Mount Shasta is the tallest volcano in California. At an elevation of 14,179 feet, it is the second-highest peak in the Cascades and the fifth-highest in the state. Mount Shasta has an estimated volume of 85 cubic miles (350 cubic kilometers), which makes it the most voluminous stratovolcano in the Cascade Volcanic Arc. It’s a big ass mountain! It is #2 on the Cascade Volcanoes Peak Pin list by the Mountaineers, and this is one of my lists or lists, so it must be climbed by #thehad.
I have been discussing a leadership video series with my employer Launch Consulting, leveraging my HikingWithHadland blog. The general rubric is to have me invite an executive on one of my “hikes” and discuss life, leadership, business, challenges, and success while attempting some interesting peak.
I was fortunate to connect with fellow Navigator Sheryl Tullis who was planning a climb up Shasta as a conditioner for an upcoming trip to climb Mount Kilimanjaro with her husband Steve. Colleagues and fellow mountain athletes Austin Twietmeyer and Nick Ash, part of the TAG MARCOM team would also join as they are in charge of Launch’s APEX Experience video production.
We arrived in the sleepy town of Mount Shasta (shocking similar in name to the mountain), and planned to get some food and a few hours of rest. For a small mountain town, there are a lot of psychics, astrologers, and crystal shops. Supposedly within the mountain, there is the hidden city of Telos, inhabited by advanced beings from the lost continent of Lemuria. Now I come from the land of Bigfoot and am open to the supernatural, so the prospect of encountering ancient beings from a lost continent only added to the allure of climbing Mount Shasta. Some of our team members needed some gear and we discovered an excellent gear shop, The Fifth Season, https://thefifthseason.com/. We also found a good eatery and also a place for summit sandwiches. We were set and well prepared for a successful outing.
Our plan after some debate on the merits of camping, hauling extra gear, and going in one long push, was to climb Shasta CarToCar (c2c) meaning we would climb the mountain in a single push and not camp. I’m not a fan of camping and when I’m fit can climb most mountains c2c, preferring the alpine style of climbing known as light and fast (of which I am neither). My record elevation for a single push is 11,500 feet. Our challenge for our climb was that the winds were predicted to be above 55mph, and of the mountain elements, this is my least favorite. I can manage rain, snow, below freezing temps, but the wind has always been my bane of successful summits and Type I or II fun.
We all agreed that we wanted an early alpine start (my 2nd favorite next to the alpine finish!), and settled on an 11 PM climb start. This meant hitting the road by 9:30 PM to account for all the packing, driving, and inevitable faffing (fussing endlessly with getting the gear on, needlessly slow, usually resulting in delayed starts – I attribute the term to my British climbing guide, Richard Manson, with whom I spent three years climbing in Chamonix and neighboring ranges). Needless to say, we were successful in our faffing endeavors!
One very exciting prospect of our night climb was observing the near full Super Flower Blood Moon, affording ample illumination in the dark, and lighting up the snow track. I love night climbing with full moons as it is both a rare and magical experience.
Why Is It Called the Flower Moon?
May’s flower moon got its name for obvious reasons — the amount of flowers that are present in May, according to The Old Farmer’s Almanac. “‘Flower Moon’ has been attributed to Algonquin peoples, as confirmed by Christina Ruddy of The Algonquin Way Cultural Centre in Pikwakanagan, Ontario,” the almanac states.
Why Is It Called A Blood Moon?
It’s not as dire as it sounds! During a total lunar eclipse, the moon is shadowed by the Earth, and that shadow gives the moon a reddish tint. It can be quite pretty — and it feels almost fitting for the full flower moon to also be a beautifully hued blood moon.
Why Is It Called A Supermoon?
At times, the moon’s orbit brings it closer or farther away to the Earth. Supermoons occur when a full moon coincides with the time that the moon is at its closest point to the Earth. They make the moons look bigger than usual — and can make the full moon energy even stronger.
We hit the trail just after 11 PM and made good time up to Horse Camp, the site of an old stone hut and refuge maintained by the Sierra Club. One thing I love about mountaineering is the connection to the past. I love the history of our local mountains, the groups that climb and conserve them, and feeling connected to our forefathers through a shared experience. This was my first time climbing in California, and it’s a soulful experience to know that the likes of John Muir were here. We refueled on some snacks, filled bottles from the running spring, and set off to climb the increasingly steep slopes.
As we ascended, I could feel the effects of my recent bout with COVID. I had a particularly acute experience, and my lungs were not quite 100% and I had lost most of my fitness. I had set expectations that I was going to be slow (a factor in our early start as well) and managed to exceed expectations. The climb was beautiful under the Super Flower Blood Moon and we had yet to encounter the predicted strong winds.
We climbed for a few hours. I was going slower and not feeling all that great. My legs were out of shape for steepish climbing, and I just seemed out of breath with every step. We stopped at around 9500 feet and I let the team know that I did not have the gas for another 4000 feet. After some discussion, Steve kindly agreed to join me on the descent. The strong predicted winds were picking up and were only getting stronger. Steve confessed that he did not wind much either, so was not overly upset or disappointed to descend (I think he was just trying to make me feel better). We made good time down, passing many other climbers and skiers hopeful for a summit, or at least a great long ski run down. Not too long after we turned around, we checked our Garmins and noticed that Sheryl, Austin, and Nick were also descending. We assumed that the wind may have only gotten stronger and that the conditions were not suitable for fun or safe summit.
Steve and I were treated to an amazing display and phenomena of the Blood Moon’s illumination of the sky. The moon looked like the sun, yet it was still dark. It was the first time I had observed the moon on such display and besides the great company and camaraderie of the team, the natural highlight of the climb. Honestly, upon reflection, I am glad we turned around when we did as we would not have experienced the Super Flower Blood Moon like this. The Mountain will always be there for future climbs.
We all met back up at our camp, the LOGE, which is a great facility in town. Sheryl, Austin, and Nick did indeed turn around due to the winds and reports back at The Fifth Season were that no one else summitted. Gee, that makes me feel better. This was a really super trip with a great group of climbers, fellow Navigators, and nascent friends. Sharing experiences in nature, doing something challenging, and working as a team really creates lasting bonds of friendship, trust, and respect. I look forward to climbing with my new partners again soon, maybe a Mount Shasta 2.0 later in the season (I need to visit the crystal shop and bag a souvenir after a successful summit to get my woo-woo juju on) and I am looking forward to Sheryl and Steve’s Big Kilimanjaro adventure. Who knows, I may at the last minute tag along.
As always, thanks for #hikingwithhadland!