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When is the best time to climb Mt. Shasta?

This is a very common and important question, and rightfully so. Proper conditions will greatly increase the safety of the group, as well as increase the likelihood of summit success on a giant Cascade volcano. We’ll answer best we can with the understanding that it greatly depends on the current mountain snowpack and weather.

Casaval Ridge

Casaval Ridge in early season

Historically and statistically, April-September can have some of the most stable weather on Northern California’s Mt. Shasta. Part of the Cascade mountain range, Mt. Shasta is a strato-volcano and on average receives over 500″ of snow per season. This snowpack is what creates good and saf(er) climbing conditions on the volcanoes. The snow provides an efficient and essential surface for climbing. As a Cascade peak, underneath all the snow lies an unstable rock surface. Optimally we climb when the snow still covers these loose rocks and the weather mostly stable. With proper timing we will climb when the snow is frozen in the wee hours of the night and early morning. Then typically, by 10:00 or 11:00 the surface has softened and makes for a quick and exciting descent with one of the longest glissades on the planet!

Mt. Shasta summit pinnacle

The primary factor is we want to climb Mt. Shasta when there is adequate snow coverage and a reasonable chance for high pressure and good weather. The current winter snowpack depths and weather patterns will ultimately determine when that is.

Unlike peaks to the south in the Sierra Nevada Range, we need the snow depth for safe and efficient travel. The old notion to wait for the snow to melt is a potentially dangerous solution and certainly a tedious challenge of uphill scrambling on loose, steep, rocks. We at SMG choose climbing routes in optimal condition and utilize several trailheads and aspects as conditions change throughout the year. We are on the mountain daily scrutinizing route conditions as they quickly change.

We recommend and regularly schedule summit climbs from April-September. A climb outside of this timeframe is certainly possible as a private and custom trip. In 35 years of guiding on Mt. Shasta,we’ve found best summit success in the spring and summer months.

Green Butte Ridge

April Ski Mountaineering Mt. Shasta

April and May are generally considered early season and can have fantastic alpine conditions. We feel this is the best timing for true alpine climbing and ski mountaineering with all of the routes having excellent conditions. There may still be concerns of avalanche hazard in Avalanche Gulch, especially if we receive new snowfall, but the ridges are prime now. You will be on snow the entire trip, from the trailhead to the top. Weather tends to be a bit colder and the wind a bit stronger as compared to later in the season. The advantage is the scenery is absolutely stunning and there are far fewer climbers on the mountain. Casaval Ridge is the preferred route for climbing and this is the season for a summit climb and ski or snowboard descent! Our experience is that there is a 90% chance of climbable weather in May, and 70-80% in April.

 

June summit!

June and July are peak season on the mountain. This is typically the best stable weather and adequate snowpack combo. Avalanche Gulch and the West Face are both in prime climbing condition at this time. In a big winter we may receive enough snow to allow climbing on the south side routes through August. In drought years, earlier is better. This is also the most impacted season, but anything is still possible; we have skied fresh powder in June and had snowstorms in July that dropped over 4 feet!

Hotlum Glacier August

August and September can have excellent and stable weather on the mountain. The North side Glacier Climbs are perfect at this time. August can be hot, but over on the north side, it’s cooler and the glaciers in prime shape. We may see afternoon thunderstorms, but they are usually late on Mt. Shasta and infrequent. Avalanche Gulch is typically done at this point, but the Hotlum and Bolam Glaciers are perfect! The snow level and temps may be creeping up on the south side routes and these may be too melted to allow safe climbing with serious rock fall a real hazard. As we get deeper into September, the days are short, temps a bit cooler, and the chance for snow not uncommon. The route conditions will deteriorate and we’re usually finishing up by mid September.

 

SHASTAAAAH!

Fall and Winter A climb is always possible however Fall often has very poor climbing conditions due to melted snow and glaciers. For those intent on an off-season climb, the Clear Creek route is a good choice. If one is resolved to experience whatever the mountain chooses to dish out, a winter expedition is a wonderful experience. Statistically, it is also the least likely time to be able to reach the summit. Severe, unpredictable weather and winds, extreme temps, deep, unconsolidated snow all make for a challenging winter ascent. This is the time to bring the backcountry skis and boards, Mt. Shasta is legendary for off-piste recreation.

We’ve had summer conditions in a January summit and fierce winter storms with powder skiing in July. One thing is for certain, there are few sites that equal the rugged beauty of Mt. Shasta in a storm; the clouds reveal a fresh landscape that will leave you breathless. Be prepared for all types of weather and temperatures, any time of year. Check the current weather and do not trust any forecast more than 2 days in advance, storms move quickly and can create whiteout conditions.

 

Comments

  1. Rich Graziano says:

    April won’t come soon enough!!!

    • Michael Shanahan says:

      Would you recommend using a guide company if we want to summit Shasta? This would be our first time aiming for the top. If you don’t use a guide, are there designated trails for going to the top?

      • We recommend using a guide if you do not have any prior mountaineering experience (and even if you do!). You will learn the fundamental skills of the sport as well helping you enjoy the challenging adventure without the stress of logistics.

        It’s important to know that there are no trails to the summit of Mt. Shasta. This is a Class III Alpine Climb that requires the use of ice axes, crampons, and mountain navigation over snow, ice, rock, and scree.

        Climbing with SMG will increase your safety and fun, please call or email for additional details.

        • Martha albee says:

          Hello, my name is martha albee. My daughter and I would like to climb to the top of mt. Shasta in june. We would like to do this with a guide. Will you please email me your avaluable dates and prices? Thank you

  2. Going to these places at wrong time might be dangerous. What activities we can do there.

  3. Can anyone tell me if late july could be ok with attempting a summit climb of Shasta. Also, what would be the recommended route? Thanks Tim

    • Tim, late July is excellent on the North side glacier routes; either Hotlum-Wintun or Hotlum-Bolam routes. It’s unlikely that the 2012 season will have favorable climbing on the south side routes in late July. Let us know if you have any other questions or wish to discuss this in greater detail.

  4. Thinking about visiting in december would like some feedback

    • Hi Mike,
      What are your questions? December typically is the start of our back country ski season. It will completely depend on the weather between now and then. Currently (11/15/14) there is scant new snow on the mountain and climbing conditions are relatively poor. Once we have a 5-8′ base of new snow, we can consider ski touring and winter mountaineering trips. We are watching the forecasts closely and once we receive a couple winter storms conditions will improve tremendously. Let us know if you have any specific questions at all. I hope you enjoy your visit, Mt. Shasta in winter is spectacular! –Chris Carr

  5. Hi, do you guys offer glacier travel course involving crevasse rescue?

  6. I am wanting to climb the west face summit on one of the dates you have available in 2015. Could you please give me some info on what to expect considering May to July. I understand weather is not constant from year to year, but trying to book and want best conditions and challenge. Thanks!

    • This is a good question. Although it’s possible to climb the West Face usually May-August, conditions will vary greatly and you can choose what type of experience you want. Early season will be more alpine conditions; we’ll be on snow from the trailhead and on the entire route. The climbing conditions tend to be a little better with nice, smooth cramponing. The weather is colder and often windier and there are fewer climbers on the mountain. June and July the snow level starts moving up the mountain and we will approach basecamp on dry ground for at least part of the hike. The climbing is still very good, the snow is softer, the weather milder, and maybe less wind. This is peak season and there will be more climbers on the mountain. Our annual snowpack will ultimitley determine the conditions. In a drought year ealier is better. In a wet year, we will have excellent climbing through July and August.
      So far we’re off to a good start and the mountain has a 4-8 foot base. We’re hoping for continued wet weather and winter storms! Hopefully forecasts indicate we will have at least a normal winter this season. This means over 500″ of snow on Mt. Shasta. Cheers, -Chris

  7. Can someone at SMG provide a sample itin for the 4 day summit expedition? What’s the primary difference between the 4 day v 3 day? Final question…what generally is included in individual packs for shelter? Thank you!

    • Hi Mike, I will email you the detailed itinerary for the 2 different climbs. In the meantime, the 4 day climb will spend the third night at highcamp after the summit climb, breaking up the descent. The 3 day trip will make the summit climb, return to high camp, pack up, and hike out to the trailhead, a long day!
      We supply Black Diamond Squall tents for shelter.
      Cheers, -Chris Carr

  8. With the current drought how long will the south side remain covered enough to climb? Will the north side still have good conditions in July?

    • Mt. Shasta is not experiencing drought conditions. The south side will be in good shape through June and possibly July. the north side will be excellent in July and into August. Snowpack and climbing conditions are quite good this season. -Chris Carr

  9. Planning to climb Shasta the 25th and 26th of this month. I’ve been trying to find information on what conditions to expect at bunny flats, Helen Lake in the summit. Temperature, wind chill, wind speeds, etc. Is there a website you can point me to that would give me that info? Thank you!

  10. I would like to ask about Clear Creek trail season.
    What are the earliest or latest month to climb this trail without snow climbing skills?

    • Timothy, the Clear Creek route is typically snow free August-October. The new winter snow could start at any time, so watch the weather and plan a climb during a high pressure window. We received a cold front and new snow last week which has since melted. At this time of year anything is possible, so have a good plan and be conservative. -Chris Carr

  11. Hi!
    I would like to climb Shasta in mid to late July via the Avalanche Gulch Route. With this years snow fall, how will the snow conditions be on this route at that time of the year?

    Thanks!

    • i wanted to go climb shasta 4th of july but couldn’t find anyone. we could do it together. i live in davis, ca

  12. JITENDRA BHANDIWAD says:

    We are planning to summit via the clear creek trail in the second week of October. Can someone please suggest if this is doable?

    Thanks,
    Jitu

    • Jitu, this is a doable objective if you are in good to excellent condition and have mountain and route finding skills. October is generally considered late season and the challenge is greater than more optimal timing (May-September)
      You need to watch the weather carefully and be prepared for cold, short days. This is a very long route and the physical demands are very challenging. Be conservative, don’t climb in poor weather, and stick to your group and plan. Contact the USFS climbing rangers for permits and other information. Good luck and be safe! -Chris Carr

  13. Matt Rosenthal says:

    Hello, I’m looking to climb Shasta with you guys sometime around the 2nd or 3rd week in February 2017. I have climbed Mount Rainier twice with one Summit (May 2016) and one attempt (Sept 2016) having to turn around at the top of the Cleaver due to avalance risk. I also have years of backpacking and hiking experience. Can you please send me some info and details for this climb?

  14. harshini says:

    Me and my friend would like to climb to the top of mt. Shasta on april 1 . We would like to do this with a guide. Will you please email me your avaluable dates and prices? Thank you

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  1. […] at Shasta Mountain Guides the best times to climb Mt Shasta are the spring and summer months.  Here they break down the weather patterns and conditions on one of California’s most climbed big […]

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