Mt. Shasta climb report: Casaval Ridge

The SMG climbing season is off to a great start. Our first team of the season found alpine climbing success last week on one of Mt. Shasta’s most coveted lines, Casaval Ridge. This route report is from Senior Guide Patrick Chu, who along with Ryan Sorenson and Cobi Krumholz led 6 climbers to the summit. Special thanks to Adrian Fehr for the beautiful photos from the climb.
Special report from Patrick Chu:
Casaval Ridge is an early season favorite for climbers seeking a challenging and aesthetic alternative to the more well-traveled routes on Mt Shasta. Splitting the west and south faces of the mountain, Casaval Ridge is visible from miles away with its grand jagged gendarmes and steep dropoffs.
Casaval ridge from basecamp Mt. Shasta. ph: Adrian Fehr

Casaval ridge from basecamp Mt. Shasta. ph: Adrian Fehr

The climb is characterized by sustained steep climbing and traversing on exposed slopes, broken by a few “crux” sections requiring short pitches. The route is best climbed when the mountain has bountiful snow levels and stable avalanche conditions. Fortunately, we couldn’t have asked for better conditions during our three-day climb April 15-17, 2016
Casaval Ridge Mt. Shasta

Casaval Ridge Mt. Shasta

A team of seven climbers and three guides departed from Bunny Flat on April 15th under stellar, blue bird conditions. A short three-hour approach put us at our basecamp at 9,600′. Perched at the top of Giddy Giddy Gulch, the basecamp for Casaval Ridge provides excellent views of Avalanche Gulch, Casaval Ridge, Sargents Ridge as well as the Castle Crags to the south and Trinity Alps to the west. After setting up camp, reviewing climbing techniques, and enjoying a delicious cous-cous dinner, we were in bed early for a 3AM start.
Sunset from Casaval Ridge Mt. Shasta ph: Adrian Fehr

Sunset from Casaval Ridge Mt. Shasta ph: Adrian Fehr

Firm snow conditions underfoot and clear skies made for fast travel in the night. We turned off our headlamps a few times at breaks to enjoy incredible views of stars, planets, and the occasional satellite shooting across the Milky Way.
Climbers nearing 12,000' Mt. Shasta ph: P. Chu

Climbers nearing 12,800′ Mt. Shasta ph: P. Chu

The sun began to rise when we were nearing 11,500′ providing warmth, better visibility, and a boost to our morale knowing we were making excellent progress up the route. The upper mountain had been affected by recent wind and snow which made the climbing difficult. We opted to move slightly towards the west face which provided an opportunity for some interesting climbing and route finding around the rime towers that stand before the 13,000′ plateau.
Casaval Ridge Mt. Shasta ph: Adrian Fehr

Casaval Ridge Mt. Shasta ph: Adrian Fehr

The rest of the climb to the summit was relatively simple and straightforward, though at 13,000′ climbers often feel the draining effects of the thin air and effort of the climb. Our pace slowed, but our determination remained strong and we stood on the summit at 14,179′ after 8 hours of climbing from basecamp.
Mt. Shasta summit cone ph: Adrian Fehr

Mt. Shasta summit cone ph: Adrian Fehr

We made our way back to camp where we celebrated a great climb with high fives, lots of water, and a well-deserved nap; The stoke was high despite a long and demanding summit climb as people stretched out and relaxed knowing that the hard work was behind us. This trip confirmed for me that Casaval Ridge is a must do for experienced climbers on Mt Shasta. The position, exposure, and sustained pitch of the route make it a worthy adventure for the intermediate to expert mountaineer alike.
Perfect climbing on Mt. Shasta ph: Adrian Fehr

Perfect climbing on Mt. Shasta ph: Adrian Fehr

Thanks to the team and the guides for a safe, fun, and successful climb!
The 2016 season is on and we have a full calendar of climbs, ski descents, and glacier seminars. See you on Mt. Shasta!


  1. Nancy Harrington says:

    Congratulations on a successful summit! My husband and I are signed up to climb with you May 20-22. We’re looking forward to it!

  2. Connor Van Orden says:

    Hello, what would you rate this route in terms of difficulty? you said there was a crux with a short pitch, were any ropes or vertical climbing involved?

    • Hello Connor,
      Casaval Ridge is a Grade III climb. You will encounter slopes up to 50* with some exposure and fall hazards. There are no vertical sections, but steep sustained climbing can be expected. We rope and belay sections of the climb. Good luck. Chris

      • Thanks for the help Chris!, I’m looking into doing this climb late March of 2017 via casaval- I’m trying to find average day night temperatures but can’t seem to find any resources – even in the Shasta book. From your experience, whats the average day/night temps in mid/late march?

        • Connor, it’s nearly impossible to find averages becase there really are none. It could be firece winter storms or mild spring weather in March. I would plan for cold and wind but not be surprised by moderate temps either. Daytime highs between 30-60F and nightime lows between 0-20F. Completely dependant on current weather systems, elevation, etc. Good luck and enjoy the route! -Chris

  3. Sounds like your team nailed a solid window! How is the route looking currently? We have a 2 man team heading in around May 30th based on weather patterns. Are any of the ridge routes holding enough coverage or are they down to scree?
    Cheers mate!

    • Hi Jesse, the ridges are still in excellent condition. We’ve had cool temps and even new snow frequently this month preserving our snowpack and good climbing. Our guide Mike W. climbed Casaval 2 days ago with his 71 year old dad and found great conditions on the route. Good luck! -Chris

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