Monday, February 24, 2014

Heart Lake

Above Castle Lake (across from Mt. Shasta) is Heart Lake. Normally you would need mountaineering skis to get there this time of year because it is about 7000 feet in elevation (at least 1000 feet or more above Castle Lake which is about 6000 feet. Normally, I would never even attempt this this time of year but today it was 61 degrees in the little City of Mt. Shasta which meant even at 7000 feet it was at least 50 degrees (which is also sort of unheard of) as well. The ski lifts never opened this year here and it doesn't look like they will even from heart lake I can see they are completely bare of snow (at least Marmot, Coyote, and Douglas are). So, I won't be downhill skiing this year up here likely.

But, it was fun to walk past Castle lake on the way to Heart lake up above high in the rocks above Castle lake.

The really really strange thing is that most years (almost every one since about 1980) I would be skiing across Castle lake because there would normally be 3 to 6 feet of snow and ice on Castle lake about now (January and February). But, there was only a teeny tiny bit of snow on the South West corner of the lake (otherwise it looked sort of like summertime on the lake) very strange.

The trail up to Heart lake was kind of icy and dangerous so we all wore boots with knobs on the bottom to help some. Up higher it was snowy some in the short to the ground Manzanita at this altitude (well above 6000 feet to 7000 feet). There was even in the Saddle near Heart lake a little pond that normally you don't see because the area would normally be under anywhere from 5 to 20 feet of snow now normally. But in the saddle it looked to be completely melted out and a pond was there. When we finally reached Heart Lake I was puffing a lot from the altitude (I just drove up from Sea Level where I live now). Whereas everyone else was used to 3500 or so (at least a couple of days but me). I had had only about 15 hours to adjust to the altitude and now I'm at 6000 and 7000 feet which was a little much including trying to deal with not sliding on the ice or falling down on unstable snow and ice some places. So, digging your side of your foot into the snow with your boot at an angle would keep you traversing without sliding down. IN some ways I wish I had brought plastic and an ice axe to slid down because it would have been a lot easier. But, my friends said they thought the snow was too shallow and you would hurt your butt on rocks and manzanita.

Manzanita - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Manzanita is a common name for many species of the genus Arctostaphylos. They are evergreen shrubs or small trees present in the chaparral biome of western ...
Because I was 65 when I reached where I could see heart lake it was frozen over which was beautiful. However, I hadn't brought my camera because it was in the backpack I wanted to bring. My daughter being a very intuitive person knew I wouldn't make it to Heart Lake if I wore the backpack because my left knee was a little iffy. But, my knee got better as I climbed the trail and it sort of undid being stove up from driving 7 hours yesterday to get here. It was really amazing driving through 72 degrees this time of year from Vacaville to Redding on I-5.
So, I had her take photos of the incredible view of Mt. Shasta, Mt. Mccloughlin in the far distance. I also stopped later and got some wool hats for my daughter and her friend and a climbers hat with 14,162 feet (which was the altitude of Mt. Shasta when I climbed it to the top in 1970 when I was 22). (It has gotten taller because of melting glaciers just like the Alps. (The weight change is making mountains taller from the melting glaciers around the world).

Mount McLoughlin - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Mount McLoughlin is a steep-sided lava cone built on top of a shield volcano in the Cascade Range of southern Oregon and within the Sky Lakes Wilderness ...
The way I felt from the altitude and being tired from the climb I was a little worried about going down. Luckily, my daughter and her friend stayed with me on my way down through the snow. I used the planting heel method (sort of a goose step) of jamming your heel so you don't slide down the hill in the snow all at once. The snow was mostly under about 2 feet deep even at Heart Lake when we were there. Luckily, once I got past the major snow and onto the rocks and dirt more it was easier going except where the trail was solid ice which was the most dangerous part for all of us because it was hard to keep your feet from going out from under you unexpectedly. I slipped a couple of times but because I'm an old mountain climber even at 65 I know a lot of tricks and still am very coordinated from all the climbing I've done in the past. So, no injuries which is good outside of my toes and the balls of my feet feeling a little numb from the steep descent in these old Vasques cascade climbing boots I wore today.
When I got to around 6500 feet I knew I was going to be okay and we made it to the truck ahead of the other group. But then, I was ready for a really hot tub bath so I would be worth something the next day and adventure we had planned.
Though we could ski above Bunny Flats or possibly even Bunny Flats to Sand Flats on Mt. Shasta we decided against it because it was going to be too icy for a new skier and one of us had never skied before. So, we planned more hiking adventures that everyone could do more easily. So, I still haven't skied yet this year. But, every year is different (especially this one in California).
This is the worst drought in California still since I have lived in California which is 1952. Though there were some pretty bad droughts in the 1970s here. But nothing like this.

 This is a panorama shot of when we were up there. It is a little distorted because of the panoramic shot. However, I'm including it because to the left you can see Heart lake frozen over, you can see Castle lake below free from most snow and ice, you can see Mt. Shasta across the large valley the other side of Interstate 5 and you can even see Mt. Eddy in the top center of your screen in the same range of mountains that Castle Lake is in. If you have ever been up here this time of year likely you are horrified at how little snow there is. For example, where this photo was taken there should be right now between 5 and 20 feet of snow and there is about less than 2 feet which is probably less than 10% of what should be here now. Also, Castle lake should be white like Heart Lake from Ice covered with snow that you should be able to ski, snow shoe or walk across right now and every year I can remember back to about 1979 or 1980 you could do that this month and possibly into March safely.

If you click on the photo it should open up into a larger photo to see better. This great panorama was taken with an Iphone5.

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