It took Robert Webb only one hour and 39 minutes to climb 14,162-foot Mt. Shasta and to break a record that stood 60 years.
“Even when I was going to break the record, I wasn’t pushing myself to the point of feeling uncomfortable,” Webb said. “I enjoyed it the whole time.”
The previous record, set in 1925, was two hours, 25 minutes.
As he covered the last half-mile on the summit plateau July 5, Webb said, he “was in a full run.” Friends, extra gear and food waited at the top.
“The actual experience of going up is like house-cleaning your mind and body--you purge yourself of old thoughts. You’re aware only of the mountain and your breathing rhythm,” he said.
“It is such a fulfilling moment. I never realized I could feel so complete.
“It’s the mountain that makes me want to push myself to the physical limit. They have a real aura about them--a real feeling of peacefulness. This mountain, more than any other I’ve been on, leaves you feeling so invigorated.”
Now the 27-year-old Vermont native hopes to break his own record. “I had such a good time doing it that I’d like to do it again.”
Webb, who used ski poles for balance, said most climbers have problems with the mountain’s steepness and with falling rocks. On one of the 18 times he’s climbed Shasta, Webb said a boulder “the size of a Volkswagen” barely missed him.
The U.S. Forest Service says about 4,000 people attempt the mountain each year. Only half those who try succeed, and they take an average of eight hours.
Webb said he underwent no special training. As the seasonal caretaker of the Sierra Club’s emergency shelter on the mountain’s lower slopes, he is accustomed to the thin air.
Living in the rustic cabin, chopping and hauling wood has been his sole exercise regimen in preparation for climbing, he said. “Every day I just breathe hard.”
Webb actually broke the record of two hours, 25 minutes set in 1925 by David Lawyer of Pasadena when he climbed Mt. Shasta in June, but was unfazed when that effort didn’t make the books because it was undocumented. “I knew I’d be able to do it again--and better,” he said.