Throughout the night, the team experienced 40-mile-per-hour winds and temperatures in the teens at their 9,400-foot Hidden Valley base camp. Conditions are more severe — and expected to get worse throughout the day — higher on the mountain. For the safety of the climb team they are now returning to Horse Camp (8,000 feet), which has a small hut to escape the wind and low temperatures.
The first rope team departed the Hidden Valley camp at 10 a.m. and the remaining three teams will leave in 20-minute increments.
This year has seen remarkably harsh conditions on the mountain, and in the last week there have been several rescues after climbers were hit by falling ice, loosened from the peak by high winds. Because of the risks, our guides late yesterday decided that any attempt today would be on Shastina, Shasta's neighboring and slightly lower volcanic peak. This morning, however, the weather made attempts on either peak unwise for our team.
Anticipating that the conditions might prevent the group from summiting, long-time training leader Cathy Ann Taylor commented on Monday in an interview with the Marin Independent Journal, “The conditions this year are going to be much more harsh. But the most rewarding part is the journey, and then the mountain is just the icing on the cake.”
The team's technical training for the summit attempt will be put to good use today: they'll wear crampons and rope together to traverse the snow-covered trail from Hidden Valley to Horse Camp. In past years, this trail has been nearly all rock with little snowcover, but today it's so icy that the teams have been biding their time waiting for the sun to soften the ice and snow on the trail before departing. With heavy packs and snow, their progress down the trail is expected to be slow.
The group will stay at Horse Camp on Wednesday night, where they’ll hold their prayer flag ceremony to reflect on the individuals who they’re honoring through their six-month Climb Against the Odds journey. Family, friends and other supporters will then greet them and celebrate their return at Bunny Flat trailhead on Thursday afternoon, followed by a community celebration that evening.