Heading to Horse Camp

Trip Start Jun 11, 2008
Trip End Jun 22, 2008

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Where I stayed
The Six

Flag of United States  , California
Thursday, June 12, 2008

We left Red Bluff around 9 a.m. to drive to Shasta City and get our permits. Our plan was to hit the trailhead at noon and make the nearly 2-mile trek to Horse Camp by 2 p.m.

We picked up our permits at Fifth Season in Shasta City. Nice little store in town for last-second supplies. The staff was telling some other Shasta-ites the ins and outs of the mountain. Nice helpful staff. Wes and I got our permits without any hitches.

Bunny Flats is about 20 minutes from the Fifth Season. The trailhead is easy to spot. Just look for the parking lot with a jillion cars.

Almost as planned, we started heading up Bunny Flats shortly after 1 p.m. Lack of sleep and the elevation combined to whoop my ass. Even though the trail to Bunny Flats is relatively flat and short, I took an unusual number of rests and piss breaks.

We saw about a dozen hikers coming down from the mountain. None - yes ZERO, ZILCH, NADA, NOBODY - made it to the summit. Morale was low. Most said it was windy. But a couple of people got elevation sickness.

The bad news continued to flow when we reached Horse Camp around 3 p.m. A lady hiker sitting alone at Horse Camp had to turn around because of fatigue and the havoc altitude reeked on her body. She also just got a radio transmission that said her friends who continued to the summit just slipped on Red Banks and the guided group was returning.

We found out later that three hikers were tied together. One slipped and sent the trio tumbling down the mountain between 100 feet and 100 yards (a discrepancy based on three different accounts). During the fall one of the hikers took a crampon to the face. He had 10 or so cuts on his face. The guy looked like he got blasted by a shotgun filled with rubber pellets, then sucker punched in the lip.

He was a bloody mess, and the situation scared the crap out of all of the hikers heading up. The two guides that took the group each came down with tweaked ankles. One of the guides said this was the last weekend they were going to take groups up Avalanche Gulch due to the poor trail conditions (lack of snow). This was the first time I was actually worried we weren't going to summit.

The rest of the day, Wes and I were nervous wrecks contemplating the situation we got ourselves into. Around 5 p.m., we talked to the first summiters of the day - a couple of younger guys (one around 14, the other around 25-ish) dressed in blue jeans and wife-beaters. They were using crampons and ski poles - not the high-tech trekking poles - and weren't using ice axes. Ice axes are "stupid," they said. Ignorance is bliss, I guess.

A father and daughter team came down an hour after. They made the summit too. All of the people who bagged Shasta went right of the heart and up the chimney through Red Banks - hardly a coincidence. The other thing they all had in common was they were all one nut short of a peanut. We took their stories and advice with a grain of salt.

Horse Camp was a good place to get acclimated. There was a steady stream of passing hikers who gave us up-to-the-minute trail conditions and there are binoculars inside the Horse Camp hut to watch hiker's progress up the mountain.

The spring water at Horse Camp was the best water I've ever tasted - cold, clean and better than the bottled sh*t.
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