The Infinity Loop is an unusual challenge dreamed up by iconic Washington climber Chad Kellogg, for Mt. Rainier, but which he was never able to complete due to his untimely passing. The essence of Chad and the Infinity Loop is captured beautifully in "To Infinity" by Dirtbag Diaries - a podcast responsible for spreading inspiration for the whole infinity loop phenomena - it should perhaps be considered essential listening for imparting on this FKT or challenge.
Infinity Loops are a fairly simple concept, the basics are as follows:
- Ascend a route to the summit then descend a route on approximately the opposite side (such as up Avalanche Gulch from Bunny Flat/Sand Flat, down Hotlum/Bolam Ridge to Northgate Trailhead)
- Run a half-circumnavigation at our below trailhead elevation, bushwhacking and connecting old logging/forest roads back to your starting point
- Climb over the mountain again
- Complete the other half-circumnavigation
You get to chose which routes. On Shasta there are many awesome options. Hotlum/Bolam and Avalanche Gulch are good places to start your research.
Unlike Rainer, Adams, or Hood, there is no circumnavigation trail around Mt. Shasta (as of 2023). Until such a day as one is completed, the simple rule is as follows:
- Stay predominately at or below trailhead elevation for your circumnavigation (highest Shasta Trailhead is Old Ski Bowl at 7850'), you may use your own mapping skills to connect old and existing roads/trails or to find manageable off-trail terrain - perhaps wandering as high as 8000' is acceptable so long as the trailhead is tagged before starting up the mountain, so as to not significantly shorten the route.
In the event of a circumnavigation trail being completed, it will become the default travel (likely the fastest too) for this Infinity Loop. Hopefully, attention and interest drawn towards circumnavigation type efforts will lead to this development for the area.
Which leads to an important note: The GPX file included does not necessarily represent the best, safest, or fastest route for circumnavigation. There are old lava flows, volcanic boulder fields, insane waist-high manzanita 'forests', and deep creek canyons to navigate. Extensive mapping and scouting is recommended to find efficient and safe passage through these obstacles (or stupifying tenacity to grind through terrible lines).
The Shasta Infinity Loop Challenge:
Aside from FKT chasing, the first Infinity Loop on Rainier was originally done with each of the 4 parts taking roughly a day, this itself is an audacious challenge for partners set out to complete to participate in this community. This sub-4 day - sub-96 hour - timeline feels like a meaningful challenge as a way to plan, execute, and experience this incredible mountain, allowing each part to be completed in daylight hours.
In my opinion, Infinity Loops and Volcanoes are aesthetically meant for one another. I was stoked to put this line up and hope others will give it a try.
so, Who's Next?
~submitted by Jason Hardrath (IG)
- current mountain weather
- Shasta Mountain Guides call/email for route conditions or a snow skills school
- avalanche conditions
- Forest Service Prospective - let them know you would love to see a circumnavigation trail (530) 226-2500
Other established Infinity Loops:
Podcasts and articles on the Infinity Loop Experience:
"Bringing a Vision to Life" by The Mountaineers on Gavin Woody and Ras Vaughan's establishment of the Rainier Infinity Loop
"To Infinity" by Dirtbag Diaries
First All Women's Team to complete Rainier Infinity Loop - Kaytlyn Gerbin, Alex Borsuk - interview on Ginger Runner
"Suffering and Serenity on the Rainier Infinity Loop" on Essential Strength Podcast