While the pilgrimage has an arguably spiritual focus, the website specifies that the trip is also open to “people who do not consider themselves spiritual or religious but [are] looking for how they can shift their life into greater balance and meaning.”

A group of locals will be leading a 100 person Mt. Shasta pilgrimage next year, inspired by John Muir’s circumnavigation of the mountain. While Muir reached the summit, those who choose to join the September 2020 pilgrimage – which is sponsored by Mount Shasta-based nonprofit World Harmony Solutions – will circle the mountain around the 6,000 foot mark up to about 8,000 feet. The 11 day, 35 mile journey is designed as an “adventure retreat” and is open to just about anyone willing to undertake a couple months of training to prepare for the trek.

World Harmony Solutions is the nonprofit established with the goal of making the Mount Shasta Pilgrimage a reality. The pilgrimage is set for Sept. 1, 2020 and each hiker’s pilgrimage will be sponsored so that they can raise money for World Harmony and other charities. Anyone interested in joining the pilgrimage must fill out an application and make a $100 deposit – which can be paid in installments.

Joa Janakoayas, president of Mount Shasta University, has been designing the Mount Shasta Pilgrimage for the past three years with the support of mountain experts including Michael Zanger, who charted his own circumnavigation of Mt. Shasta at the tree line in his book, “Mount Shasta: A Guide to Climbing, Skiing, and Exploring California’s Premier Mountain.”

Janakoayas and four others embarked on a scouting trip in September with the goal of testing out the basic route the pilgrimage would later follow. Janakoayas described himself as a 60 year old, intermediately skilled backpacker who has climbed a few 14,000 foot peaks, including Mt. Shasta last year.

He was joined by Jeff Leland, 57 year old photographer; Michael Chudzik, an avid backpacker in his late 60s; Susy Guzman, a woman in her 40s with no backpacking experience but who trained well; and Brian Guzman, Susy’s 18 year old son, who had no backpacking experience but also trained well.

One of the most challenging aspects of the trek is that it does not follow a trail. When the scouting trip set out, they were hiking around the 8,000-9,000 foot mark. They discovered that hiking at that elevation meant encountering a lot of scree, which made slipping and falling more likely.

The five scouting trip partners were also attempting to complete the hike at tree line in seven days. The elevation, rough terrain. lack of an actual trail, and weight of their packs made for a physically exhausting hike, Janakoayas said. He reflected, “Miles are very different when you’re not walking on a path, you’re carrying 40-50 pounds on your back up and down steep mountain side of endless scree.”

On the third day, pushing himself forward despite the exhaustion, Janakoayas fell on a large rock and broke his wrist. After the initial pain of the injury subsided, he said his first thought was that the others should continue without him. Instead, he said, they took turns carrying his pack until they arrived on more even ground.

While the scouting group did not complete their planned 28 miles circumnavigation at tree line, they learned some important lessons to apply to the 2020 pilgrimage. Janakoayas detailed, “I realize all the issues that arose can be mitigated. To avoid cold weather, we can start on [Sept. 1] instead of the 12th. To avoid the dangerous scree and create a more enjoyable hiking experience, 80 percent of our hiking can be brought down from tree line (8,000-9,000 ft.), to about 6,000 feet.

“At this level, we frequently cross dirt roads where we can receive provisions. This way, instead of carrying provisions for seven days, we will only have to carry enough food for two days, and thus we can get our pack weight down to what it should be (about 20 percent of our body weight). Registrations will not be accepted from people who do not train beforehand, or have medical conditions without their doctor’s written permission.”

Coaches and guides will be among those taking the pilgrimage. There will be a leader for every eight people, Janakoayas said.

The pilgrimage is meant to be both a challenging and healing experience, Janakoayas said. More rest time has been incorporated into the 2020 pilgrimage schedule so that hikers should have ”lots of down time to rest, relax, and be with themselves and the mountain.” Participants are also encouraged to bring light musical instruments to join in group music circles throughout the hike.

According to the pilgrimage’s website, the journey is open to people from all walks of life, including “very busy people who need to break away and do something adventurous and wholesome in nature, just for themselves; family members like a father and sons, mother and daughters, brothers, and sisters who are looking for an adventurous way to get closer; mountain climbers and other thrill seekers who are seeking for something even more deeply fulfilling; romantic partners who are looking for adventure and personal growth in their relationship; teenagers who are craving raw adventure to help initiate them into adulthood; people in midlife crisis looking for their path of purpose.”

While the pilgrimage has an arguably spiritual focus, the website specifies that the trip is also open to “people who do not consider themselves spiritual or religious but [are] looking for how they can shift their life into greater balance and meaning.”

The number one goal, Janakoayas said, is “safety, taking care of the environment, respecting the earth and respecting ourselves.” According to the website, the pilgrimage is open to “people of average health and of all races and backgrounds who feel a need for a life reset and Soul renewal to discover a more joyous, purposeful, and fulfilling way of being.” Put succinctly, the mission of the journey is to “help people find their life path.”

The pilgrimage will last 11 days – Sept. 1-12, 2020. Mt. Shasta t-shirts are available at the University of Mount Shasta, located at 510 N. Mount Shasta Boulevard, for $20 each. Proceeds will go toward World Harmony Solutions to help with the costs of the pilgrimage.

For more information, visit www.mountshastapilgrimage.org or email admin@universityofmountshasta.org.