The Vertical Investment

Kevin Diller


We know most mountains are uphill. We know that. Sometimes really uphill.

I came across this photo of my then roommate, Kevin Palmquist, as we slogged up Diller Canyon on Mt. Shasta. It seemed like a real climb at the time and looking at the photo I know why.

Diller Canyon is that gulch on Shastina aimed right at Weed, CA. I’d been eyeballing Diller a long time and we decided we were going to do at least one Shasta trip right from our apartment in Mt. Shasta City and not drive to any of the usual traiheads. It took us a good part of the day just to hike from our apartment to the base of Diller.

We were hoping to camp in the Shastina crater, then traverse over to the north side and play on the relatively safe seracs and crevasses on the Whitney Glacier, but got blown off the mountain by a particularly nasty thunderstorm that rolled up the canyon from Redding that same afternoon. You can see the clouds that produced the storm brewing in the background. I distinctly remember looking down the Sacramento River valley and seeing some of the darkest clouds I’ve ever seen moving north in our direction.

While making a fast retreat down towards Horse Camp, we experience a little St. Elmo’s fire. I saw the glow on my ice axe and got rid of mine immediately. It took Kevin a second to understand the situation and I’d give anything to have a photo of the look on his face when the sudden decision to part with this ice axe gelled. We made ourselves flat until our hair stopped sticking straight out, grabbed our axes and hustled our butts out of there.