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Climbing Mt. Shasta – Selecting a route

In Michael Zanger (SMG Founder) and Andy Selter’s guidebook: The Mt. Shasta Book 17 routes to the summit of Mt. Shasta are included; each with unique variations and specific seasons. Of these, we at Shasta Mountain Guides regularly lead climbs up about 6 of them and routinely climb, ski, and explore the rest. Nearly all of the routes can be climbed on a custom trip if it’s not regularly scheduled.

Summit!

Shasta Summit!

 

Choosing an appropriate climb to suit your goals, skills, and conditions will help ensure a safe and more enjoyable experience. Here we will discuss the popular routes, the skills and preparation necessary, the ideal months for each climb, as well as a few photos to hopefully get you fired up!

Climbing gear

Mt. Shasta essentials

 

 

 

Climbing Mt. Shasta is a sustained physical, mental, and technical effort. It is a very reasonable objective for those who are in good physical condition, training specifically for the climb, and are motivated for a big challenge.

As a 14,179′ Cascade Volcano (2nd highest, and largest by volume) Mt. Shasta is best climbed with snow cover to minimize hazard and provide most optimal and efficient conditions. Although we will climb with crampons, ice axe, and even rope up on summit day; the technical challenges are moderate on most routes. The biggest challenge is physical; summit day is generally a 14-16 hour effort and with proper training and preparation a very attainable goal.

 

 

Avalanche Gulch

Climbing past the Heart in Avalanche Gulch

 

Avalanche Gulch  Also known as The John Muir Route this is the most direct route up the mountain, and for that reason the most popular. “The Gulch” is best climbed with plenty of snow; generally May-July, although earlier and later are possible. This route is best for all levels of climbers from novice to advanced. Access is via the Bunny Flat trail-head at 6,950′. Fresh water spring at Horse Camp at treeline with good camping here and at 50/50. We offer this climb in itineraries from 2-4 days. Our 3 day Expedition Style Summit Climb is our most popular climb and a great introduction to alpine climbing and mountaineering.

West Face climbing route

The West Face route from Hidden Valley base camp

The West Face Mt. Shasta’s southwest side holds a high mountain cirque and one of Shasta’s most beautiful base camp’s; Hidden Valley at 9,200′. This is a great alternative to the regular Avalanche Gulch route with the same technical challenge and far fewer climbers. This climb provides a more Wilderness experience and our base-camp in Hidden Valley is a fantastic location to make our summit bid. The route’s difficulties are moderate and it serves up an aesthetic and stunning experience for all levels of climbers. Conditions for a summit attempt are best May-July or later in a good snow year. This is also the route we often select for a ski or snowboard descent ; the fall line drops nearly 4,000′ uninterrupted feet from the top of the West Face ~ truly awesome!

Sunrise on the Hotlm-Bolam

Sunrise on the Hotlum-Bolam

Hotlum-Bolam Ridge – Northeast Side Mt. Shasta’s north side is an alpine playground! 8 Glaciers, including California’s largest –  the Whitney Glacier – adorn it’s flanks. The Hotlum-Bolam route is a perfect choice for climbers looking for an intermediate level climb and intro to glacier climbing. Due to it’s northerly aspect, the season is later; June-September. Our base camp is perched atop a glacial moraine at 9,400′ and has fresh snow melt flowing through camp with the climbing route directly overhead. The conditions are slightly more challenging than those on the south and west side; yet still a moderate technical difficulty for those in good physical condition. This is an excellent climb for new climbers as part of our 4 day Glacier I Seminar. We also offer 3 day summit climbs for those wanting a new challenge and scenic and remote climb on Mt. Shasta.

Casaval Ridge

Casaval Ridge in winter

Casaval Ridge This is Mt. Shasta’s winter and early season climb of choice. Stunning, exposed, and steep; this is a route for climbers with previous experience wanting a greater challenge. Casaval Ridge is an undeniably beautiful and challenging alpine climb; a route that divides Shasta’s south side with dramatic rock towers and steep snow pitches. This route requires ample snow is is best climbed in winter and spring.

Glacier Training on the Hotlum

Glacier Training on the Hotlum

 

 

Hotlum Glacier The Hotlum is, in our consideration, Mt. Shasta’s most visually interesting glacier. A series of ice falls and seracs follow the glacier’s movement. This is a perfect training ground for climbers with bigger aspirations to Mt. Rainier and Denali. We climb and train on the Hotlum as part of our Glacier II and III Seminars. The Hotlum is accessed via the Brewer Creek trailhead and is best July-September.

The Mt. Shasta climb is a great challenge with the potential for great rewards.  Dramatic scenery, rugged terrain, new experiences, and memories to last a lifetime.  Ready for a new adventure!

 

 

 

Comments

  1. Francis Valencia says:

    I have a question pertaining to snowboarding Mount Shasta. Last year, I reached the summit of Mt.Shasta(June) and Mt.Rainier(July)via the easy routes. For Shasta, it was “Avalanche gulch” and for Rainier it was “Disappointment cleaver. These are my only two mountaineering experiences and was wondering if I can summit and then snowboard down Shasta with you guys but with a normal snowboard. A split board is way too expensive for me. I was thinking going up via avalanche gulch and then snowboard down the “West Face” or “Hotlum-Wintun” route. Every season, I go to Alpine Meadows and ride down their single and double black diamonds. One big negative I need to bring up is I have never taken an avalanche course. Any suggestions or comments that you can give me would be appreciated. Thank you for your time.

    • Hi Francis,
      A snowboard descent is a great way to add to your experience on Mt. Shasta. Our regular ski and board itinerary is to climb Avalanche Gulch and descend the West Face, this is an awesome objective and very complete schedule. A split board is not necessary for a snowboard mountaineering trip in the spring and early summer. Typically we are climbing with crampons vs. skinning on the summit climb anyway. If you are going with one of our guided trips, it is not necessary to have taken an avalanche course, we will teach and practice appropriate skills during the trip.

      Early season indications are for another great winter, we are certainly hoping for it!

      Cheers,
      -Chris Carr

  2. John Mikkelsen says:

    Hi,

    We are beginning to plan a hike up Shasta. We would like to go in September (29th) actually. What is the best way up the mountain at that time. I was hoping to avoid Avalanche gulch.. maybe Seargents ridge or? We have been talikng about it but are now ready to plan. We are not technical climbers ..like we climb stuff like Whitney or mokelume Peak, round top and stuff like that. But would LOVE to summit Shasta.
    Are we being dumb for thinking of a late September ascent? Thought the wind/ weather might be a little better for one thing.. have time off for another…

    thx!

    • Hi John,

      Late September may be ok for a summit climb. We stop guiding the mountain by mid-late September. I do not recommend Avalanche Gulch at that time due to hazardous conditions. The best routes in late September will be either the Hotlum/Wintun/Bolam glaciers. These are technical glacier climbs that will be steep and icy at that time, and may not be suitable for new climbers. A non-technical route at that time would be Clear Creek on the east side of the mountain. This will be mostly devoid of snow and ice and will be a loose, challenging surface to climb. There will be a steepish snow slope near 13,000′ that will require ice axe and crampons. Days are shorter and can be cold, wind and precip is not common, but possible. Use good route finding and navigation, there are no marked trails and it is easy to be disorientated. Good luck and let us know if you have any other questions. -Chris

  3. We are planning to summit using Avalanche Gulch route in end Aug, could you please comment on expected conditions around then. Is that a good time at all ? Would we need ice axe & helmets ?

    • We don’t recommend climbing Avalanche Gulch in late August. Loose rock and scree make for unpleasant and potentially hazardous climbing. We stop guiding the Gulch in July typically unless we have a huge winter snowpack, which we didn’t have in 2012.
      Independent climbers may still attempt the route up through Labor Day and beyond, but conditions are far from ideal, better to plan when it’s more favorable; May-July.

  4. Ian marshall says:

    Hi I’m currently working in the states for the next year , I have two weeks off from the start of October and will be staying in lake head near redding . What are the best routes for someone with a fair bit of experience and will climbing on my own , also what’s the weather like at this time of the year ? I climb grade three ice (uk) and e1 6a rock . I’m fit and healthy and up for a bit of hard work . Are there any climbing shops in the mount shasta area ? Thanks Ian

    • Hi Ian,
      October climbing conditions are generally pretty poor on most/all routes. That said for someone with experience the best bet will be the Hotlum-Bolam or Hotlum-Wintun routes. These have some moderate (but manageable) glacier travel and it will be very icy, potentially steep, and suncupped above 11,000′. For a less technical, but more slogging route, you can check out Clear Creek, which is primarily loose rock and scree with a small snowfield near 13,000′
      As fas as weather; days will be short and cool and nights can be cold. Winter weather can happen at any time, it could be beautiful autumn conditions or full on snow storm, check the forecast and plan accordingly.
      The Fifth Season in Mt. Shasta has an excellent selection of gear for purchase or for hire and will have current info on route and weather conditions.
      Good luck and please let us know if we can assist in any way.
      Cheers, -Chris

  5. Good evening.. was wondering if someone there could offer me, with the right harness, protection and skills, is Casaval Ridge impassable right now (Nov 24, 2012), or just not easy conditions with it being early winter season?

    Thanks for you help, and Happy thanksgiving….
    Amanda

    • Hello Amanda, thanks for the comment regarding Casaval Ridge. Currently we have very early season conditions with recent deep, unconsolodated snow. This will make for very challenging climbing conditions. Along with very short, cold, and windy days and the potential for new snow, we really don’t recommend a climb until we have a more favorable weather and snowpack. That said, if you’re looking for a challenge and realize that you may not be able to reach the summit, a great adventure can be found. Let us know if you’re interested in a private/custom climb and we can discuss options. Cheers, -Chris

      • Thanks so much for replying Chris! I received your email when driving to Shasta – we did try it out and had beautiful weather, but as you mentioned there was not enough snow 🙂
        Enjoy it this season!
        Amanda

  6. Dec. 4, 2012 – Recent storms that hit us down here in Tahoe must have buried the upper mountain on Shasta. I have heard rumors, but nothing reliable. Have not seen posts yet on avalanche advisory sites that were due to come up for the season Dec.1st. Thinking of heading up next week (if the jet stream steers clear…) and were wondering if anyone has been up high recently, what snow depths / conditions are, and what avalanche activity has been observed.

    • Yes, Mt. Shasta received 6-8 feet of snow last week and an additional couple of feet the last couple days. Snow levels have fluctuated as low as 5,000′ and as high as 8,000′. The mountain is glorious and completely buried in snow. Skiers have been up to 11,000′ and reported decent conditions, no avalanche activity observed. Wind, varying snow levels, and unstable weather will require careful route selection and cautious travel. The Mt. Shasta Avalanche Center will resume advisories shortly; currently the Sand Flat weather station is operational. With good travel skills and diligent hazard observations, you can expect to find good to excellent skiing and riding. Climbers will find deep, unconsolodated snow and ridge routes will be the best choice.

      Please feel free to contact SMG for the latest updates. Be safe, have fun, and enjoy the backcountry!

  7. I was wondering about climbing Shasta in one day and descending via snowboard. Is this a good idea or is it to much for one day? I was hoping to do this in late April early May. I have done a variety of day hikes and overnight hikes, Whitney, grand canyon, and others, but none that have involved crampons and ice axes. I also am an experienced snowboarder. Any advise would be greatly appreciated.

    • Marty, a single day summit climb and snowboard descent is a reasonable objective and is completed by experienced backcountry riders frequently. However, do not underestimate this challenge, it is over 7,000′ of vertical gain and over 15 miles of travel. For most fit climbers, it will take 6-10 hours for the ascent, you want to plan your time carefully to maximize optimal riding conditions. Depending on current weather you’ll want to start the descent around noon; although late April/early May can/will be cooler and you may not find the upper mountain softening up due to wind and cold temps. Winter weather/new snow is always a possibility and not uncommon in April/early Spring. Plan to be in excellent physical condition and watch the weather/avalanche forecast carefully. With proper training, preparation, route finding, and scheduling, this can/will be an incredible experience. Good luck and let us know if we can assist in any way.
      -Chris

  8. Joe MIlls says:

    HI there my wife and I are avid climbers and were wondering if we should, or is allowed or is safe to bring our Cattle dog with us on our summit climb of Mt Shasta. She is also an avid climber:)

    • Hi Joe,

      Thanks for the question. Mt. Shasta is a Wilderness Area managed by the USFS. Local Wilderness regulations do not permit dogs in the Shasta-Trinity Wilderness. She’ll have to sit this one out. cheers, -Chris

  9. John Sickman says:

    Hi, I like many other people in this have a route finding question. I was wondering if there are many steep routes for a more challenging ski decent. I have only been to Shasta to ski once (June 2012) although I grew up in the northstate and although the skiing was excellent it was not all that challenging. I would not consider myself an experienced mountaineer but, I have climbed and skied several technical lines on other 14ers and was hoping to spend two weeks skiing in the area starting around May 3. Any suggestions?

    • John, there are some technical lines to be found both on Shasta and Shastina. Check out Ski Mountaineer for a complete reference of skiing the Cascade Volcanoes. Look at the North side of Shastina and the North and East sides of Shasta for starters. Good luck!

  10. Ollie Neith says:

    We’d like to climb Shastina from Hidden Valley, camp at Sisson Lake, then climb Shasta itself. Is this a reasonable itinerary (3-4 days)? I can’t find much about the traverse out of Sisson Lake and the route up Shasta from there. Any significant hazards? Can you point me toward some beta? Do you guide this route?
    Thanks.

    • To climb Shasta from Sisson Lake in Shastina’s crater would involve down climbing to the saddle and then the climb up the West Ridge of Shasta can be tricky. You either have to go out on to the Whitney glacier which involves some crevasse crossing or climb a steep exposed rocky ridge. We typically don’t guide this route.

  11. Hi guides,

    I’m thinking of trying the Clear Creek route with my daughter. I’ve been up Avalanche Gulch a few times, and thought this would be more interesting for her (and less rock fall from Red Banks). But I see the road is still closed to the trail head – when does it normally open? And any comparison between typical May climbing up the standard route vs. Clear Creek?

    Thanks!

    — Ken

    • Hi Ken,

      Clear Creek is a great route option with your daughter. The trailhead typically opens in mid-late May. Earlier in lean years, later in big snow pack years. Probably very shortly this season. As compared to the Avalanche Gulch route it is very similar in technical and physical challenge. Route finding and navigating are more difficult with rapidly changing snow conditions, be sure to have appropriate plan and tools (map, compass, gps). A climber perished in 2012 when they were unable to locate their camp on the descent. This route tends to melt quickly from it’s eastern exposure. Early season with good snow conditions is an excellent climb and potential ski descent. Once the snow melts, it becomes a scree scramble for much of the climb which can add to the effort. A pristine springs flows at treeline, be sure to use the packout program and camp away from the source. Good luck!

  12. Cam Taylor says:

    If i were to climb Shasta in July, besides avalanche gulch, what route would we go up?

  13. We are planning on taking the Clear Creek Route May 31-June 2. Have you been to Clear creek this season? I’m wondering how much snow cover there is.

  14. We are planning a splitboard trip at the end of this week, if weather holds. I’m wondering what the best day trip route to the summit is at this time? We’ve only done Avy Gulch, on a 2 day trip before. Any recommendations/condtions update would be excellent!

    • Trace, the best skiing/riding is going to be found on the Northeast side Holtum-Wintun route accessed via Brewer Creek Trailhead. Weather looks great for this weekend and current route conditions are quite good. Have a solid route plan, this is a glacier climb and it’s easy to get lost on the way back to the trailhead. Good luck! -Chris

  15. Heading up to Shasta for biz trip – would like to summit July 20 -21. Experienced bc snowboarding, is there still riding this late in the season? Guided trip a must, not going solo. Any info appreciated – thanks!

  16. Clear Creek route conditions. says:

    Hi guys, anyone have any information for current condition on Clear Creek route (plan to climb around Labour day). Specifically if there is any snow left anywhere that require crampon/ice axe. Do not want to carry them if this is not currently required.

  17. Hi I have the same question, a friend and I are also planning on the clear creek route this weekend, likely sat. are crampons/helmet/ice axe necessary these days?

  18. Gents… the planets have aligned on soccer schedules to allow myself and a pal of mine to consider Shasta this weekend (Nov 23 2013) – We’re hardy hikers, moderate climbers (Yosemite, John Muir trail etc) but would like to seek a recommendation on whether to attempt an ascent this weekend. It looks like the Clear Creek route is recommended in the fall season – ideally with more snow… the forecast looks like rain in midweek this week which will probably give a light covering of snow to Shasta. What’s the expert recommendation for Shasta at this time of year ? doable with axe, helmet, crampons, warm gear? or don’t even think about it ?
    Thanks… Dave

  19. I hiked up the route in summer and the main problem was route itself (walking scree for miles is not fun) and wind (70 mph near the top, almost blowing you out). Weather forecast for coming weekend looks good…http://www.mountain-forecast.com/peaks/Mount-Shasta/forecasts/3500 – if it persist this way I do not see why not to attempt it. If the parts of route under snow this is easier going than scree. Crampons + axe, extra warm weather and emergency survival gear (should you need to wait out for wind) should allow for interesting climb. Stressing the survival gear for forced overnight stay (bivy, mat, sleeping bag)…it could be very dangerous to go without it. PS. I will be attempting Mt Rainier via Success cleaver should I find good route description this weekend.

  20. Dave,

    My husband wants to climb Mt Shasta late December this month. He climbed it last May but did not make it to the summit. I have read it is more challenging to climb it in the winter because of the more extreme weather with winds and snow. I have also read that climbing it in December is for a climber who has experienced reaching the summit in the past. Can you give me any info on if climbing it in December? The guide companies don’t even lead climbs in December. From what I have read, it doesn’t sound like it would be wise to climb it in December.What are your thoughts on this?Have you climbed it in December?

    Kim

  21. My question was addressed to Chris jenn, not Dave.

    • Kim, a summit attempt in December is a much more serious undertaking than a climb in summer. This is due to winter weather conditions, challenging snow surfaces (from ice to postholing), poor route conditions, potential avalanche hazard, and extremely short, cold days. Anyone considering a winter climb must be prepared for serious weather extremes and to be completely self sufficient. I have climbed and skied in December, summit chances are dependent on current weather and snowpack. We just had an record breaking cold snap and there is another snow fall expected later this week. Check the weather carefully and check in with the climbing rangers. A winter ascent should not be underestimated, make sure to have proper gear and be prepared to abort the climb if weather and snow are less than optimal. Good luck, a winter climb can be fabulous, but it is a different mountain experience than in the spring and summer. –Chris Carr SMG Director

  22. Sara Petersen says:

    We are planning to climb avalanche gulch in June 2014. It appears there’s not much snow fall this year! Would it be best to postpone our climb until next year?
    Thank you

    • Mt. Shasta typically receives significant snowfall February-May. It is far too early to predict conditions in June. At this time the NOAA forecasters are indicating more normal snowfall amounts in the next couple months. We expect we will be back to a normal snowpack this season. I would still plan on your climb in June. Keep an eye on the weather and check again in April. Good luck! -Chris

  23. Considering taking a group of boy scouts in mid April that really want to climb Shasta. Any recommended routes for a bunch of newbies? Is that even a feasible time to consider taking them? Thanks!!

    • Kevin, climbing Mt. Shasta in spring can be fabulous but it will be completely dependent on snowpack and current weather. April can be mild, it can also be severe winter weather with avalanche and ice fall hazard. The regular route may not be recommended at that time. Watch the weather and avalanche forecast, contact the USFS Climbing Rangers for permits and route conditions. Be prepared for anything and only consider going above treeline if we have extended periods of high pressure. Good luck, let us know if we can assist in any way. -Chris Carr

  24. Last year’s climb with my daughter via the Clear Creek route got deferred until this year – but I’m wondering how long conditions will be OK (decent snow) on that route. And (of course) when the road to the trailhead will be drivable. Any updates? Thanks!

    • We expect Clear Creek to have good snow cover through May, although it is still a safe and reasonable climb if dry. Shorter if the spring is mild and dry, later if wetter and cooler. The trailhead access will be driveable likely in the next 2-3 weeks. Good luck! -Chris Carr

  25. Planning to climb Sargent Ridge next week. I am wondering how are the conditions on that route? Between the Sargent and Casaval, which one is in better shape? thanks!!

    • Sargents Ridge is in excellent condition currently, as is Casaval Ridge. Either would be a good choice. Be advised that Sargents can be more difficult due to tricky route finding and at times steep rime ice covered rock. Although with the warm weather this week, the rime ice will likely be melted off.

      Good luck! -Chris Carr

  26. Benjamin Goodpasture says:

    We are planning a trip up Shasta Wednesday morning. We are considering doing a one day ascent of Casaval Ridge or Avalanche Gulche. What route has the safest conditions right now? I personally don’t have a lot of mountaineering experience but have lots of rock climbing and a little ice climbing experience. Would love your feedback on what route to do. Thanks!

    • The preferred route for new climbers is Avalanche Gulch. Casaval Ridge is both longer and more technical and a significant challenge for inexperienced mountaineers (especially as a single day climb). Avalanche Gulch has hazards that must be identified and managed as well. Safety will be increased by good decisions, timing, and route finding. Good luck! -Chris

  27. Dick North says:

    We are tentatively planning a Casaval Ridge climb May 9-10 and would appreciate any info as to route conditions. As I write this it looks from KFalls like the mountain has been getting hammered with snow. Care to make any predictions?

  28. Scott Simmons says:

    Does a June 1st Climb and ski of Avalanche Gulch seem possible at this time?

    • No. There may be several hundred feet of skiable snow in June in Avalanche Gulch, but you will likely encounter a dry approach to 9,000 and suncupped and textured snow above that. Best skiing in June will be on the Hotlum-Wintun route.

  29. Hey Chris,

    July 14-19 3 of us are planning on topping Shasta. What routes would you recommend given the predicted conditions for july? Chris

    • Hi Chris,

      In July 2014 there will be great climbing on the north side glacier routes; Hotlum-Bolam and Hotlum-Wintun. These are more technical and steeper than the regular south side climbs. For a non-technical ascent Clear Creek will be the best bet, primarily loose rock and scree, but lower angle and no glacier travel.

      The normal routes (Avalanche Gulch and West Face) will be too snow free and potemtially hazardous for a climb.

      Good luck and let us know if you have any other questions at all. -Chris

  30. I have a question. I am trying to train to summit Shasta this July. I can run about three miles. I can swim and bike and have pretty good endurance when I am determined to do something. I’m only 16 so I have youth on my side. I snowboard often and do fine with elevation, and I’ve been intentionally hydrating. Do you have any recommendations for me? Like for a marathon people suggest that you should be able to run 15 miles with ease, rest a week before the marathon, and eat carbs the night before, but I can’t find any sure-fire info. To know if I am can do this and I’m nervous. I hike a lot but I’ve never done anything like this. Please help!!!!

    • Having a solid fitness and endurance base will certainly help. The key for many people is how they handle altitude. No way to find out until you are actually there at 10, 12, 14K, with hours of strenuous hiking in your legs already, having to make the final summit push AND to make it safely down afterward. I wouldn’t spend too much time comparing it to marathons, but obviously being rested, well-fed and hydrated is important. If you can, try to spend some time at 9-10K ft and see how you feel (don’t expect to sleep very well). If you can hike up to around 12K the day before the summit, that would be great. It helped me a lot last time. Keep in mind that how you feel at 10K can change drastically at 12, let alone at 14,000. Pay attention to how you feel and err on the safe side. If you feel shortness of breath and headache relatively early (i.e. lower elevations), it will only get worse as you go up. As it gets worse, the only way to make it better is to go down fast!
      In terms of training, sure, keep running, but try to hike and see how you do with more than 1,000 or 2,000 ft elevation gain. Carry a heavy pack.
      Finally (or first and foremost), go with someone who is experienced.

  31. I’m looking at climbing the east side next week from the brewer creek trailhead and have some questions. 1. How are the conditions on this route right now? 2. If not good, which alternate route would you suggest? 3. How technical is this route? Is ice ax and crampons suitable for it, or is more needed? Thanks for any advice ~ Steve

    • Conditions are good on the routes from Brewer Creek. It is textured and sun cupped snow from 9,500-14,000′. The upper mountain is steep and exposed. Ice ax and crampons are required. If you get onto the Hotlum and Wintun glaciers it will require glacier travel equipment. If you stick to the ridge, the crevasses are easily avoided. Good luck! -Chris

  32. Richard says:

    Hi Chris,
    I am an old geezer (will be 70 in September) and I would like to do a day hike up
    Mt. Shasta. Do you conduct day hikes? I did a day hike up Mt. Whitney last year to
    celebrate my 69th birthday and I had no altitude issues. However, after doing
    some research on hiking Mt. Shasta it appears to me that this is a more
    dangerous hike. I would appreciate your thoughts. Richard

    • Hi Richard,
      We do not lead single day summit climbs on Mt. Shasta. This is a reasonable objective for the only fittest and elite level mountain athlete. I recommend a 2 or 3 day climb on Avalanche Gulch when conditions are most optimal (plenty of snow cover)
      Good luck and please let us know if you have any other questions at all. -Chris

  33. Hi,

    I hiked up Mt Shasta in a single night over Clear Creek route a year ago. Not need to be an elite level mountain runner (but experience to keep moving for 10-14 hours is helpful, something like 50m race over rough terrain with big elevation gain…Clear Creek is walking up on scree and rocks) but it is pretty tough. If going alone select the route as free from objective dangers as possible, even if it is a longer one. Retreat if conditions are coming bad…I barely finished the hike as the wind became extremely strong…I would put wind as the main risk factor on Clear Creek…

  34. Richard says:

    Thanks for the message. I was 16 hours climbing up and back on Whitney, but this one I will have to
    give a lot of thought.

  35. Hey Chris,
    Your site is great and all these comments have been rather informative.
    Question: my buddy and I are wanting to hike the Clear Creek route to the summit in a few weeks, and we wanted to know A) will ice axe/crampons be necessary by then and B) if so, will heavy leather hiking boots support crampons or will I need to rent “mountaineering” boots?

    Cheers,
    Tim

  36. David paradis says:

    Hi Chris. Amy and I had a great time this last May climbing casaval ridge route. I am strongly considering a denali climb next June and would like to do a denali prep course preferentially with SMG. Do you anticipate scheduling any of these courses scheduled for May 2015? Any suggestions for preparing? I’ve summited Shasta twice, rainier once, been to Everest base camp/kala pattar. Thanks for your help and insight. Also thanks for bringing tea up to the 10000 foot camp last May!

  37. Dean Lofquist says:

    What are the best recommended route(s) for late August/early September. I am looking for a novice route.

  38. Millie McKain says:

    Is this a good mountain to start on? I’ve never mountaineered before and was wondering if this mountain is a decent challenge for a beginner.

    • Millie,
      Mt. Shasta is the perfect peak for new mountaineers. Climbing during optimal condiitons (May-July) is recommended as well as serious dedicated training for the ascent. The biggest challenge is physical and having training in the fundamentals of mountaineering is important as well. It is recommend to climb with a guide and we include snow school training on our guided summit climbs.
      Good luck!
      -Chris Carr

  39. looking to do a splitboard descent of shasta this season but am limited on time off from work. i have time off over christmas so was considering maybe attempting then. i understand the conditions and weather could be prohibit summitting, but what is your experience about this time of year (ie. late december) in past? what route would you take if trying at this time of year? thanks.

    • Late December can bring a great varierty of snow conditions to Mt. Shasta. It is early in the season and our expereince is that the snow pack is generally shallow and firm. December is typically cold and windy with very short days and shallow, early season snow. Truly anything is possible, we have also seen 6 feet of new snow fall before Halloween.
      Best route choices will totally depend on snow depths and current conditions. Avalanche Gulch may be a consideration, although with significant hazard potential (avalanches, rock fall, exposed rocks, and icy climbing) If the snow is deep enough Casaval ridge would be a good choice.
      Keep track of the weather systems and be checking the USFS Avalanhe Advisory at http://www.shastaavalanche.org. or feel free to contact us, we will be on the mountain most days as long as the snow is adeqate for ski touring.
      Good luck,
      -Chris

  40. Is it reasonable to plan a climb of Avalanche Gulch in the winter (Jan – Mar) during a period of good weather or is the route normally just too unstable during that time?

    • Generally speaking Avalanche Gulch is not a good choice for a winter ascent. There are conditions that may allow a reasonable attempt, a long period of high pressure would be necessary. The route earns it’s name and we do see significant avalanche hazard in the winter, especially above Lake Helen. The preferred winter route is Casaval Ridge. Ultimately the current weather and snowpack will determine best/safest ascent.

      You can check back with us for current conditions/hazards and also be reading the USFS Avavalanche Advisory at http://www.shastaavalanche.org

      Good luck,
      -Chris

  41. Phil Dandurand says:

    Hey there! Planning on a summit of Mt. Shasta this winter(Late December/Early January). Group of experienced climbers and a few of us have thousands of miles trails behind us. What is your best recommended hike for a group of mixed level of climbing experiences with everyone having at least one climb behind them? We are prepping for Rainier.

    • Hey Phil,

      A climb in early winter is going to be a tough challenge with unpredictable weather and conditions. We typically have a shallow snowpack and very cold and windy winter weather at that time. Generally the ridge routes are the recommendation to avoid avalanche hazard on the standard routes. Although we have seen prolonged periods of dry weather in recent winters, so a climb of the standard Avalanche Gulch route may be an option if weather and snowpack cooperates.

      Bottom line is that is will be determined by current weather and snowpack conditions. We could have high pressure or prolonged stoms that close access to the trailhead. Plan on Casaval ridge if we have a decent snowpack and be checking here and with the USFS Avalanche Advisory for updates. Don’t skimp on gear or training; a winter climb is not to be underestimated. Good luck! -Chris

  42. Phil Dandurand says:

    Hi Chris!

    Thank you for the response and the info! I’ve found it difficult to find many articles relating to a winter hike of Mt. Shasta. My friend and I who are from Alaska will be sure to get our crew further up to speed and adjusted to cold windy weather prior and well in advance. What are the typical wind speeds and avg. temperatures for camps along the routes you mentioned?

  43. Phil Rhodes says:

    Shasta is totally unpredictable. Once someone asked me when weather in summer is most likely to be stable. I suggested July. This person returned in mid July, but was unprepared, got caught in a freak snowstorm in Avalanche Gulch and died of hypothermia. Having made several winter ascents when I lived at Mount Shasta I found the weather in January most likely to be cooperative. A high pressure “dome” often sits over Northern California for two weeks or so in mid-winter. When this occurs the snow pack tends to stabilize and winds subside. But it is one thing living at the base of the mountain when one can wait for the perfect day and have breakfast and dinner at home with lunch on the summit versus coming from Alaska and hoping for a good roll of the dice weather-wise.

  44. Phil Dandurand says:

    I see, and it looks like we’ll just shoot for January then! We’re out of Arizona right now anyways, and should Shasta be a bust due to weather, plenty of California to explore! Thanks you all your help! And another Phil, this is quite a find!

  45. Nahani Bohan says:

    Hello, I have found this forum to be incredibly helpful, thank you. I have a couple questions, a group of friends and I are wanting to climb Mt Shasta in mid June or early July (looks like those are the best times). Only 2 of us have climbed in the past. When I went in 99 I went with a friend who was incredibly familiar with the mountain. He took a group of us up we left at 2 in the morning and came down that same day. We are wanting to do the same thing this time. I did Avalanche Gulch last time and thought we’d do that one this time. I have yet to find someone that can guide us up (my friend that did it last time is nursing a hip injury and therefore cannot help). My questions are 1. I would prefer to do it July 11th, is that too late in July? 2. Is Avalanche Gulch the best option for my group that are all first timers (except the 2 of us that did it way too long ago)? I also read that aside from Avalanche Gulch the West Face or Clear Creek routes are good for the less experienced.

    • Hello Nahani, we are happy to answer your questions.

      1. If we have a normal snowpack mid July can still be reasonable to climb Avalanche Gulch. If we have a low snow year, this will be too late.

      2. Avalanche Gulch, the West Face, and Clear Creek are all great choices for new mountaineers. Clear Creek is longer and least technical, Avy gulch is best for a single day attempt. West Face is a great option as well but longer for a single day.

      Good luck and have a safe trip! -Chris

  46. Myself and a fellow avid hiker are planning on summiting Shasta via the Avalanche Gulch route this weekend (Feb 21). The weather outlook seems great and we have plenty of gear. What other considerations or advice would you lend? Thanks

    • Mt. Shasta in winter can be a difficult and technical climb. Although the conditions are mild and spring like at the moment; the climbing is steep, firm, and exposed above 11,000′. Having the proper gear is important, having the proper skills is essential as well, be very capable with crampons and ice axe technique. There was a rescue this week of a climber who became lost on Misery Hill even though the weather was perfect. Have a good route plan and be conservative. Good luck and have a safe climb! -Chris

  47. Todd Lomelino says:

    First, thanks for answering questions. Planning on a Spring assent – thinking clear creek ridge. Would you agree that given what is another dry winter, that early May (or sooner) will be the best timing for good snow cond based on the weather so far? Early May will look like a typical June? Just trying to arrange time away. I recognize the year could get wetter but currently pretty dry here in central CA. I’m thinking about the ridge as a straightforward route but want to avoid crowds of avalanche gulch. We have plenty of snow climbing experience.

    • Early May should be very good on Clear Creek this season. Our snowpack is near normal from the significant wet weather this winter but it has been warmer than normal recently. You should be able to get to the trailhead at that time, but that may pose an additional approach. Avalanche gulch is minimally impacted in early May and will have good conditions as well/ Good luck and have a safe climb. -Chris

  48. Hi!
    I’ve never been mountaineering before but have always been keen to and am wondering if Mt. Shasta is a good place to start? I would say I’m pretty fit and always up for a challenge! Any advice is appreciated! Thanks!

    • Hi! Mt. Shasta is the perfect peak to begin your mountaineering addiction! Our 4 day Glacier I Seminar is ideal for new climbers, you will learn the fundamental skills of the sport and make a climb on a beautiful glacier route. Please let us know if you have any other questions at all or would like to join us for a climb. -Chris

  49. Hi, I am planning to go up end of April or 1st week of May. Plan is to skin up to Helen lake with split board, summit, and snowboard down. Will there be snow coverage from bunnyflat to the horse camp given current year snow condition? I have heard that show level is normal this year.

    • Hi, you will be on patchy snow/dry ground to Horse Camp by late April/early May this season. Although we are about to receive 2-3 feet of new snow today. The snowpack above 8,000′ is good and the skiing and riding should be excellent at that time. Have fun! -Chris

  50. Hello,

    A bunch of us are planning to ascent Shasta in late July. This is our first attempt at climbing Shasta and would be the first time that we would be using crampons and ice axe. We were planning on signing up for the 2 day guided ascent on the avalance gulch route through your company.
    Is July really late this year for this route?

    Thanks,
    Akshay

    • Akshay, late July will be too late for a climb of Avalanche Gulch this season, 2015. Clear Creek will be a good option to consider. I will contact you to discuss in greater detail and answer any other questions.

      Cheers, -Chris

  51. I am inquiring about snow conditions at present May 2015 on Shasta.
    we are considering either Casaval Ridge or West Face as our route of choice for a May 23-24 summit climb.
    your opinion would be of value in determining our route.

    additionally – would snow shoes be of any value on the lower sections of the mountain?

    • Mike, the West Face will be very good for May 23-24. We don’t anticipate Casaval ridge to remain optimal for 3 more weeks but it is possible. This route requires a lot of snow for safe climbing and likely by late May the snow will have receded from the ridge.
      Snow shoes will not be necessary at at that time.
      Good luck and have a safe climb.
      -Chris

  52. looking to complete one-day climb up avalanche gulch June 6 or 7th. I have experience and have been up to 19,000 ft on other climbs. Fair amount of snow and ice experience. I have also done two one-day climb and decents for the Whitney mountaineering route. Very fit so i don’t feel the vertical climb will be an issue. I will be climbing solo. Avalanche Gulch should be no problem, what is your opinion of the west face for solo one day climb? thanks

    • The West Face is similar technical difficulty as Avalanche Gulch. It is slightly longer and may require some extra navigating, otherwise it is doable as a day climb if you are fit and motivated.

      Enjoy, it’s a great route and Hidden Valley is a beautiful location.

  53. I am planning a trip to climb the Avalanche Gulch route in a week (May 29 & 30) with 5 others. Any weather and conditions reports would be appreciated!

    • The current climbing conditions in Avalanche Gulch are excellent. There is snow from Horse Camp and above and the climbing and cramponing are near perfect. Weather looks favorable but can change at any time, be prepared for changing mountain conditions. There has been a small chance of afternoon thunderstorms so climbing early is always a good plan.

      Have a safe and enjoyable climb!

  54. Excellent! This is my 3rd attempt in as many years, and the last two years, we didn’t even leave town (Portland) due to harsh weather conditions (very strong winds). Knock on wood!

    Appreciate your report.

    Alex

  55. Christian B says:

    Chris, how are skiing conditions for a one day approach? I heard that Brewer Creek is almost open. Does that mean you can skin from the trailhead? As far as I understand on the south side there would be no snow up to Horse Camp, correct? Thanks a lot Christian

    • Christian, as of this past weekend you could drive almost all the way to the trailhead at Brewer Creek. You will have to walk 20 minutes or so to reach snow. The south side you will walk to Horse Camp to reach snow. The skiing this past week has been excellent, you should be able to find great turns on all aspects if you time the corn cycle. South, west, and northeast all have deep, smooth, snow above 8,000-9,000′. Enjoy! -Chris

  56. Greetings, I was planning to ascent Mt Shasta in mid sept via the Clear Creek path for meditation on top for couple days. Do you know if we are allowed to sleep on top and for how long. What would you recommend on taking. Also have there been sightings of ufos during your experience at the mountain? Thanks in advance.

    • Delta, there are no restrictions to camping on the summit of Mt. Shasta. Be well prepared; the summit can be a cold, windy, and inhospitable place. An independent climber died 2 years ago on the summit after suffering from altitude sickness. You will need cold weather gear, a strong 4 season tent, good stove for melting snow for water.
      I have never witnessed UFO’s on Mt. Shasta, but people claim it regularly. Be safe.

      • Oh i see thank you for the advice. What is the lowest temperature it goes down. Also should I register with someone before climbing or just let family know? I’ll be using a garmin gps would this be good for navigation on the summit?

  57. Hello,

    I am planning to climb Mt Shasta this weekend June 6 and 7 via the avalanche gulch route with an overnight stop at helen lake. I checked the weather report and looks like there are scattered storm as well as intermittent clear skies. I would much appreciate any expert advice and tips for the climb based on the weather. Thanks much!

    • Hello Shiv,

      The weather is very dynamic and unpredictable. It could be fine for climbing and there could be thunderstorms, precipitation, wind, and whiteout condititions. You should be well prepared with a solid route plan and navigation skills. Start early and do not climb into deteriorating weather and clouds. Make sure to have good clothing layers and equipment and be sure to make conservative decisions. Be safe and good luck.

  58. Phil Bates says:

    Hey! Anyone climbed WFG lately and can comment on the early AM headwall conditions? Anyone know if a picket or ice screws are needed for an intermediate skilled climb team? Doesn’t seem so but wanted to see what others think or are experiencing.

    • Hey Phil. The West Face is in excellent condition currently (6/7/15) We had a group summit and report near perfect conditions this weekend. Ice screws are not necessary. A picket is likely not needed as well, but the upper route is a little steep and exposed for some. Good luck and enjoy the climb!

  59. Hello,

    I’ve used Shasta guides in the past and had a great experience! I’m now considering a self-guided trip to Shasta at end Sept / early Oct, and have heard that the glacier routes are best this time of year. Could you describe how technical / icy / exposed these routes are this time of year? Will a single mountaineering ice axes be sufficient or would we be front pointing and need more aggressive technical axes? Are ice screws and / or pickets recommended? Any other protection you’d recommend? We’re intermediate climbers and are looking for a challenge and increase in technicality from a hike in the snow – so any thoughts would be highly appreciated!

    Thanks,

    Jon

  60. Hi,

    I am thinking to go for Mt Shasta climb around Christmas. I used to climb via Clear Creek in summer and I expect this to be very nice experience on snow (with showshoes/crampons). But I do not see the route being used in this season? is it because the trail head is niot car accessible? How close can a vehicle get to the trail head?

    Regards,
    Dmitry

    • Hi Dmitry,

      Climbing in late December can be very challenging, especially if we continue to receive heavy storms and significant snowfall. The Clear Creek trailhead is not plowed or maintained in winter and currently has several feet of snow. You will not be able to drive close to the trailhead due to snow. Expect to add 3-10 miles to the approach.
      The Bunny Flat trailhead is the only access point that is plowed in winter. It may close during periods of heavy snowfall. Check the weather forecast and avalanche advisory before heading out and register with the USFS Mt. Shasta Climbing Rangers.

      Good luck and be safe,
      Chris

  61. Hi, myself and two other friends are planning to trek up Mt Shasta in the summer before our Senior year of high school. This will be our first hike, besides hikes up mount lassen, and are currently looking into the Hotlum Bolam ridge. I was wondering if you had any recommendations, tips or resources to help us out. Thank you very much for your time

    • Hi Mick,
      The north side of Mt. Shasta is a technical glacier climb to reach the summit. It’s an enjoybale hike to basecamp, but above there you enter onto steep, exposed, glaciated terrain. This may not be the best route for your first alpine climb. I would recommend Avalanche Gulch or the West Face for a better climb for new mountaineers. The best recommendation would be to go with a guide and learn the skills and technicques necessary for a safe climb. Check the climbing report and information on the USFS Climbing Ranger page at http://www.shastaavalanche.org.
      Good luck and be safe!
      Chris Carr

  62. Hi, I would like to split ski up Mt. Shasta and ski down June 3-5 with my four sons to celebrate my 60th birthday. My sons are 30,28,27,and 21 years old. We have mountaineering experience . We have climbed Mt. Whitney, Mt. Russell, Split Mt and Mt Langley. My eldest son is now into split boarding and he’s a avid mountain climber. We all snowboard. I’m active, but I’m a little concerned about split boarding-skiing up and down since I’ve never used a splitboard. My son says that you use skins on the ski’s and then connect them to board down.They want to schedule a trip with your company for those dates. How many nights do we spend on the mountain camping, how many hours of splitskiing each day?? They want to do it in one day, but that worries me. What do you recommend. Tim

    • Hi Tim,

      We recommend 3 days/2 nights for a summit climb and ski descent. A splitboard will not be necessary in June, but may be helpful. Spring and summer riding is on consolidated snow and it’s not as critical for skinning. Ski and snowboard mountaineering we will be climbing with crampons on any way so your board will be strapped to your backpack.
      This is a big trip and the effort should not be underestimated, the more time is better for acclimating and skills training as well as getting some skiing/riding before the summit climb. We’ll hike and snowboard 6-7 hours each day on day 1 and 2 and the summit day is 6-8 hours climbing and 2-3 hours riding. Let’s be in touch if you would like to schedule the climb this season. Thanks! Chris Carr

  63. Looking forward to doing Shasta this summer fellers! You all are still in operation right? Heard the snow is good this year and I’ve waited 3 years. Whats the word on your end!?

    CHRIS

    • Hi Chris, we have a full schedule of climbs this season and with all the snow in 2016 it will be an awesome year to climb! Give us a call or register online, the popular dates are getting near capacity. See you on the mountain! -Chris Carr

  64. Hi I want to take a group of older scouts (14-18) up shasta the week of June 20? will clear creek be a good route to take by that time, or will (given the amount of snow we have) that route still be full of snow. We need the least technical climb. We will have experienced mountaineers with us.

    • Hi Benjy, with the 2016 snowpack Clear Creek will still have lots of snow in mid-late June. Clear Creek, Avalanche Gulch, and the West Face are all similar technical challenges. As a Cascade volcano, it’s much preferred to climb Mt. Shasta with an adequate snowpack. Good luck! -Chris

      • Thanks Chris. I was under the impression from all of my reading that Clear Creek was the least technical climb and much less technical than Avalanche Gulch?

  65. Is it possible to access the brewer creek trailhead this time of year / is the east side of the mountain accessible?

    • Brewer Creek trailhead is not plowed or maintained in the winter. One must wait unitl snow is melted in order to drive to the trailhead. This is typically by early June, earlier or later depending on winter snowpack and spring temps. Currently, you will add 15 miles or so to reach the trailhead.

  66. My daughter climbing in June, I would like to buy her a pack for her birthday, but I know nothing about them any sugesstions

    • Ann, I would contact The Fifth Season, they are a great shop and can best answer your questions about equipment. The Fifth Season Mt. Shasta 530-926-3606. Good luck! Chris

  67. Hey there,

    I was hoping to get an update on the brewer creek trailhead. Can a guy drive there yet? Or would he be able to around June 7th?

  68. Hi I am novice; and enthusiast.
    If i make the decision to take up the challenge, this would be my first. I am regular Asian male who would walk for pleasure. I would like to know, if i could scale the mountain with moderate physical fitness and how much it will cost.

  69. Chris and Jenn,
    Can you look in your crystal ball and tell us if you think the snowpack will be good for 2017?

    • Yeah, I was tentatively planning a May ascent either via AG or Sargents Ridge but considering all the snow we’ve had so far this year, now I’m wondering if the timing should be adjusted.. also, with all the snow, is AG going to be a complete mad-house. Wondering if West Face would be more rewarding. I’m taking my brother up (who I took up Whitney’s MR in June of 2015 after having summited multiple times myself over the years), but this will be my first ascent of Shasta so want to research well.

      • Scott, May will be excellent on Avalanche Gulch or Sargents ridge. West Face is a good option as well. All of the south side routes will be 100% snow in May and will have exellent climbing conditions. Weather in May will be the question, watch the foreacast as we get closer to the date. With all the snow June and July will be very good as well with more reliable weather and more climbers. Good luck -Chris

    • Ellen, we are having a banner year. Our snowpack is about 150% of normal so far. It’s going to be a great season on Mt. Shasta!

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