Mount Shasta is the second highest mountain in the Cascade Range. The Karuk tribe, the indigenous people of Northern California call it Úytaahkoo or “White Mountain.” In April 2014, my plan was to climb White Mountain, not by means of the standard route (Avalanche Gulch) but by a long, sharp spine called the Casaval Ridge. With over 7,000 feet of elevation gain, and a mix of snow and rock, the snow pack must be perfect for this route to be climbed. When I arrived to my hotel night before the climb, the conditions were perfect.
Early the next morning, I picked up a local guide and we made the 30-minute drive from the town of Mt. Shasta, California, to the trailhead. The guide told me he had climbed the mountain more times than he could count and knew it like the back of his hand. But even with so much experience on Shasta, he had never before summited the mountain via the Casaval Ridge. He had made 10 attempts on this route in the past, but always had to turn around because of the conditions on the ridge not being right — either bad weather or an insufficient climbing partner.