by: Daron Rahlves

Written on May 6, 2012

On May 5th, after Day 1 of the Volcano Tour on Mt. Lassen, we traveled north on Interstate 5 in the Spyder ‘Land Yacht’ with Captain Grant at the wheel, staring at the dramatic, legendary, and towering Mt. Shasta, gleaming in the distance.

(Mt. Shasta is the largest volcano in California and last erupted in 1786.)

We rolled into the town of Mt. Shasta and walked into The Fifth Season Outdoor Store for some local beta on the current conditions from Vinnie and Leif.  The weather was great and in their words, conditions were “all time.”

We continued on to the Dunsmuir airport to pick up our buddy Jim Morrison who flew up from Truckee, CA in his plane, a TBM 700, to join us for the Shasta mission. It was very cool to have Jim along that day; he’s a strong climber (and a better skier) and was able to give Dav some company on the way up (as you can imagine, keeping up with Dav can be a little challenging).

(Jim’s view of Shasta during his flight in to meet us.)

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Bunny Flats, where we were staying for the night, was tight with cars filled up with excited skiers, snowboarders, and climbers who had all come out to experience Mt. Shasta on a particularly special night – sure enough, the “super moon” lit up the mountain all night long.

It was a fun scene with a friendly vibe – people in camp enthusiastically discussed climbing, ski routes and departure times. We decided to depart camp at 4:30 am in order to avail ourselves of some sweet corn skiing on the lower section of our descent.

We rose at 3:30 am to the smell of coconut in the Land Yacht – the crock pot was brewing up a tasty meal of steel cut oats, raisins, and trail mix topped with agave nectar – a meal straight out of our recipe plan from Whole Foods Market. It was the perfect fuel for a big day!

 At 3:50 am we heard a knock at the door and Dav opened it to a fan who was amped to get a photo of the Volcano Tour Team – how could we not?  The Spyder rig draws a lot of attention and it’s been a met with positive reactions from all of the locals and adventurers we’ve encountered along the way. Grant even gave a quick tour to a couple local kids, Westin and Harrison, to show them the amenities.

 The skis went on at 4:30 am and we began our trek.  Dav lead the charge with Jim on his tails, and Jess and I worked to keep them in sight.

 We skinned up Avalanche Gulch on the south face. There were a good number of people sharing our path up the mountain, and was fun to share a unique perspective of the world with other enthusiastic people. With the summit at 14,162 ft., and flat ground for a 360 degree view off the top, it feels big! If nature is your god, get up there!  The long climb gives you a chance to connect with the mountain and immerse yourself in what I found to be a spiritual experience.

Towards the top, I had a rough time and struggled from 13,000’ to the top. Shortness of breath and a spinning head slowed my progress – it was a few steps at a time, counting thirteen or thirty-three steps as a incremental goal to keep moving. I took little brakes to slow my heart rate down and kept plugging away. Reaching the top felt great – definitely had to earn this one!

At Thumb Rock we were excited to encounter Chris Carr, the owner of Shasta Mountain Guides. Chris turned out to be a great asset to our group as we contemplated our route down the mountain.

Dav, Jess, and Jim were patiently waiting and yelling “Huey” style words of motivation as I slogged my way to the summit (thanks guys ­– it helped as always). A quick group photo on the summit and then we stepped into our skis and readied ourselves for our long descent. 

A big thank you goes out to Chris Carr, who expertly showed us the best way down. The conditions were tough rimed snow on top, but they transformed to soft, smooth chalk on the West Face and into sweet corn on the lower elevations.

As you can see by the Google Earth rendering of our Shasta route below, we covered a lot of ground (and vertical) on Day 2 of the Volcano Tour!

Next up: some much needed R&R in the Land Yacht courtesy of Whole Foods Market, Clif Bar, and Red Bull, as we head to the next volcano: Oregon’s Mt. McLoughlin.

-Daron  Rahlves