A favorite early season trip is our Denali Prep Course. Mt. Shasta is a long way from Denali (Mt. McKinley) but we’ve been offering this trip for several reasons: 1. Mt. Shasta is a perfect training ground for bigger objectives and winter storms can be as fierce and cold as anywhere. Whether your first climb or 50th, Mt. Shasta will whip you into shape while delivering some valuable mountain lessons. 2. Many of our guides also lead trips to climb North America’s tallest peak and what a great opportunity to learn expedition skills from those actually doing it.
This year’s trip was ideal Alaska training conditions and we had SMG Senior Guide Patrick Chu leading the climb. Patrick heads north from Mt. Shasta to guide a couple climbs on Mt. Rainier before heading to Talkeetna and guiding a climb up Mt. McKinley. Assisting Patrick was Jacob Swartz; Alaska native, SMG Lead Guide, and Squaw Valley big mountain instructor. Along with a winter storm forecast, all the pieces were in place for a great learning experience.
This season will be turning the keyboard over to some of our guides who will offer a first hand report of some special trips and expeditions on Mt. Shasta. After 5 days of snow, wind, and single digit temps here’s Patrick’s narrative of the trip.
Day 4: The storm moved in with a vengeance in the early hours of the morning. Temperatures plummeted into the single digits and the wind began howling through our camp. We still had plenty of material to cover and spent the day cycling out of the tents to learn and practice anchor building, running belays, and crevasse rescue. Jacob saw all the fresh snow as an opportunity to lead a seminar on avalanche awareness and to demonstrate a step by step avalanche beacon recovery. This day was the perfect opportunity to truly taste of what Denali weather can be like. We regrouped in the cook tent often throughout the day to warm up, sip hot drinks, and recap on course material. Everyone was ready to sleep in the early evening and we hunkered down for what was sure to be a cold and stormy night. I had to reluctantly crawl out of my sleeping bag twice in the middle of the night to shovel out my tent which was quickly becoming buried by all of the wind transported snow.