Summer Solstice, Shasta-style
Mt. Shasta climbing ranger Forrest Coots shifts to 'summer' mode
Video and text by Forrest Coots
When late spring rolls around and winter becomes summer I find it’s time to load the truck—leaving my winter home of Utah in the rear view—and point it home for the tall Shasta fir trees and southern Cascade volcanoes of Northern California, and summer work.
That means swapping out my big Dynastars and bright baggy pants for skinny ski-mountaineering sticks and functional (tight) pants for the summer mountaineering/climbing season on Mt. Shasta. For the past six summers I’ve worked for the U.S. Forest Service as a Wilderness Climbing Ranger. During the early spring and summer, the job involves talking to climbers about the route, weather, checking permits and passes, working with search-and-rescue operations, and teaching basic mountaineering skills, if needed, to the some 6,000 climbers who attempt to summit each summer. This also gives me the chance to ski five days a week, if we want.
So far this summer, ol’ man winter has had a hard time leaving town for the season. With a snowpack well over 100-percent, we are still skiing to the trailhead at 7,000 feet. It’s pretty crazy—a spring skiing season for the record books—because often the snow is gone from the trailhead weeks, if not months, ago. But this also means we’ve been pretty busy with search-and-rescue operations. People get lost, and several people have taken pretty big falls and gotten banged up. Fortunately, with the help of a few helicopter flights, everyone has safely made it home in one piece. Still, with the great snow we still have—the video is from the summer solstice, June 21, with friend Dave Marchi—it’s going to be a great summer skiing season.
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