We arrived late to Bunny Flat trailhead after a late start from Berkeley and a full dinner and beer at the Billy Goat’s Tavern. Although I had brought snowshoes and poles, Tom had taken the climb more casual and had left his at home, assuming that an ice axe and plans to kick step were sufficient. Thinking back to previous winter climbs where I was much faster than a climbing partner, I decided that suffering by post holing alongside Tom and keeping warm was preferable to laughing at his predicament while getting cold standing around. So we set off, sans snowshoes for our attempt on the ridge.
In winter, the approach to Sargents is mostly walking along the unplowed segment of the Everitt Memorial Highway for about 2 miles up to panther Meadows at 7,500 ft. From there the road switchbacks, and we cut cross-country up the slopes to avoid the switchbacks. Without snowshoes we experienced the joy of knee to waist-deep post holing for the next 500 vertical feet until we came across snowmobile tracks. Apparently the Old Ski Bowl allows snowmobiling and these snowmobile tracks made excellent hard surfaces to walk on over the fresh snow.
Soon we were at Sargents Ridge, which started off with a steep headwall and then heavy tree cover. Despite trees getting in the way near the ridge crest, it was easiest to follow the crest or just west of the crest through the trees where the slope was milder and the snow more wind-scoured. At this time Mount Shasta only had 60% of the normal snowpack for the season, so there was a lot more vegetation sticking through, giving us a pseudo-bushwacking experience as we made our way up the lower ridge.
At 9,500 feet the trees gave way to shallow snow and ample talus and boulders sticking through the snow. The slope steepened. From here I turned on my I-Pod and enjoyed some tunes while I raced up the slope, enjoying the fairly regular move stepping on class 2-3 rock with my crampons to stay off of the shallow scree-covered snow. I didn’t stop and wait for Tom until I crested the ridge junction at 10,300 feet.