am, I had a few inches on top of my sleeping bag.  Winds were howling.  It was time to bail.

We packed up and headed down.  Some of us were on snowboards, some on skis, and some on foot.  We picked our way down the mountain with zero visibility.  The skiing was "dust on crust" with some frozen death cookies, avy debris and frozen slush tracks thrown in just to make sure we were alert.  Somehow, we all made it down in one piece, with all of our gear intact.  The mountain had shown us who was boss.  As Kevin said at Bunny Flat -- "You've heard of 'vini, vidi, vici?  Well, here it was 'vini, vidi, we got fricken vici'd!'"

Click on the link below to see the photos.


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