Mt. Shasta spring update and conditions report

It’s early spring on Mt. Shasta and this can mean many things. The sun may shine above a bank of clouds or we may be engulfed in a sea of fog. The weather may be mild and skiing sublime, or a winter-like storm with snow falling to town level. This is exactly what we have this week on Mt. Shasta, every day bringing changing weather and a variety of conditions.

Skiing Casaval Ridge Mt. Shasta, CA

Styles Larsen skiing Casaval Ridge Mt. Shasta, CA April 2016

We’ve seen mild temps with high freezing and snow levels, the skiing and climbing have been variable with good conditions found in the right places. That will change as a cold front approaches and looks to drop 6-12″ of new snow by Thursday 4/14. In other words, a spring powder day and chance to savor winter’s chilly winds and fresh snow. The front will quickly pass and be replaced by high pressure and above average temps by the weekend 4/16.

Sean Malee skis Powder Bowl, Mt. Shasta April 2016

Sean Malee skis Powder Bowl, Mt. Shasta April 2016

This is a fairly typical spring pattern with mild weather interrupted by short storms and moderate amounts of precipitation. Our first summit trip is planned on Casaval Ridge 4/15-17. With all the snow this year, this route is once again in excellent condition. Casaval requires a deep snowpack for best climbing and Mt. Shasta is well above average. We were scouting and skiing the lower route this week and found good snow and fun conditions.

Casaval Ridge Mt. Shasta, CA

Casaval Ridge Mt. Shasta, CA

This year’s snowpack is ideal for all the climbing and skiing routes on Mt. Shasta. Each will have it’s optimal window of best conditions with a long season anticipated. We’re gearing up and can’t wait to see our crew back for the upcoming climbing season. Our guide staff is what makes the experience with Shasta Mountain Guides unique. They are  genuinely committed to helping you achieve your goal while having a good time doing it.

Basecamp Hidden Valley Mt. Shasta, CA

Senior staff Rich Meyer, Eric Layton, Pat Bush at Hidden Valley Mt. Shasta, CA

As locals, we cherish not only the mountain but the surrounding area and are blessed with all manner of raw natural beauty. Wherever your interest lies for outdoor recreation, the Mt. Shasta area is abundant with quality experiences for all levels of adventure. We invite you to Far Northern California; Mt. Shasta will surprise you with accessible terrain for all.

Come visit our shop and store front at 230 N. Mt. Shasta Blvd. We’re adding products and will be hosting full time open hours this spring and summer. See you on Mt. Shasta!

Mt. Shasta post monsoon report and storm update

It was a wet and wild week in the north state; rain poured, snow raged and accumulated in impressive amounts. We received 8-10″ of rain and likely over 10′ of new snow above 7,000′ on Mt. Shasta. When I sunk my 8′ snow probe into the pack I was not able to reach the old layer at 9,000′.

Ski touring Broadway, Mt. Shasta, CA

Ski touring Broadway, Mt. Shasta, CA

Currently we’re measuring 175″ at 7,600′; that’s almost 15 FEET of snow on lower Mt. Shasta! Yes, the spring and summer will be spectacular! Snow levels jumped around but generally were above 5,000′ for much of the storm cycles. The weather station reported periods of snowfall of 3″ per hour which is intense snow accumulation.

This is what skiing looked like during the storm Saturday when every turn on the 8,000′ Gray Butte produced blinding face shots. The Swedes drove 2,000 miles on a powder pilgramage and scored on Mt. Shasta. Thanks Joakim for the video and stoke, great to ski with you all!

It’s easy to be excited as climbers and skiers but in the bigger picture we are truly grateful. Shasta Lake, just down the road from us and California’s largest reservoir reached 79 percent capacity — and 108 percent of its historic average — on Monday. With a couple more storms and a healthy spring runoff it may actually be full as we approach summer, something that hasn’t happened in 4 years and a big thumbs up for the fish, farmers, and fire fighters.

Skiing uphill is fun!

Skiing uphill is fun!

The latest series of storms has cleared and the mountain started to poke out from behind the curtains of clouds. Amazingly, the snow consolidated and we enjoyed excellent ski conditions up to about 9,000′ before wind and poor visibility sent us back down to the trees. It looks like today (3/15) will be the first clear weather and mild temps before the next wave of precipitation approachs this weekend. Blue skies and mild temps on tap for the rest of the week.

As always check the Mt. Shasta Avalanche Advisory and get ready for a prolonged ski season on Mt. Shasta!

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Upcoming 

April 22-25 Ski Mountaineering Seminar

Mt. Shasta Winter Backcountry Report

Winter 2016 has delivered on the hope of an abundant snowpack on Mt. Shasta. Storms were consistant in December and January and basically shut off in February with record warm days. Currently our snowpack is 90% of normal and 130% of normal for water, measuring about 116″ at 7,600′. With the outlook of a very wet March, this will only guarantee the prospect of an epic spring and summer on Mt. Shasta. Climbers and skiers are rejoicing!

Mt. Shasta 2016 ph: J.W.

Mt. Shasta 2016 ph: J.W.

The storm track looks to return and the hype is building to a proclamation of massive amounts of water headed to nearly all of California. The QPF totals keep increasing and as of now, the current prediction is anywhere from 6-12″ of water. This can translate to well over 10′ of snow across the Sierra crest and the southern Volcanoes. All we can say is Bring it On!

Backcountry skiing Shasta-Trinity National Forest

Backcountry skiing Shasta-Trinity National Forest

While we wait, we prep our bodies and gear and reflect on what a great winter it has been thus far. The powder has been enjoyed at all the old local zones once again. The spell of high pressure created enjoyable days on the mountain, seeking corn snow and even summits for the enthusiastic. Tall snow banks greet visitors at most trailheads and we anticipate snow to linger well into the summer months.

Backcountry skiing Shasta-Trinity National Forest

Backcountry skiing Shasta-Trinity National Forest

Ski touring is perfect training for the upcoming mountaineering season on Mt. Shasta. Climbing the Cascade Volcanoes is greatly enhanced with a deep snowpack and we’re eager for what will be an excellent summit season on the mountain.

Climbing Avalanche Gulch Mt. Shasta, CA

Climbing Avalanche Gulch Mt. Shasta, CA

We’re excited for what the next week will bring. The storm total mania has us hoping for the upper limit of the forecast and plotting powder days to come. With storms of this magnitude, be sure to check weather updates and warnings and of course the daily avalanche advisory from the Mt. Shasta Avalanche Center. Be safe in the backcountry and we’ll see you on the mountain!

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Upcoming Events:

March 5th: Film showing of Dream Line to benefit Mt. Shasta Avalanche Center

March 8: REI Berkeley Mt. Shasta climbing presentation by Chris Carr

March 9: REI San Francisco Mt. Shasta climbing presentation by Chris Carr

 

Mt. Shasta and the art of skiing corn

Winter in Northern California can be hard to define. It could serve up a severe winter storm with cold, blustery deep snow; or you may be slipping into flip flops under bright sunshine after enjoying a pleasant ski tour. Both can be equally enjoyable and one of the highlights of living and playing in and around Mt. Shasta.

We are currently in our mid winter break and seeing dry conditions and above average temps. Although we’re enjoying the spring like weather, it’s hard not to question when we will see a return to winter and regular storm systems. In 2011, the last big el nino year, we had 18 consecutive days of mild, dry conditions. This current pattern is not unusual and there is serious talk of a very wet and wild March. So best to enjoy the sun, tune up your gear, and get ready for the next wave bound for California.

It’s been a pretty festive winter and lots of stoked skiers and boarders again in California. Mt. Shasta has been putting on a quite a show this year and local photographer and dedicated dawn patrol skier Mike Hupp has been mesmorizing us with his stunning photography.

Mike Hupp Dawn Patrol Imags

Mike Hupp Dawn Patrol Imags

We live for the winter storm advisories but if the sun decides to come out and the thermometer climbs up, we’ll take advantage of the break and explore the backcountry looking for corn snow rather than powder. We love powder and here is a great video of what ski mountaineering on Mt. Shasta looks like. Huge props to local student and future SMG guide Owen Stroud.

YouTube Preview Image

It can be said that corn skiing ranks a close second to pure powder as skier’s favorite. It’s hard to argue about powder’s superiority but like many things lusted after; its opportunities are more limited and temporary on a 14,000’ Cascade volcano. What Mt. Shasta may lack in consistent powder days, we certainly make up for with what’s been described as “the best corn on the planet…”

Sean Malee surfs the magic carpet of perfect Mt. Shasta corn snow

Sean Malee surfs the magic carpet of perfect Mt. Shasta corn snow

If you’re unfamiliar; corn snow is the product of a high water content, melt-freeze cycled, snowpack. As the pack metamorphosizes, it consolidates into a singular, cohesive unit that freezes hard at night and the top 2-3 inches melts during the day to create a magic carpet surface that is pure fun to ski and board. Corn snow is often combined with a lower (not eliminated) avalanche hazard and milder temps. Couple this with cold drinks stashed in the snowberm at the trailhead and a pair of the above mentioned flip flops and that adds up to a pretty fine day in the backcountry.

Backcountry skiing Mt. Shasta, CA

Backcountry skiing Mt. Shasta, CA

With an El Nino like we are experiencing, there is no question there will be many prime corn skiing days this season on Mt. Shasta. We are currently well above normal for both snowpack and water content, so we’re confidant the climbing and skiing will be in the optimal range this year.

There is still plenty of winter remaining and if forecasts are true we could get back to wet weather possibly by next week. There will be a fun event March 5th as a film showing of Dream Line to support the Mt. Shasta Avalanche Center. Swedish Filmaker Bjarne Salen has recently relocated to Mt. Shasta and judging by his Instagram he is getting after it and enjoying his new backyard playground. Welcome Bjarne, we look forward to seeing the film!

Have a great holiday weekend and stay safe in the backcountry!

Mt. Shasta This Weekend!

The big news is the pineapple express aka atmospheric river headed our way. Two back to back plumes of moisture will bring several inches of water to Northern California. Snow levels start high but could be below town by Sunday morning.  The trailhead at Bunny Flat will see snow and we’ll be measuring multiple feet by the time we’re done; and there’s more next week, stay tuned…

Good time to launch our first course of 2016 with our AIARE Level I Avalanche Seminar starting tomorrow, Friday January 29. David Reichel and Dane Brinkley will be leading the training and sharing their skills and experience.

Nick Meyers lead Avalanche Forecaster performs stability tests on Mt. Shasta

Nick Meyers Lead Forecaster at the Mt. Shasta Avalanche Center performs snow stability tests on Mt. Shasta

Along with all this winter weather magic is another weekend full of fun activities on the Mountain. Saturday January 30th Mt. Shasta Nordic will host the free Snowschool Workshop. 12-4:00pm at the Nordic Center. As guide partners with Winter Wildland’s Alliance, this will be a great way to introduce our youth to the backcountry.

The Mt. Shasta Ski Park is celebrating 30 years on Saturday with a full day of fun events lined up. Live music, fireworks, and powder skiing Saturday, should be a blast! Congrats to the Ski Park for providing 30 years of fun to Mt. Shasta locals and visitors, it’s a true community asset!

Untracked in the Mt. Shasta Backcountry

Untracked in the Mt. Shasta Backcountry

It’s been a wonderful winter thus far in Northern California, the skiing has been consistantly fun and fresh and the growing depths of our snowpack is ensuring an awesome climbing and ski mountaineering season on Mt. Shasta. Check in if you’re headed this way, we love sharing what we do!

Mt. Shasta upcoming events and news

Mt. Shasta has been on the receiving end of non stop storm cycles and the latest report from the NWS is continued winter weather for the next 4 weeks! The local excitement and powder frenzy has been off the charts and we are all thrilled to be making up for the last several years of drought. Currently there is over 100″ of snow at the Ski Bowl weather station and 72″ at the Mt. Shasta Ski Park.

Our current water total for 2016 is 171% of normal and snowpack about 134% The effects of the El Nino weather pattern are just starting to appear. Although the last storm was warmer with higher snow levels, this ultimately is great for our snowpack and water content. The warmer snow will consolidate potential weak layers and will help our spring and summer climbing season with epic conditions. The next storm arrives today (1/19) and will deliver abother 6-12″ of new snow and lower snow levels. If you’ve been waiting to visit Mt. Shasta, this will be the year with such a robust snow pack.

Mt. Shasta Snowball

Mt. Shasta Snowball

All of this favorable winter weather is perfect for the upcoming week as the Friends of the Mt. Shasta Avalanche Center host the annual Snow Ball  and Mt. Shasta Ascension Race. This is one of the best parties of the year and with all of the good vibes it will certainly be a high energy event. We invite you up for some great skiing and good times with friends.

A new addition to this year’s event is a demo day and free intro to backcountry ski tour hosted by The Fifth Season and Shasta Mountain Guides. This year, The Fifth Season, our local gear store, invested in an all new fleet of the highest quality touring equipment for rent and demo. DPS, Volkl, Blizzard, Haagen, G3, K2, will all be available to try before you buy. We will be leading a free ski tour open to the first 12 to sign up. Call or email for details.

With all the weather this year, now is the time to take the avalanche seminar you’ve been wanting to complete. A prerequisite for backcountry skiers, snowboarders, ice climbers, and winter enthusiasts to travel informed in the backcountry. We are holding an AIARE Level I Seminar January 29-31. Led by David Reichel and Dane Brinkley, this will undoubtedly be ideal conditions to learn about safe winter travel in avalanche terrain.

It looks like there will be little break in the storms in the near future. Keep an eye on the weather and check the daily avalanche forecast. Stay safe out there and enjoy the backcountry, these are the good ‘ol days we’ll be talking about!

Mt. Shasta early winter conditions report

There is a distinct air of sheer stoke (and a bit of relief) on and around Mt. Shasta. A steady stream of winter storms has returned snow to California and the ever strengthening el nino weather pattern is poised to continue drenching the state in much needed precipitation. This has brought great joy to locals and visitors as recent backcountry ski conditions have been an all-time great.

Mt. Shasta, CA December 2015

Mt. Shasta, CA December 2015

We currently have close to 5′ of snow at the Old Ski Bowl weather station at 7,600′ on Mt. Shasta. The Mt. Shasta Ski Park is reporting 59″ and the best holiday conditions in years. It has been a fun filled few weeks and forecasts indicate a very wet January ahead. We’ve seen regular snow fall from 3-12″ which is making for very happy skiers and boarders.

Backcountry skiing on Mt. Shasta has been excellent

Backcountry skiing on Mt. Shasta has been excellent

We hosted our first group of the season when Tim came for a winter seminar with his 2 sons. They arrived just ahead of a winter storm that dumped over a foot of snow on their tents. They made the best of the conditions and enjoyed their first backcountry powder skiing adventure.

Top of Broadway; Mt. Shasta

Top of Broadway; Mt. Shasta

For the climbers, the conditions are very dificult for a summit climb. Deep, unconsolodated snow makes for slow going and severe postholing. High winds and very cold temps recently pose a serious concern for fostbite and cold related complications. Along with white out and avalanche hazard, a winter ascent should only be considered for the prepared and experienced. Don’t forget to check the Mt. Shasta Avalanche Center for the daily Avalanche Bulletin.

Backcountry skiing Mt. Shasta's lower slopes

Backcountry skiing Mt. Shasta’s lower slopes

We are scheduling day ski tours, overnight winter camps, avalanche seminars, and more this season. With a healthy snowpack once again, it’s going to be an awesome winter on Mt. Shasta; and a normal snowpack will mean excellent climbing in 2016. Plan your trip now!

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Upcoming Events

January 8-9 Avalanche Awareness and companian rescue course. Free

January 23 Snowball Annual fundraiser for the Mt. Shasta Avalanche Center

Mt. Shasta update and outlook for 2016

Fall in Northern California has arrived. Leaves are changing and a crisp chill greets us in the morning. We love the newness and the absolute thrill of what a new season will bring. There is endless discussion of a strong El Niño this year, this historically brings significant snow fall to Mt. Shasta, but there is still some uncertainty. We will remain patiently optomistic and be happy with whatever comes our way.

We have completed our climbing season for 2015. Sincere thanks to all those who joined us this year and most especially to our staff of guides. We had great fun and are truly grateful to all who participated in 2015. We look forward to carrying the momentum into the new year and the possibility of a big winter on Mt. Shasta!

Climbing the Hotlum-Bolam Ridge Mt. Shasta ph: MG

Climbing the Hotlum-Bolam Ridge Mt. Shasta    ph: M.S.

We are still getting many inquiries about climbing Mt. Shasta this year. Currently (October 2015) all routes are in overall poor condition and we are not recommending summit climbs on Mt. Shasta at this time. The chance for unfavorable weather is increasing and days are getting short and cold on the upper mountain; route hazards are increased with the poor conditions. We recommend waiting until next season when climbing and and the snowpack are far more favorable. We have published our scheduled climb dates here: SMG Summit Climbs.

Climbing the Hotlum-Bolam Ridge Mt. Shasta. CA ph: C.L.

Climbing the Hotlum-Bolam Ridge Mt. Shasta, CA    photo: C.L.

Our last summit climbs were on the Hotlum-Bolam and Clear Creek Routes on Mt. Shasta. Although the glaciers hold permanent snow, it becomes quite icy and more difficult to climb. Our teams climbed strong and reached the summit after a challenging ascent, a great way to finish up on Mt. Shasta. Congratulations to all our climbers this year, this is the highlight for us, sharing this experience with you all!

Mt. Hubris Castle Crags, CA

Mt. Hubris Castle Crags, CA

Although summit conditions are not favorable, there is still plenty to do and enjoy in Siskiyou County and the north state. Castle Crags State Park is a granite pluton that holds some unique gems; including the Cosmic Wall which some have called the “best 5.6 in California”. The hiking and backpacking are exceptional with the cooler temps. Road and mountain biking is great cross training for the upcoming ski season, and trail running too as the local trails are in great shape with some light rain recently.

We’re all enjoying the fall in various ways while we wait for the snows of winter. Eric just guided a backcounty snowboard trip to Chile to ride the Patagonia Volcanoes. Dave is recently back from the Alps and heads to the Mexico Volcanoes soon. Many of the guides have been checking off objectives from their personal tick list in the Sierra, Winds, Tetons, and beyond. Fall is perfect time for new adventures and challenges while we wait for the return of snow to Mt. Shasta. Until then, keep the tips up, rubber side down, and preseason stoke fired up. We can’t wait to see you back on the mountain!

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Upcoming Events

October 17th. California Avalanche Workshop. This will be a good way to tune up for the upcoming winter and hear the latest from the California Avalanche Centers and guest speakers.

January 29-31. AIARE Level I Course Mt. Shasta.

 

Mt. Shasta late summer update

Only a few weeks remaining in our 2015 climbing season. There are still good conditions to be found on the north side glaciers. And for those looking for a non-technical ascent, the Clear Creek route is always an option.

Mt. Shasta is known for it’s alpine beauty and unusual cloud formations that appear. Lenticular clouds in particular often make stunning vistas and are frequent in the fall and winter. We’ve seen plenty of photos of a shrouded Mt. Shasta; here’s Mike Whitman’s view from a summit climb that pushed through the clouds.

Inside a lenticular cloud Mt. Shasta  ph: M. Whitman

Inside a lenticular cloud Mt. Shasta ph: M. Whitman

As we move later into the year, the snow from the previous winter is primarily melted. The glacier surface becomes extremely textured and sun cupped. There may be sections of exposed ice which require careful crampon technique and belayed sections of the route. Best options are the Hotlum-Bolam and Hotlum-Wintun. The south and west side of Mt. Shasta have very little snow and are not recommended due to rock fall hazard and poor climbing conditions.

Mt. Shasta Hotlum-Bolam from basecamp  ph: A. Zok

Mt. Shasta Hotlum-Bolam from basecamp

At this time of year, we recommend our Glacier I and II courses. These are 4 and 5 day seminars which allow time for thorough skills training, practice, and acclimation in order to tackle the late season conditions. For a less technical option and summit climb Clear Creek is possible as well. This will be primarily rock and scree hiking and scrambling on open volcanic slopes.

Hotlum Hilton 10,200' Mt. Shasta

Hotlum Hilton 10,200′ Mt. Shasta

As the season on Mt. Shasta winds down, there is the eager anticipation of the next adventure. Rich Meyer heads to Chile to lead a ski touring trip in Northern Patagonia. The timing looks awesome as Chile has been receiving multiple feet of snow this week! Dave Miller will be guiding alpine climbs in the Alps, then heads to the Mexico Volcanoes in November, this is a great intro to high altitude mountaineering on Pico de Orizaba. Many of the guides head to the Eastern Sierra for alpine rock and other destinations to get some personal climbing and hone their skills.

While we may spend the shoulder season chasing adventures, we are still hopeful that the forecast for a significant El Nino brings major snows back to Mt. Shasta. The last big El Nino years delivered dizzying amounts of snow, we can only dream that we see this return to winter once again!

Mt. Shasta Summer Climbing Report

It’s been a summer of fun and adventure here on Mt. Shasta. We’ve been going strong and escaping the heat by retreating to the snowy slopes and glaciers of the upper mountain. The forecast has been somewhat consistent, warm temps with a slight chance of afternoon thuderstorms. We’ve been fortunate that the heat induced lightening has been accompanied with some precipitation, our air is clear and the views sublime. Our climbers even experienced new snow falling in July last week on Misery Hill!

The view from camp.  ph: jcizzler

The view from camp. ph: jcizzler

Avalanche Gulch has decent snow cover above 9,500′ but the Red Banks are melting fast. This will be our final week on these climbs before moving to alternate aspects on the mountain. Clear Creek will be the best choice for new climbers and the north side for our Glacier Seminars and advanced summit climbs.

Starting the Mt. Shasta Climb

Starting the Mt. Shasta Climb

We’ve been in summer peak climbing season and want to reflect on some highlights from the last couple weeks. The Annual Climb Against the Odds was once again a huge sucess. Climbers from across the country met in Mt. Shasta and completed their goal of raising money for cancer prevention for the Breast Cancer Fund while challenging themselves on the rugged beauty of Mt. Shasta’s West Face. Lots of smiles and tears highlight this climb and this year was no different. We were fortunate to have near perfect weather and mild temps even on the summit. Thanks to all the climbers and supporters for a magical experience!

Pat Bush leads his team on the West Face

Pat Bush leads his team on the West Face.  ph: D. Miller

Climb Against the Odds Mt. Shast

Climb Against the Odds Mt. Shasta

The other big news is the opening of our new downtown storefront location. After 34 years in business SMG moved to 230 North Mt. Shasta Blvd, our goal is to add visibility to our services, create new programs, and provide gathering spot for outdoor recreationists. Come by and check out our shop and gallery; we’ll be adding new products and photos, maps, information, and stoke to the main corner downtown, right across from our partners The Fifth Season!

Shasta Mountain Guides storefront 230 North Mt. Shasta Blv

Shasta Mountain Guides storefront
230 North Mt. Shasta Blvd

We’ll be adding posts and trip reports from our guides, including our advanced guide training happening now on the Hotlum Glacier. With the mild temps and retreating snow line, this is the time to explore the glaciers of Mt. Shasta. Our teams have been climbing the Hotlum Glacier and the Hotlum-Bolam Ridge and enjoying excellent summer volcano climbing. We expect ideal conditions through August and early September on the north side routes.

Ready to add glacier skills to your repertoire? Join us for our most popular trip, the Glacier I Seminar. This will be a hands on and skills based trip with a summit climb on the Hotlum-Bolam route, the place to be in the summer heat!