Mt. Shasta Fall Update and Winter Preview

This post comes on the cusp of the first winter storm of the season. Mt. Shasta should have a nice coating of snow by this weekend; probably not enough for skiing and sliding yet, but it’s a start. We’re eager for the change of season and to get into winter ski tour mode; but it’s been a beautiful October and fall season in far northern California.

Mt. Shasta November 1, 2017

Mt. Shasta November 1, 2017

We enjoyed the last mild weather day to appreciate the completion of the long awaited Bunny Flat Trailhead Project. With partner support from the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, The Sierra Club Foundation, and Marrone Construction; Bunny Flat now sports a beautiful new welcome sign fitting to it’s World-class stature.

New Bunny Flat Trail Sign

New Bunny Flat Trail Sign

This project has spanned many years and we extend a great thanks to Chris Marrone for his dedication and volunteering his time and expertise to construct the new sign. Thanks Chris, Clif Bars and beer are on us!

Bunny Flat Trailhead Mt. Shasta

Bunny Flat Trailhead Mt. Shasta

With the new update and sprucing up of the trailhead, I thought it would be fun to mention the history and origin of the name “Bunny Flat”. In the 1940’s a rope tow was set up on the west side of the flats to shuttle skiers up it’s gentle slopes. Much of the terrain below treeline is ideal for new skiers to enjoy the “bunny slopes” and it’s where our daughter enjoyed her first backcountry ski days. The Siskiyou County road crew plows the Everett Highway to the trailhead but may close during periods of heavy snowfall.

Bunny Flat Backcountry Skiing

Bunny Flat Backcountry Skiing

As we patiently wait for the snowpack to fill in, there’s lots to look forward to for the 2017-2018 season. We are happy to host the Mt. Shasta Avalanche Center and the monthly FREE Avalanche Awareness Presentations:

Where: SMG Shop 230 N. Mt. Shasta Blvd. Mt. Shasta, CA 96067

When: Fridays starting at 7:00pm. 12/1, 1/5, 2/2, 3/2. 1.5 hours

If you are a backcountry skier or snowboarder, the education never ends. A Level I Avalanche Course is a prerequisite and necessary to be a prepared partner. This year we are very excited that SMG Guide David Reichel will be the Lead Instructor for our AIARE Level I February 16-18, 2018. David is a long time guide and instructor and self-proclaimed snow nerd. He founded the California Avalanche Workshop and Tahoe Backcountry Alliance, he is clearly a passionate and dedicated professional. We look forward to his teaching on Mt. Shasta this year.

Mt. Shasta has potential for many avalanche problems and has very large avalanche paths. Use caution in winter conditions.

Avalanche Gulch with big avalanche debris

Avalanche Gulch with big avalanche debris

What do we expect for this year? It’s going to be hard to beat last year’s near record snowpack which made for exceptional climbing and skiing almost year round. I’m going with NWS Meteorologist and backcountry enthusiast’s Zach Tolby’s prediction: “We have no idea what the winter in the Sierra will be like”.

Mt. Shasta Giving Tuesday Party

Mt. Shasta Giving Tuesday Party

Our shop will be open Tuesday November 28th to host of  North Sate Giving Tuesday. We will throw a party to support the Mt. Shasta Avalanche Center and Mt. Shasta Nordic Center. Come down for some good vibes supporting great local organizations.

We’ll be posting updates and more information as the season progresses. You’ll find current info, dates, and details on our website at www.shastaguides.com.

Here’s looking forward to a bountiful winter season!

Mt. Shasta Summer Climbing Update

Summer is in full swing in Northern California. We are seeing hot days, mild nights, and a melting snowpack on California’s largest Cascade Peak. Mt. Shasta has experienced an excellent climbing season on the main south side routes but this is finally starting to change as we enter into late season.

Climb team under the Milky Way on Mt. Shasta. photo: Cobi Krumholz

Climb team under the Milky Way on Mt. Shasta. photo: Cobi Krumholz

We are grateful to our staff and guests for such a remarkable year. We have enjoyed excellent climbing conditions due to the deep snow pack and our guides have been going non stop providing safe and successful ascents.

Sunrise at Thumb Rock Mt. Shasta climbers

Sunrise at Thumb Rock Mt. Shasta climbers

With the heat of summer taking it’s toll on the mountain snow, we are transitioning to the more favorable north side glacier climbs for the remainder of the climbing season. As the summer progresses, the quality of the climbing diminishes and hazard increases and we start to change our focus and chose routes with more optimal climbing conditions.

Mt. Shasta North Side

Mt. Shasta North Side photo: Bubba Suess

The north side Hotlum-Bolam route is one of our favorites and still holds very enjoyable conditions for a climb. With a stunning base camp equipped with fresh water streaming close by, a direct climb with some glacier features to navigate, and a remote Wilderness setting that escapes the more impacted south side, it’s a classic route to enjoy as an introduction to glacier climbing.

Alpine start on Hotlum-Bolam Mt. Shasta

Alpine start on Hotlum-Bolam Mt. Shasta

Although still possible, we are no longer offering climbs on the Avalanche Gulch route for 2017. Rock strewn slopes, steep, difficult climbing, and the ever present hazard of rock fall from climbers above have made the decision to end guided climbs this year on the south side.

Climbing Mt. Shasta Hotlum-Bolam route

Climbing Mt. Shasta Hotlum-Bolam route

We climb the north side in 3 or 4 day schedules. The 4 day Glacier I Seminar is one of our most popular trips. This combines a summit climb with an extra day for skills training and acclimation. This is a perfect introduction to the more technical climbing found on the north side as well as offering added time to enjoy the spectacular location and activity.

Training on the Hotlum Glacier Mt. Shasta

Training on the Hotlum Glacier Mt. Shasta

August will have good climbing on the Hotlum Glacier and we will complete our climbing season by early September. Beyond that most routes will be in poor condition and it’s generally recommended to wait for more favorable snow and conditions.

Skiing the Hot-Tune Mt. Shasta, CA

Skiing the Hot-Tune Mt. Shasta, CA

The skiing is over for all but the most dedicated. Deep sun-cups and penitentes have formed and are far from fun to ski. We enjoyed our last ski trip in late June with Tom H. and family who returned to Shasta for a birthday run on the classic Hotlum-Wintun route. Unless you’re headed to South America, it’s time to hang up the skis and put an end to the epic year of 2017.

We are updating our website with dates and climbs for 2018. This year was remarkably busy on Mt. Shasta. We recommend planning early for best choice of availability. Until then, we have climbs on the north side until September 7th.

Thanks again to all our guests and guides, we can’t express enough how grateful we are for such a memorable season thus far. Cheers to everyone who helped make it a success!

Mt. Shasta Early Spring Update

It’s mid-April in Northern California and the sound of raindrops continue to be the theme for the winter and spring of ’16-’17. We have officially surpassed the mark for the wettest winter on record for the Northern Sierra section of CA, yay! The weather station at 7,600’ on Mt. Shasta is measuring close to 20’ of settled snow, this is truly remarkable and we are going to have excellent alpine conditions on Mt. Shasta this year.

Although it’s Spring per the calendar, there is still plenty of snow falling in Northern California. As the ski resorts are closing, our season is just ramping up and the backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering will be truly epic for the next several months.

Backcountry powder skiing Mt. Shasta

Backcountry powder skiing Mt. Shasta

Today (4.18.17) was yet another perfect day of backcountry skiing on Mt. Shasta. We received 4-5″ of cold snow on a soft supportive base with light winds which made for pretty sublime conditions.

West Face Mt. Shasta

West Face Mt. Shasta

Our season is off and running. The last couple weeks have brought amazing snow quality and beyond stoked guests. Several of our guides have been leading ski tours, splitboard seminars, and climbing classes as we wait for the jet stream to bring more seasonal weather and we are able to get onto the upper mountain.

Untracked smooth snow for miles on Mt. Shasta

Untracked smooth snow for miles on Mt. Shasta

Eric Layton, senior guide and splitboard guru just spent 3 days on the mountain and racked up some serious vertical of untouched and butter smooth spring powder. To say they were stoked would be an understatement and they were thrilled by the untouched canvas of volcano ski touring.

Fantastic skiing on Mt. Shasta

Fantastic skiing on Mt. Shasta

The Mt. Shasta Avalanche Center has completed their avalanche advisories for the season; that’s not to say that the hazard has diminished, and it’s just the opposite. We have received several more storm systems this week and if the forecast is correct it looks like this weekend could provide the first real spring like weather this year. Sunny skies and mild temps are on tap. With all the new snow, and rapidly warming temperatures, we are very concerned with the possibility of wet slide avalanches this weekend. We strongly recommend caution and to avoid runout zones and gullies, especially below Lake Helen. There is a high probability of south and east slopes to become unstable and for large, destructive wet slides to run a long distance. 

Ski Mountaineering training Mt. Shasta

Ski Mountaineering training Mt. Shasta

Once we have a few cycles of mild days and cold nights, the hazard will diminish and we expect a long and enjoyable season on Mt. Shasta. Our guided climbs and trips are beginning to fill and we recommend contacting us soon to secure your dates.

Upcoming Events:

Guide training with Dave Miller and Rich Meyer 4/21-23. We can’t wait to see our crew back with such epic conditions!

Mt. Shasta Ski Mountaineering Seminar 4/21-24 Senior Guide Dane Brinkley leads 4 days of advanced ski mountaineering with some excellent weather and conditions lined up

The Geology of Mt. Shasta Presentation by Dr. William Hirt Friday April 21 at 7:00pm Sisson Museum

Summit climbs and ski descents each weekend starting now!

Call or email for the latest. Happy Spring!

Mt. Shasta Report March 2017

It’s March and we’re in the midst of a banner season on Mt. Shasta and California. In most years an atmospheric river or two is all we need to ensure a decent snowpack; this year we’re up to nine and counting. Mt. Shasta has just entered into the top ten wettest winters on record and the news of California’s drought ending winter is indeed something to celebrate.

Mt. Shasta March 2017

Mt. Shasta March 2017

For snow riders this came in the form of back to back powder days and over the head snow that revitalized the spirit of California’s skiers and snowboarders. We’ll be talking about this one for awhile, both the quality of snow conditions and amount of shoveling this year!

Backcountry snowboarding Mt. Shasta, CA

Backcountry snowboarding Mt. Shasta, CA

The Cascade Range which Mt. Shasta flanks the southern end is dependant upon our winter snowpack for optimal spring and summer climbing. The winter of 2017 finds us over 150% of normal so far and we’re not done yet. Translation; this will be an excellent year to explore Mt. Shasta on skis, crampons, boots, or boards.

Ski touring Avalanche Gulch Mt. Shasta

Ski touring Avalanche Gulch Mt. Shasta

It’s a guarantee that we will have a deep consolidated snowpack and will enjoy exceptional climbing and skiing for the entire summer. This winter has been a welcome relief for many craving snow and stormy weather.

This short video attempts to capture one of our highlights of winter travel; being on Mt. Shasta after a clearing storm. It is truly breathtaking and a beautiful landscape. We invite you to visit and experience your own adventure on North America’s most sacred peak.

The climbing season is quickly approaching and it’s time to kick your training and preparation into high gear. Are you interested in climbing Mt. Shasta? This is the year and the time is now! Let us help you have the experience of a lifetime!

Casaval Ridge Mt.Shasta, CA ph: F. Coots

Casaval Ridge Mt.Shasta, CA ph: F. Coots

There are a couple trips coming up that will be excellent with this year’s deep snowpack. Our 4 day Ski Mountaineering Seminar has lofty goals of making a ski descent of both Mt. Shasta and Shastina. It’s going to be awesome! The ever classic Casaval Ridge ascent will be in prime shape this season, we have dates confirmed for this alpine route. April and May will be best for both the ridges and ski descents.

It’s going to be a long season on Mt. Shasta and we anticipate most routes will be optimal all summer long. Get in touch and let us share the beauty and thrill of a Mt. Shasta adventure!

-Chris C.

Mt. Shasta Conditions Report and Winter Update

To say that we have received a lot of snow this season is a vast understatement. January alone is 197% of normal so far. California has been absolutely clobbered; Shasta, Tahoe, and Mammoth all received epic amounts of snow which has guaranteed a great ski season and full reservoirs. The snowpack on Mt. Shasta at 7,600′ is measuring close to 10′ and yes, another storm is headed our way this week.

Mt. Shasta West Face January 2017

Mt. Shasta West Face January 2017

A series of potent and wet storms came in with fluctuating snow levels. Fortunately, it all fell as snow above 7,500′ and it’s safe to assume that the upper slopes of Mt. Shasta received over 8′ of snowfall this week. After the warm system on Wednesday, the temps dropped and we received another 2 feet of colder snow to deliver excellent powder skiing conditions.

Mt. Shasta backcountry skiing

Mt. Shasta backcountry skiing

We finally had a break in the weather and fantastic high pressure sunny skies for the weekend as Mt. Shasta is holding excellent skiing from the chairlifts at The Mt. Shasta Ski Park to the earned turns in the Mt. Shasta Backcountry. It has been beautiful with all the winter weather and sky-high ski stoke here in far northern California.

Mt. Shasta backcountry skiers

Mt. Shasta backcountry skiers

A deep winter snowpack and regular storms not only benefit the powder skier, but these storms will ensure that the climbing, ski mountaineering, and backpacking trips will have excellent conditions. Without question, Mt. Shasta will be primed for outdoor recreation all year long.

Mt. Shasta West Face and Casaval Ridge 2017

Mt. Shasta West Face and Casaval Ridge 2017

With the abundant snow conditions and growing interest in backcountry skiing; our guides have been busy teaching Avalanche Courses and leading ski tours this winter. Dane Brinkley has been showing guests the charm and unique terrain from the Beyond the Boundaries program hosted with the Mt. Shasta Ski Park. Nick Caselli is our resident split-board guide and ready to share his expertise with snowboarders getting into the backcountry.

Earning a long run on Mt. Shasta

Earning a long run on Mt. Shasta

Backcountry Skiing Mt. Shasta, CA

Backcountry Skiing Mt. Shasta, CA

We’ve been working in partnership with our local Mt. Shasta Avalanche Center this season and are hosting the free monthly Avalanche Awareness presentations at our downtown shop. It’s been a full turnout this year and it’s great to see so many enthusiastic for learning. February 3rd is the next date. Nick Meyers is the Lead Avalanche Forecaster and Climbing Ranger on Mt. Shasta and works tirelessly to educate the public, thanks Nick! I always enjoy the opportunity to tour with Nick and observe him in action. Not a bad office:

Nick Meyers

Nick Meyers Lead Avalanche Forecaster

We are entering into one of the most exciting weeks of our winter season. Not only is there another storm coming with 1-2′ of snow expected, but there is a great weekend of activities planned for the backcountry enthusiast.

Mt. Shasta Ascension Race

Mt. Shasta Ascension Race

Mt. Shasta Snowball!

Mt. Shasta Snowball!

Saturday there will be the annual Mt. Shasta Ascension Backcountry Ski Race, free demo day at the Mt. Shasta Ski Park, and Shasta Mountain Guides is offering a free Intro to Backcountry Ski tour. To top it off, Saturday night is the highly anticipated 15th Annual Mt. Shasta Snowball. I’m tired just writing all that, hope to see you here, it’s going to be a blast!

The winter is still early and we have a solid base to guarantee an excellent season. As guides we are a local resource available to answer your specific questions and are happy to share our daily observations. Please be safe out there and always remember to check the daily avalanche advisory:

Mt. Shasta Avalanche Advisory.

Have fun and see you on the mountain!

Mt. Shasta Backcountry Report

It’s November and late fall and early winter can be extremely variable on a Cascade Volcano. At least for us, it has been remarkable in the high quality conditions for ski and splitboard touring. Mt. Shasta received nearly 400% of precipitation (about 12″ of water) for October and with some November storms, our pack is currently measuring 4-6′ above treeline.

Broadway ski tour Mt. Shasta, CA

Broadway ski tour Mt. Shasta, CA

November ushered in our first true powder days of the new season. Ryan Ghelfi, SMG guide and professional runner inspired a dawn patrol ski tour that delivered an all-time powder day on Mt. Shasta. The early storms were warm and created a dense, smooth base. The final storms were much colder with snow levels down to 5,000′ and dropped 16″ of pow, still undisturbed by the wind. We scored!

Green Butte ridge Mt. Shasta, CA

Ryan scores first powder tuns of the new season

We both were amazed at the quality of the snow. The overall depth is still relatively shallow but the dense structure made for mid-winter conditions.

Mt. Shasta backcountrty powder skiing

Mt. Shasta backcountry powder skiing

Our last precip event was last night (11/11) and otherwise it has been a mild and sunny weather pattern. The fair weather and dense snow has created seriously smooth corn conditions between 8-11,000′ and excellent skiing. Although this changes rapidly.

November powder skiing Mt. Shasta, CA

November powder skiing Mt. Shasta, CA

The mild temps have receded the snow level and it’s necessary to walk about 10-15 minutes before being able to skin-up. The approach to treeline and back down is shallow; caution advised to minimize damage to equipment and self. However, the rewards are worth the effort and above 8,200′ is excellent. We have a smooth, consolidated snow pack and with proper timing and aspect awesome skiing and riding conditions can be found.

Taking snow depth measurements while touring to Lake Helen

Taking snow depth measurements while touring to Lake Helen

I’ve seen a surprising number of visiting skiers and climbers and it’s fun to welcome everyone to our area. It has been amazingly beautiful with fall colors, the low sun creates a glowing effect with the snowcapped Mt. Shasta standing majestically over town, and truly epic sun and clouds lately. We are so grateful to live here and share this experience with friends.

It looks like we’ll see some more precipitation next week and long term forecasts are calling for wet ending to November. Once we have 4-5′ of snow at Bunny Flat we will start leading ski tours. We are super excited about the jump start to our season and hope that this is a bountiful winter for all.

Early morning ski tour Green Butte Mt. Shasta, CA

Early morning ski tour Green Butte Mt. Shasta, CA

How much snow did Mt. Shasta receive?

Enough to enjoy the best, earliest, mid winter powder day we’ve ever experienced!

Mt. Shasta Avalanche Gulch 10.18.16

Mt. Shasta Avalanche Gulch 10.18.16

Enough to cover the bare volcanic slopes with a mid winter snow surface. The recent Pineapple Express/Atmospheric River delivered between 4-6″ of water and above 8,500′ or so that all fell as snow and it is glorious!

Ski Avalanche Gulch Mt. Shasta 10.18.16

Ski Avalanche Gulch Mt. Shasta 10.18.16

With confidance in the snow pack and ideal structure (dense to light) the skin up and the ski down were excellent with no concern of hitting obstacles and buried boulders, amazing for mid October!

Mt. Shasta Avalanche Gulch 10.18.16

Mt. Shasta Avalanche Gulch 10.18.16

My highpoint was Lake Helen 10,400′ and snow depths measured between 5-7′ with an uneven distribution. There were plenty of wide open slopes that offered full coverage and a supportive base (ski pen was only 5-15cm) but also areas that were scoured by the ever present winds. Snow coverage below treeline was significantly less and may not last through the upcoming warm temps (70* by Friday)

Mt. Shasta Avalanche Gulch 8,000'

Mt. Shasta Avalanche Gulch 8,000′

I was actually quite shocked at the depth and quality of the snow. This was the earliest I’ve ever skied with such excelllent conditions but I’m not making any predictions on what the rest of the winter will bring. We’ll just take it day by day and enjoy the rare early season powder introduction and hope the winter continues with this trend.

Stay tuned for more updates and details from us here at SMG. We are thrilled at the prospect of early season skiing and buliding our snowpack and filling our reservoirs with an abundant winter! Be safe and enjoy the backcountry, Happy Halloween!

Mt. Shasta summer photos and update

It’s suddenly August and the summer has been scorching! Mt. Shasta has been the place to beat the heat with alpine climbing, hiking, backpacking, and cooling off in high mountain lakes and rivers. We have had an amazing season and we want to update on current conditions and share some great photos from our guests and guides.

Rocking the summit Joey, Marcus and JC

Rocking the summit Joey, Marcus and JC

Currently the north side is holding the best conditions. The home of California’s largest glaciers, this aspect is the perfect destination for a mid-late summer climb. As the summer progresses the snow melts and the surface becomes sun-cupped, textured, and icy; increasing the challenge and hazards. Due to melting snow and increased rock fall we have ceased guiding the south side (Avalanche Gulch, West Face Gully) climbing routes.

Climbing Hotlum-Bolam Ridge Mt. Shasta

Climbing Hotlum-Bolam Ridge Mt. Shasta  photo Adam Z.

Now that the season is slowing down we have time to reflect on what an incredible year 2016 has been. We started with a bountiful winter and spring that delivered a deep snowpack to Mt. Shasta and created the best climbing conditions we’ve seen in years.

Mt. Shasta, CA summer powder skiing

Mt. Shasta, CA summer powder skiing  photo: Peter G.

This was enhanced by a summer snow storm that delivered a couple feet of new snow in June and extended the season a few weeks for good skiing and climbing.

Mt. Shasta, CA summit plateau

Mt. Shasta, CA summit plateau  photo Cobi K.

One of the highlights of our work is the amazing people we get to meet and share adventures with. The fact that we get to do this on Mt. Shasta, a Cascade gem and peak admired across the globe is the icing on the cake. Thanks to all of our guests this year and our crew of the “best guides on the planet.”

Stoked on Shasta!

Stoked on Shasta!  photo Mike W.

We still have about a month remaining and will be climbing on the Hotlum Glacier and Hotlum-Bolam Ridge. These glacier climbs are a great introduction to more technical climbing and will hold good conditions through September.

Guides camp on the river, planning the next mission

Riverside basecamp planning the next mission

As mentioned above our highlight is our people, both guests and guides. Thanks to our crew for an amazing season thus far, you all absoluteley rock it safely, professionally, and in good style. Here’s looking forward to the final trips of 2016 and personal adventures ahead!

Breast Cancer Fund Climb Update

Check out the story map of the Breast Cancer Funds climb of the West Face so far this morning. All climbers are between 11-12,000 ft and continuing up. Mild temperatures and light winds are making for a great morning of climbing.

BCF Map Journal

Climb Against the Odds Mt Shasta 2016

Climb teams are assembling at Bunny Flat this morning to begin the Breast Cancer Fund’s Climb Against the Odds – Mt. Shasta 2016. 17 climbers, survivors, and supporters who’s lives have been affected by the disease will attempt to summit Mt. Shasta via the West Face route.

These amazing men and women have trained and fundraised over the past year to help further the mission of the Breast Cancer Fund to identify and eliminate the environmental and preventable causes of Breast Cancer. We are grateful to each and every one of them for their commitment and generosity. You can follow the progress of the teams as they make their way to base camp today(June 21st) and up the mountain tomorrow (June 22nd) on the map posted here courtesy of Firewhat. Firewhat integrates Delorme and Spot satellite tracking devices with Esri ArcGIS Server to create a customizable live map view of teams in the field.

Follow the teams here

For more information please visit Firewhat

And for more details as the climb progresses visit the Breast Cancer Fund blog Prevention Starts Here

Good luck, climb safe, and have a great adventure. Thanks for watching!