Raging wind shook our tent so fiercely that it felt like a high-elevation earthquake. Four of us camped in two tents at Helen Lake, about halfway up Mount Shasta. But the screaming gale broke the poles of one tent, forcing all four of us to cram into the other. Sleep was impossible.
In its early hours, my first climb on Mount Shasta bore a striking resemblance to my family’s previous effort 25 years earlier. On that occasion, my dad and uncle tried to take my older brother and cousin (ages 10 and 12) up the same route, Avalanche Gulch. But a fierce storm struck them in the night too. Dad’s tent broke in the wind and he and my brother had to huddle in my uncle’s shelter. Then the gusts swept the broken tent away, never to be seen again. The four suffered through a wet, sleepless and terrifying night.
“I had my first serious conversation with God,” recalled my cousin Peter. Their party made a strategic descent the next morning.
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