Climbing Mt. Shasta via the Clear Creek Trailhead in late summer is absolutely stunning. There are gorgeous views of waterfalls and canyons, and all you can see is vast wilderness stretching to the end of the horizon as you ascend the tallest mountain for hundreds of miles… It’s also super shitty. The trail is just shit… Like, a giant-bag-of-flaming-dinosaur-poo shit. Am I accurately portraying my feelings here? Envision climbing a 7,000 foot steep-as-hell sand dune. One of my friend’s described it as trying to climb “up” the “down” escalator. That’s what it’s like climbing Mt. Shasta via the Clear Creek Trailhead in late summer.
I had read a few less-than-favorable reviews of the trail in the summer time, but Shasta has been on my list for quite some time now, and I was moving to Idaho for grad school. This was pretty much my last chance to give the mountain a shot. At first glance, the route sounds pretty easy. It’s 5 miles up, and 5 miles back. Shouldn’t be too bad. But then you throw in a few more statistics, like starting at 6,800 feet and climbing to 14,179 feet, and things get a little more dicey. An elevation gain of over 7,000 feet in 5 miles makes for a tough day, but I was geared up and ready for it. What I wasn’t prepared for was the endless amounts of sand and small scree. Each step was twice as hard on a sandy, slippery, steep slope. Add in the altitude factor, and things get pretty bad by the time you reach 12,000 feet or so.
After 7 hours of hiking, we were at about 13,500 feet, and the peak was at our fingertips, but I’ve had enough training and experience to make the call that we were at our turnaround point. We were tired, we had headaches, we were scrambling up what I like to refer to as Death Rocks, and we had another 5 hours or so of hiking before getting back to the trailhead. So, we almost made it to the top, but as a good friend told me recently, “Be safe, have fun, reach the summit… In that order.” We were safe, we had a ton of fun, and even though we didn’t summit, it was an absolutely amazing experience.
One of my favorite beers to bring along on Mountainbeering adventures has turned out to be 21st Amendment’s Back in Black, a black IPA. It’s delicious, it’s in a can, and it holds up well to warmer temps, so it’s a great one to bring along on long hikes.
In the early summer when there are still substantial snowfields, This would have been a different story. With crampons, snowshoes and some glissading or skiing action, a person could reach the summit and cruise back down the mountain in much less time.
This was by far the most difficult hike I’ve ever done. What’s the toughest hike you’ve ever been on? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below. I’m also happy to answer questions or give some more details about the hike in the comments or by email.
Keep adventuring and go enjoy a good beer!