Corie: I was beyond psyched going into this weekend for three reasons: 1) we would have an extra long weekend to spend climbing and living in the snow away from cell reception (for the most part), 2) we would be pushing to climb not one, but TWO mountains in three days of climbing/camping, and 3) … time spent in the mountains is irreplaceable for one’s mental health. But.. on to the weekend:
Four miles after leaving the trail head at Bunny Flat, we reached what can only be described as a EPIC valley. Settled in the foreground of both peaks, Hidden Valley offered spectacular views of the mountain landscape and far more privacy than we would have received elsewhere. We quickly ditched our non-essential gear (tent, pads, stove, etc) near a large rock in the center of the valley, and began our trek toward Shastina. I, of course, got my epic’ing out of the way early and had a miniature panic attack on a 20 degree snowslope… however, by the time we reached the actual climbing section (at most maybe 40-45 degrees), I was cool as a cucumber and psyched. The Lightning Couloir was basically straight up and I was pretty damn sure that the top of the pitch showcased the summit.
Well, I was wrong. As with many mountains, the top of the Couloir was a false summit and we still had 1000 feet of climbing to do. Oh well. The summit of Shastina is actually a rad, crumbly little boulder, the pieces of which are held in place by ice and snowpack. We climbed to the top, topping out in good form and smiled happily from the top of the the third tallest peak in the Cascade Range.
Andy: Moving into the weekend I was adequately psyched, but I couldn’t deny feeling drained. Work was inserting itself into other parts of my life despite my resistance, and I was struggling to separate work stress from the other components of my existence. Mountains were needed. A refreshed perspective required. During the slog down Interstate 5, my energy level stagnated. Popping acetazolamide and nifedipene didn’t help, with the fatigue and drowsiness side-effects holding true to form.
Corie pushes me in all the best ways and this weekend was no different. With the acumen of a seasoned veteran she hatched the idea of not only tagging this month’s objective, Shasta, but adding on its sister peak, Shastina. Shastina was never really on my list because it fell inside Shasta’s shadow – figuratively and literally. Although it is the 3rd highest summit within the Cascade Range, given its proximity to the 14,000 foot Shasta, it doesn’t get the attention it deserves. But what it lacks in prominence, it makes up for in beauty. The peak is gorgeous and adds some amazing terrain features when coupled with Shasta.
After a few hours of sleep and some coffee on Saturday morning, I got my psych back. The higher we hiked, the better I felt. When we turned the corner into the Hidden Valley, I couldn’t contain myself. It was one of the most gorgeous alpine landscapes I’ve ever set eyes on. We dropped our overnight gear and I switched to skinning up rolling gullies and glaciers, eventually topping out Shastina with the biggest shit-eating grin.
Life was sweet. Tasting mountain air, drinking glacier water, and feeling the warmth and power of the high altitude sun left me euphoric. I was drunk on alpine. The ski descent was one of the best runs of my life - dropping turns into the Lightening Couloir, and carving lines all the way to the door of the tent 3000′ below. It doesn’t get much better than that.
For climbers looking to make a quick ascent of Shastina, getting an alpine start is always a good option. Due to our late arrival at Bunny Flat (6,800′) and our need to ditch half of our pack weight in Hidden Valley, we got a later and slower start than we typically due for climbs of this nature. However, the late start made for nearly-perfect ski conditions. The hike into Hidden Valley (9,200′) is relatively straight forward with minimal elevation gain. A well defined trail up to Horse Camp makes trail finding incredibly simple and, after a bit of wandering around, we were able to follow an equally well marked trail out of Horse Camp and into Hidden Valley. From there, camping areas are numerous and we had no trouble getting a spot away from other climbers. The climb up Shastina is direct and engaging- interesting terrain and variable grades of steepness allowed for a steady trip and beautiful views. The stretch up the Couloir itself was relatively steep (40* or so) and crampons and an ice axe, or at least a whippet pole are must-haves. Once you reach the top of the couloir, a thousand feet or so remains before you reach the summit- a small boulder comprised of chunks of rock that are held together by ice and packed snow. The boulder itself was very stable but caution should be used during later months should the ice/glue holding the pieces in place choose to melt out.
As always, caution should be used when climbing. Shastina does not appear to receive very much traffic, a surprise considering how fun the climbing and the skiing were. At 12,329′, Shastina is the third tallest peak in the Cascade Range but, likely due to its much larger neighbor, Shasta, the mountain is likely overlooked by mountaineers from all levels of experience. There is another route up the east side of Shastina that appeared to be much less steep but quite a bit longer so for climbers looking for less adventure than we were, the alternate route might provide a greater feeling of security on a much shallower grade.
Equipment List- Lightning Couloir
Identical to Lassen Peak + an extra day of food.
Our GPS map and data can be found here.
Distance: 5.02 miles (Bunny Flat TH to Shastina summit)
Time: Car to Hidden Valley: 3:43, Hidden Valley to Summit: 3:54, Summit to Hidden Valley: 1:00.
Starting Elevation: 6,955′
Summit Elevation: 12,329′
Elevation Gain: 5,374′