This story is from 2014 when I was still new to California and outdoors. The backstory is somewhat cliche, general frustrations with life and me trying to “find myself”. I found a meetup group which was run by a guy named M (it still is). I signed up on a beginner trip to summit Mount Shasta thorough Avalanche Gulch route (it’s a non technical route, anyone can go). I had done a lot of hiking before but never any backpacking. I am still surprised that I was accepted by this group to climb Shasta. So, one weekend I buy a backpack and hiking boots, go on a 6 mile hike in Castle Rock park with a heavy backpack. Next weekend, I drive up to Shasta with M and 10 other people. Some members of the team had prior backpacking experience but no one had climbed Shasta before except M. We rented snow boots, ice axe and crampons and started hiking on Saturday morning. It was still May and the trail was covered by snow after horse camp. I was slower than the rest of the group too and was following them from a distance. The advantage of this setup was they were making holes for me in the snow to step on. The disadvantage was that I was scared to look back on steeper slopes. I kept going, one step at a time and made it to our basecamp, an hour or so after others.
The basecamp was basically a flat area just below Helen lake campsite. Helen lake (at 10300 ft) is where most people camp on this route but it was still covered in snow. We set up our tents on the snow and did some basic self-arrest training. It was windy all night and as a first time snow-camper, I barely slept. Plan was to wake up at 2AM and start hiking to the summit by 3AM. I woke up and got ready. Even started hiking with the team but made the decision to turn around. Sorry for my un-heroness but I just had the feeling that it was a really bad idea to go up any further. Sunrise was at least three hours away and I was getting behind the rest of the team. I did go up another 500ft later that day, but spent most of my morning taking pictures around the campsite. Only a couple of people made it to summit. Our team took it well though and we named ourselves “Not that bad team”. Once everyone was back at camp, it started snowing and there was a complete white-out. We came down in a single file, closely following M. I went back to Shasta couple of times after that but never made it to summit. I was able to summit Mt.Whitney later that year.
Looking back, I am not very proud of myself for signing up on that Shasta trip but there is always a first time for everything. In the end, we have to make the best decision for ourselves sometimes, even when we are in a group. That trip to Shasta gave me a lot of courage and opened me up to a lot of adventure later on. What I found during that trip was my love for mountains and photography. Pictures below are from a point and shoot camera. I bought my first DSLR camera right after that trip.
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