At around 330am, we all got up and by 430am we were ready to leave. The group seemed to be in good spirits. Most likely because we went to bed accordingly the afternoon before. The stars were out to guide us in their light.
The first three hours were not bad at all. Slow, steady, our pace was good and everyone still felt solid. I believe some people in the group started feeling altitude sickness but it wasn't enough to prevent them from continuing. I know myself, I felt some of the altitude. The entire hike I was dizzy and had a slight headache.
For the most part, the trek up was rocky, in all its different forms of rock. Initially the floor was soft sand but quickly became a trail of small to mid size rocks under our feet.
At around 5-6am, the sun made its appearance. We were at 11,000 ft elevation. By this point, the group had splintered off into what everyone was capable at moving at. The height was getting to us. The incline was getting to us. People were getting tired.
We started the ascent with the optimistic goal of sticking together, but quickly realized that everyone had to just go at their own pace if they were to survive and summit. Despite this, we were never too far away from one another. Perhaps at most 20-30 minutes out from one another.
At around 12,000 ft, we started seeing what remained of the snow.
At around 13,000 ft, the rock beneath our feet became quite precarious and we had to be very careful not to set off any avalanches towards the climbers underneath us. It required what I liked to call, "light feet" and "heavy hands." The climb became quite technical at this point and both the view and what potentially could happen if we made one misstep was pretty exciting.
At this point, nearing 14,000 ft, I was exhausted. And when I discovered that I had almost another 1000 ft of elevation to climb, I was mentally defeated. I just wanted to lie down and give up. But for whatever reason, perhaps stubbornness, or because of the words of encouragement from my friends, I somehow found the strength to zombie on. I was no longer climbing at an enjoyable pace, I was now climbing on empty and just looking for the end.
Eventually though, we made it to the top. As soon as I got to the top, I essentially collapsed. I just went to sleep. I think I slept for an hour before getting up.
Eventually, everyone summitted, we took our pictures, rested a bit more, and then headed back.
The following day, we all packed our gear up and headed back towards the parking lot. At the time, I was dead and physically miserable. But in hindsight, if given the chance to do it with the same group, I would. I'm glad I summited Mt. Shasta, despite how terrible it made me feel.