Mt. Hood/Shasta/Rainier 2015

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sad2
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Mt. Hood/Shasta/Rainier 2015

Post by sad2 »

For those of you that have climbed the above-mentioned peaks, I'm looking for some advice. What are your thoughts on attempting these peaks unguided? I'm looking at the following time-frames, based on general research.

Mt Hood: June 2015
Mt. Shasta: June 2015
Mt. Rainier: July/August 2015

I'm trying to decide whether to go guided or unguided for Mt. Hood and Shasta. I'll likely go guided on Rainier. While I have some experience with CO 14ers, I do not have any experience with an ice axe, crampons, or glacier travel. My intrinsic motivation is high and I will be training all fall/winter.

The two specific questions I have are:

1. Can I learn the basics this winter/spring in CO such that attempting Mt. Hood and Shasta next spring would be fine unguided? If so, what classes would you recommend? CMC or others? Where would you recommend I go? I've heard St. Mary's Glacier is a nice spot to train.

2. Anybody on the site that has experience in this area and wouldn't mind working with a newbie, let me know.

Thanks!
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Scott P
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Re: Mt. Hood/Shasta/Rainier 2015

Post by Scott P »

For the easiest routes on Mt Shasta, you should have self arrest skills, but you shouldn't need glacier travel skills. The skills needed for those routes on Shasta are about the same as they would be for climbing some of the easier/moderate couloir routes/snow climbs in Colorado.

Hood is a step up in difficultly and although I have an answer, I'll leave it to someone who has climbed the mountain.
My intrinsic motivation is high and I will be training all fall/winter.
Spring conditions (in Colorado) are usually much better from practicing those type of climbs than fall/winter. Practicing on consolidated snow is best for the type of climbs you are planning.
Last edited by Scott P on Mon Sep 15, 2014 12:43 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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kaiman
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Re: Mt. Hood/Shasta/Rainier 2015

Post by kaiman »

I have climbed Shasta and Hood but not Rainier so I'll throw in my 2 cents on those two peaks.

I climbed Shasta via one of the more glacial routes on the north side several years ago in early August (the Hotlam Bolam ridge) following the description in Porcella's book on the California 14ers .

We backpacked in and camped on the morain below the glaciers. The route itself is a moderate snow climb averaging about 35-40 degrees at the steepest point. I would highly recommend this route as a good introduction to glacier travel and easy snow climbs.

We did not feel the need to rope up for any part of the route. If you become proficient with crampons and and ice axe and practice self arresting you will have no problem. Part of the lower route ascends way above the bergshrund on the Hotlam glacier but unless you were to fall 800 feet or glissade into it, you can easily avoid any danger. The rest of the route was a mixed climb of snow fields, and scrambling on volcanic rock.

While there is some crevasse danger on the direct routes of the Hotlam, Bolam, and Wintum glaciers on Shasta which require roping up, the only "true" glacier route is on the Whitney glacier and does require more advanced skills. I have not climbed the standard route on Mount Shasta via Avalanche Gulch, but people I've spoken with said it was more of a slog than anything and has considerable rockfall danger depending on when you go.

As Scott P mentioned Mount Hood is a step up but not too much. I have climbed Mount Hood twice once via the standard South Side/Pearly Gates route and the second time via the Sunshine route. While steep at the top above the Hogsback the standard route is pretty straight forward. You have to be careful if the Pearly Gates are icy but that it about it.

The Sunshine route is a nice route as well and while less steep does require a rope team and some skill navigating around a few small crevasses and the bergshrund at the top but again not too terribly difficult. Both routes are fairly short and can be done in a day from the ski area.

As far as training goes many people take the CMC classes or you could go out to St Mary's or similar places and practice self arrest etc. You could also climb some of the classic spring 14er routes for practice such as the Angel of Shavano, the Christo Coulior on Quandary etc. As Scott P pointed out though you will want to do those climbs in the spring and not the fall.

Also be prepared for a lot more elevation gain on Cascade mountains with 6000-8000 feet being the average vs 3000-5000 in Colorado.

Hope that helps,

Kai
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sad2
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Re: Mt. Hood/Shasta/Rainier 2015

Post by sad2 »

Thank you both for the replies.
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Re: Mt. Hood/Shasta/Rainier 2015

Post by jblyth »

I climbed all three this summer unguided via the standard routes, so I might be able to answer most of your questions. Scott and Kai were pretty spot on and I agree with their comments.

Shasta - I did the avy gulch route on memorial day weekend as a day trip. It's a long day, but I was glad not to be spending the night at Lake Helen as it gets very busy that time of year. If you're comfortable with crampons, this is a very mellow route, just a long day more than anything. As Kai mentioned, watch for rollerballs and rocks shooting down from parties above you.

Hood - Did this mid June, also a mellow route from the Southside/Hogsback, but care should be taken on the old chute if it's icy. We were the only group not roped up/using a picket to belay on the route - probably would have been smart to bust out the protection, but we wanted to pass the guided groups quickly. Be comfortable down climbing facing inwards and front pointing with your crampons. It's also good to feel good using the pick on your ax vs. spike while down climbing; the snow quality most likely won't allow to get a good solid spike placement.

Rainer - Did this mid June via the DC on a four person team. I thought the clever was the most dangerous spot, the rest of the route is very well marked and a conga line.

Like Scott said, training on consolidated spring snow and doing couloir climbs will give you the best training. My group trained on SMG once and few times in a park to get everything dialed in. Study this book, it was very helpful - http://www.mountaingear.com/webstore//G ... 7AodhH4Aig" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

If you want to do Rainier unguided, you could take a class like this and learn what you need to know. http://coloradomountainschool.com/cours ... se-rescue/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Feel free to pm me if I can be of any assistance.

Jason
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Re: Mt. Hood/Shasta/Rainier 2015

Post by LadyClimber »

Don't waste your time on Avalanche Gulch on Shasta. I climbed Casaval Ridge several years ago and looked down from the beautiful alpine ridge on the poor souls slogging up the Gulch and felt very sorry for them. Warm up on the S. Side of Mt. Hood, and then get a group together to climb a more aesthetic route on Shasta. As others have mentioned the S. side of Hood is pretty mellow, except for the top (if you ski, I'd highly recommend bring them and leave them either at the Hogs Back or top of the Palmer lift depending on your abilities). You can rope up or not depending on conditions and your comfort level. If the weather is clear the route finding is a piece of cake. If visibility is poor you need to be able to use a compass/GPS on the way down b/c the fall line will take you off Zig Zag canyon, not the lodge. Also, the Pearly Gates are now a technical ice climb (actually have been for quite a while now) and climbers use the old chute/mazama route.

As far as Rainer...it's a big mountain. You should really have you systems dialed and be solid at navigation and crevasse rescue. People get lured into thinking that they are safe on the DC route since it's usually wanded by the guides, have a deep boot pack, and plenty of people close by the help in an accident. But you can't count on that, and shouldn't on any route.

If you find yourself in the San Juan mountains this spring and want to go over ice axe and crevasse rescue stuff let me know.
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Re: Mt. Hood/Shasta/Rainier 2015

Post by sad2 »

Thanks for the info!
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shearmodulus
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Re: Mt. Hood/Shasta/Rainier 2015

Post by shearmodulus »

Rainier in July/August:

I did the Emmons Route in August of last year. The crevasses were all open, so IDing them was easy but the route finding gets harder. I climbed the DC route this year in late May when the snow was still fat and the bridges were in great shape. That being said, you'll always fare better from an objective hazard standpoint by starting WAY early.

Depending on your speed of travel, you might want to consider a midnight start or even an 11:00 p.m. start to avoid prime rockfall times as the sun warms up the face. There are two particular spots to watch out for on the DC route - just after departing Camp Muir at the base of Cathedral Rocks; there is a cliff face that the main route skirts very close to that is prone to rock fall. And then right before you gain the Disappointment Cleaver, there is a pretty large serac that is known to dump good-sized ice chunks. Don't hang out in either spot, and try to get past them before it gets warm.

The Emmons Route via Glacier Basin is pretty safe, but there are some challenging sections below Camp Schurmann with the Inter Glacier; there is a lot of rock in that area, and crevasse hazard does exist, so roping up is still a good idea. Once you get above Camp Schurmann the rockfall hazard drop off significantly and is replaced by major routefinding challenges.

Rope team travel, self-arrest, crampon footwork, snow anchors, crevasse rescue and hauling systems should be considered a MUST for Rainier. If you have the time prior, go out to St. Mary's Glacier. You can practice all of these skills there with the exception of crevasse rescue. With a bit of creativity you might be able to set up some hauling systems and give them a try.

I would suggest standard ice axes with leashes, good general mountaineering crampons (I use BD Sabertooths), three 30 cm pickets, a good alpine rope, a couple of ice screws (for late season travel) some pulleys and lots of sunscreen. This all in addition to webbing, lockers, prusik systems for self-rescue, and other implements of destruction.
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Re: Mt. Hood/Shasta/Rainier 2015

Post by Theodore »

I did Hood guided a couple years ago. I did a brief skill review the day before. I'd have zero qualms with doing it again w/o a guide. Check out the cascadeclimbers forums for conditions on all of those mountains. Just pay attention to which route is in and leave Timberline EARLY and you should be good!

Eat at El Burro Loco, it's good stuff.

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Re: Mt. Hood/Shasta/Rainier 2015

Post by sad2 »

shearmodulus - Thanks for the information on Rainier. It appears Rainier is a step up from Mt. Hood and Shasta so I will go guided on that one.

Shasta appears doable without a guide as long as I get some experience with crampons/ice axe. Mt. Hood sounds like an intermediate climb.

Perhaps I'll try Shasta unguided in May/June 2015 and decide from there about Hood.

Great trip report.
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Re: Mt. Hood/Shasta/Rainier 2015

Post by Pops921 »

I have done Rainier seven times and have already booked my 2015 climb. I have not done the other peaks.

Rainier Mountaineering offers a 6 day seminars on Rainier. These seminars attempt to teach you everything you need to know to climb the mountain on your own (you still get to climb the mountain). The seminars are about twice as expensive as the standard 4 day DC climb, but it sound like you are interested in learning the skills for the future. Perhaps do Rainier first and take your new skills to the other peaks?

RMI already has 2015 dates (and probably the others as well) and they are already starting to fill up. They are usually all gone sometime in the spring. The seminars usually fill up a little slower.
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Re: Mt. Hood/Shasta/Rainier 2015

Post by ed20320 »

I've climbed all three and here are my thoughts:

you might consider starting off with Mt Shasta. IMO, its no different than any Colorado 14'er in the winter. I climbed it via Lake Helen and it's very straight forward.

Mt Hood, you have some options, you can cheese out and take the lift up to the base of the Palmer Glacier (if I remember correctly) and save yourself the 2750 feet of gain or start from the parking lot. once you get to Hells Kitchen and achieve the hog back, the climb starts. as others have pointed out, the Pearly gates can get to be a bowling alley, especially if there are unscrupulous climbers above you. up to the pearly gates, it gets steep and icy so be prepared for that mentally. the summit, 100% worth the effort.

Mt Rainier - the first time i climbed it, i did it unguided, but i was an experienced glacier traveler. so look at your own skill set and realize that this mountain isn't a place to learn your skills, refine yes, but not learn. if your good with your glacier travel and craves rescue skills, skip the guides and enjoy it on your own. be sure to be on and then off the summit by 10 AM. the snow gets very slushy after that.

my only other advice to you is look at your timing. the second time i went to Mt hood, we went it late June and I'll never do it again. add a lot of melting snow with that crap the mountain is made of and its a dirty, slippery and generally unpleasant place to be, especially on the lower slopes. If you could swing Mt Hood in April, Mt Shasta in early May (be sure to find out of the road is open) and then Mt Rainier over Memorial day, you might enjoy the climbs more. I did Hood the first time in February, and then the other two in May (different years). I wouldn't have done it any other way.

good luck.

Ed
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