When we arrived at Mt. Shasta: no mountain. So much smoke from Oregon forest fires that Shasta was invisible.
At the North Gate trailhead Shasta shimmered into view. The north remained encased in glacial snow.
We camped at about 9500 feet near a glacial waterfall. Waking at 4:18am a warm breeze blew. The day dawned clear as we hiked toward the glaciers, but the smoke obscured the valley below.
We seemed to be the only climbers on the north side. Several tents were pitched but apparently empty
The bottom of Hotlum was snowcupped -- we stood admidst cups as high as 4 feet. Walking upward was like skiing moguls in reverse gear. It became clear than descending would be no glissade.
We chose to ascend Bolam Glacier. It was extremely steep and icey. But it went the furthest up the mountain. Hotlum & Whitney each showed a grotesque maze of crevasse that was intimidating.
East Bolam was times it was like a low grade ice-climb. But better than trying to climb the rock.
We gained the summit at 11:05am. Weather was clear and warm. Below us the higher peaks stuck out from the smoke like islands in a sea of brownish smoke. We were the only entries on the summit log for that day.
The descent was challenging and exhausting.
Glissade worked for a while. But on Bolam proper, it turned into a free-fall within seconds (even with braking).
I made 3 terrifying self-arrests -- the kind where you don't stop immediately -- before giving up on glissade. Instead we had 6 hours of gingerly descending unstable rock and snow. Miles lost a crampon, making matters more complicated. And, of course, snowcups.
We had planned to hike out that night. But when we reached base-camp, both of us were exhausted and we elected (via coin-toss) to stay another night. It was a good decision
Slept twelve hours on the mountain without waking once. Awoke to the most beautiful view of Shasta yet.
In sum. In August you trade good weather for bad snow.
On the trip: Tim Wu (first summit), Miles Pickering (second summit)
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