Months ago, Patrick and I planned a climb of Mt. Shasta, aiming to go for the summit on February 14th. The week leading up to it, we studied the weather, noticing a large storm moving in and causing some major snowfall and warming weather trends. The closer and closer we got to the climb date, the more we realized climbing may not be smart, especially in regards to how much snow was falling. After some discussion we decided to make the call the night of the 13th and based on weather, avalanche forecasts, and a risk assessment we opted to cancel our climb. Instead, we spent 22 hours driving around the state to try find something to ski from Yosemite to Tahoe, only to come back empty handed, with our skis never touching snow. The weather hit all of California and we just were out of luck. Returning back, we certainly weren’t too excited about failing at our objective and coming back empty handed.
That was until yesterday, when I found out a massive 3.2 mile long avalanche swept the south slope of Mt. Shasta, and more specifically the exact area we would have been climbing and sleeping. In short, if we had chosen to climb on the 14th, there’s a high likelihood we wouldn’t have walked off the mountain.
While there is inherent risk in mountain climbing, staying informed and educated in your areas of travel and their associated hazards keep residual risk lower. The years of experience, classes, and courses we’ve taken help keep us safe in the mountains. If you plan on pursing outdoor adventure, take classes and course, learn as much as you can and ask questions to your more experienced friends. Without taking an avalanche course, I would’ve most likely seen this storm as an amazing powder day rather than an avalanche waiting to happen. Having the knowledge to cancel may well have kept us alive. In the words of Kenny Rogers: “ You've got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, know when to walk away” Outdoor adventure is only fun if you come home afterwards. Sometimes that means making the hard decision of canceling trip plans or changing them drastically. The mountain will always be there, you can always come back and try again.