Koma Kulshan (Mt Baker)

Kulshan stands out amongst the Cascade volcanoes because of its very short distance to the San Juan islands and then the Pacific ocean. The short distance and the lack of large mountains between the ocean and the peak create consistent deep wet snow, which accumulates on the upper elevations into massive glaciers. Kulshan hosts more glacial ice in its thirteen glaciers than all of the other cascade volcanoes (except Tahoma) combined!

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Mount Bachelor

Mount Bachelor is the only cascade volcano with a ski lift going straight to the summit. A dormant stratovolcano, Bachelor actually sits on top of a shield volcano which has a number of cinder cones in the area. Bachelor last erupted sometime around 10,000 years ago in a series of lava flows but there is no summit crater. Of note is that much of the surface of Bachelor (and nearby volcanoes) is actually ash from the explosion of Mt Mazama which formed modern day Crater Lake.

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Youxlokes (Mount Bailey)

Youxlokes and His-chok-wol-as (Mt Thielsen) are a pair of volcanoes on either side of a serene mountain lake. His-chok-wol-as is an ancient volcano compared Youxlokes and has been almost entirely eroded by glaciers which have long since melted out. What remains at the summit is the magma core itself, acting as a dramatic lightning rod for the central cascades. Youxlokes, on the other side of the lake, is a far younger volcano with an obvious summit crater and the classic dome shape we expect at this point.

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M'laiksini Yaina (Mount Mcloughlin)

M’laiksini Yaina is a beautiful mountain near the border of California and Oregon with the classical cone shape of a stratovolcano, meaning that it has been built up by successive eruptions over many years. Driving around the area it pops into view occasionally as you turn corners or pass a lake and anybody who has driven the I5 corridor through Medford has seen it in the distance. This volcano also happens to be fairly isolated, so it’s lucky that Allison and I have a friend from Cornell who lives just twenty miles away who lent me her house for the weekend.

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Mount Shasta

Mt Shasta stands alone at the north end of California, a formidable mountain without anything comparable nearby. By prominence and isolation Shasta is second only to Mt Rainier in the continental US rising over 10,000' above its plateau and with the next mountain of similar height being in the Sierras three hundred miles to the south. Even more remarkable is that Shastina, the older volcanic peak connected to the main mountain, is over 12,000' tall making it comparable in size to Lassen!

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L2H: Day Four and Five

What stands out most about Mt Whitney is the abrupt sheerness of the east facing cliffs. The whole eastern flank of the Sierras is like a wall, a byproduct of the way the uplift zone is tilting the Sierras up and out of the Owens Rivery Valley. The granite and relatively young age of the mountains also makes for impressively steep valley walls and canyons. Our car was parked at the high gate of the Whitney Portal road, about two miles short of the official trailhead.

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L2H: Day Three

Badwater Basin and Mt Whitney are pretty far apart, even in a straight line by flight. To get from the Panamint Valley at the western edge of Death Valley over to the Sierra Nevadas you don’t have much choice: you have to cross over the fairly intimidating Inyo Mountain Range and then make your way through the often windy Owens River Valley to the base of the sharp eastern cliffs of the Sierras.

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L2H: Day Two

We staggered the really difficult days of the low to high trip around two active rest days on days 2 and 4. The plan for day 2 was to mostly bike downhill into the Panamint valley for 10 miles (west of Death Valley) and then ride rolling terrain to the Panamint Springs Resort, a small campground and restaurant on the western edge of the park. With just 30 miles of riding total we expected to have plenty of time to rest and enjoy the views of the mountains surrounding us.

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L2H: Day One

Day 1 of our trip was by far the most intimidating. About +11,300' of elevation gain over the first 21 miles to get from Badwater Basin up to Telescope peak and then another 4,000' of descent over 8 miles of trail that wind around Bennett and Roger peaks to get back to our cached bikes and camping gear at the Charcoal Kilns. Neither Alan or I had ever done a day as big as this – our estimate was that it would take 18 hours to complete and so to make it to the summit by 7pm we planned to start at 4am.

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L2H: Day Zero

Whitney Portal To kick off the trip we needed a full day of gear caching and driving, just to set everything up for later on. The first step was to put a car at the Whitney Portal, which is the trailhead leading to the Mt Whitney mountaineer’s route which we planned to ascend five days later. In Winter the portal road is gated about 2 miles below the trailhead. So we drove up in the morning and parked Jacob (the twilight blue Outback) at the gate and threw in our winter camping and mountaineering gear.

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