OHE August 8, 1999 (Mt. Lassen)

Date: Sun, 8 Aug 1999 19:09:12 -1000
From: kaularock 
Subject: Re: Mt. Lassen Summited

I recently had the opportunity to spend a week camping at the P,G & E camp ground at Lake Almanor.

Located approximately 120 miles northwest of Reno (along 89N), Lake Almanor is the man-made lake that initiates the hydro-electric dam system in north-central Ca. This was the second year of joining my LA cousin, his wife and children and their closest 40 friends at the lake. (Yeah, four ski boats, a couple of jet skis, forty foot campers and godzillion children.)

Since visiting the camp site last year and watching the sun set beyond Mt. Lassen, I have been challenged to climb this mountain.

(I will now begin a narrative borrowing from the writing styles of several noted writers including James Michner, Stuart Ball, the professor and the pencil-neck stickboy.)

Still haboring snow in August, the mountain is part of the Pacific "Ring of Fire." Erupting last in 1921, Lassen has the potential to explode again at any time although the eruption at Mt. St. Helens seems to have relieved volcanic pressure in the northwest...for the time being.

At about 10,500 above sea level the mountain is clearly in the oxygen / medical intervention zone by Hawaiian Island hiking standards. However, no oxygen or "altitude sickness" alleviating medications were planned by this climber...just a quick quick push from the base camp, across the southern cull, up the Hillary steps to the summit.

Finding a companion to climb with me was a problem. Most people were interested in water skiing and relaxing in the balmy 85 degree sunshine. Finally, Ernie Harmon, a 75 year old retired engineer from LA volunteered to be my partner. (He told me that his two daughters had recommended against it, so he was climbing just to prove a point.)

While driving in my VW Syncro about 45 miles from Almanor to Lassen National Park, Ernie and I travelled through some of the nicest country Northern California has to offer. Classic Ansel Adams scenery! Arriving at the staging point (also the base camp)...the parking lot, Ernie and I found the it crowded with hikers...like Everest without the price tag!

The base camp was located at the 8,500 foot level, so our actual ascent would be 2,000 feet in about 2.5 miles.

Under clear skies, clad in shorts and with ample water (but no oxygen or medications) Ernie and I started out towards the southern cull at a rapid pace... which lasted several hundred yards!!!

Exhausted, out of breath and dizzy, Ernie and I quickly realized that we weren't going anywhere unless we immediately initiated a considerably more modest pace. (Thus, becoming the tortoise rather than the hare, would be the key to our success.)

The hike consisted of an endless series of hundred yard switch- backs (Hanakapiai revisited) over a well travelled, dusty path. Ernie and I rested at the end of each switch-back, sometimes doing several on a good run. We both suffered several bouts of altitude sickness, but rested until the dizzyness subsided and then continued to climb.

We never came across a southern cull let alone the Hillary steps, but well did manage to scramble to the summit (on all fours) in about 2.5 hours. We were treated to a wonderful view with forest and lakes in all directions. Mt. Shasta (at 14,000) was clearly visible to the northwest.

After re-energizing with a power bar and rehydrating with water and resting for about 30 minutes, Ernie and I began our decent to base camp. Despite a beating on my knees, the decent took us about an hour and fifteen minutes to complete.

In conclusion, the hike of Mt. Lassen was very rewarding. Completing it was a real accomplishment for Ernie. As a slow pace setter and guide, it was a pleasure to summit him. (I also recommend this hike to anyone venturing to this area. The view from the summit is commanding in nature, but while the hike is not a killer, it is no push over either...rate it a 4.0 technically and a 6.5 in pure endurance.)

Aloha, Doug

P.S. To my brother Allan. The fly fishing was rewarding but tough. I fished the Butt river from Almanor to Butt Lake, a series of "step type mini-falls with pools." The shore was mostly huge boulders and heavily treed. I lost numerous flies to the undergrowth and my arms and legs are scratched and bruised. I finally went to a fly shop in Chester and purchased several local flies and got my 16 inch, 2 pound rainbow on the final day. I saw some very large fish and should have coughed up the bucks for the local flies at the begining.

I am planning to fish and camp in the high desert at the E. Walker River on the 12th for the Pleides "shooting star" show. Might Nick want to come? Lemme know. Nothing but fishing and star gazing!

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