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

SMG Mt. Shasta Backcountry Conditions report 3.26.15

With new snow and cooler than normal temps there really was no choice but to head up the mountain and check on ski and avalanche conditions, cracked ribs or not!

Monday was a bit of a surprise to see stars in the morning so we left SMG HQ for a quick hike up the gulch. There are few vistas more inspiring than a newly frosted Mt. Shasta. The first round brought 8-10″ of new light density snow, perhaps a foot in places with gusty blowing winds above 9,000′

Mt. Shasta March 20115

Mt. Shasta March 2015

Another smaller system added a few more inches Tuesday with snow levels down to 5,000′. With clearing forecast for Wednesday and above normal temps coming this week, we decided to head back up before the sun and wind did any significant damage and enjoy the winter-like snow sliding.

Jen Carr skinning up the Gulch, good turns await!

Jen Carr skinning up the Gulch, good turns await!

Apparantly many others were thinking the same, I was somewhat surprised to see so many people out climbing and skiing mid week so early in the season. There were multiple groups of visiting skiers and riders and it’s fun to be out with so many stoked backcountry shredders! Mt. Shasta has been a focal point for West Coast backcountry skiing and this will only increase this Spring as resorts continue to close early for the 2015 season.

We are somewhat concerened for wet slide activity as the temps climb today and this week. Last week’s storms produced some good size wet slides. We now have additional snow and with the observed winds this week, the upper slopes of Casaval Ridge and the Trinity Chutes will certainly be loaded.

caswetslide

Wet slide avalanches March 2015 ph: BH

These slopes also receive the most solar input and we’re pretty confident we’ll see a repeat of wet slides from steep south east aspects. Heads up today (3.26) especially and into the weekend.

The USFS Mt. Shasta Avalanche Center issued a  midweek update on Monday afternoon. Stability tests indicated good bonding with the new snow at mid elevations. However, good timing and cautious route finding will be essential to minimize hazard from the forecasted warm temps this week. There may be some wind slabs which developed as well so heads up if venturing onto the upper mountain.

After a lackluster winter, it’s easy to let our guard down when the sun is shining and temps are mild, but lets not be complacent. We observed several red flag factors; new snow, wind transport, and now warming temps. Please be cautious out there!

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Upcoming Highlights

April 3-7 Denali Prep Course  (2 spaces available)

April 17-20 Mt. Shasta/Shastina Cascade 2 for 1. Bakcountry ski and snowboard seminar.

Mt. Shasta Backcountry Report 2.11.15

Attention skiers and winter enthusiasts; if you’re looking for your snow fix, Mt. Shasta is the place to be! It’s been a wet and wild week here with some of the heaviest precip ever recorded. We finished with almost 10″ of water falling in town and over 5+ feet of new snow above 8,500′ on the Mountain. Our snowpack is close to 120% of normal and the skiing and riding doesn’t get any better!

ski tracks and avalanche debris in Avalanche Gulch Mt. Shasta 2.10.15

ski tracks and avalanche debris in Avalanche Gulch Mt. Shasta 2.10.15

Although the snow levels fluctuated quite a bit, for the most part the precip fell as snow on Mt. Shasta except for Sunday which saw some very soggy skiers braving the wet conditions. Fortunately, it cooled off, the snow pack consolidated, and the storm finished with a cool topping for perfect ripping ski conditions. Snow sliders are estatic this week with excellent riding found on many aspects.

Jenn Carr earning her turns in Avalanche Gulch Mt. Shasta

Jenn Carr earning her turns in Avalanche Gulch Mt. Shasta

Tuesday morning (2.10.15), the sun broke out and displayed what we were all waiting for, a completely snow cloaked Mt. Shasta. We are thrilled because not only is the snow creating some epic backcountry skiing currently, but this last storm cycle has pretty much guaranteed that we will have excellent conditions this Spring and Summer for climbing and sliding.

Mt. Shasta backcountry skiing February 2015

Mt. Shasta backcountry skiing February 2015

The big concern with all this rapidly accumulating snow is the increased avalanche hazard. The Mt. Shasta Avalanche Center issued an Avalanche Watch this past weekend and we did observe some activity in Avalanche Gulch which likely occured during the peak of the storm. We did see some significant settling and consolodation, but I would still avoid runout zones and exposure to slopes above.

Our classroom for the Avalanche Seminar with Dane and Nick our fantastic instructors

The classroom for the Level I Avalanche Seminar with Dane and Nick our course instructors

 

We are in a break in the storms and this weekend is forecasted for nice weather and mild temps. This is excellent for our AIARE Level I Avalanche Seminar on Mt. Shasta and we invite you to join us if you have been putting it off. The conditions are perfect for the course and Mt. Shasta will be beautiful under all the Winter snow!

We’re hopefully getting back into storms next week. Be safe and have great fun, we hope to see you on the Mountain!

 

Mt. Shasta Backcountry Ski Report 1.14.15

Greetings from the Mountain! Although we’ve had a prolonged dry spell, Mt. Shasta is fully snow covered and still packing an adequate base for all winter adventures. A few passing showers and a small sytstem dropped a couple inches of snow recently. There was enough new precip to smooth out much of the surface, but not quite enough to satisfy the powder hounds. Nontheless, the mountain has been gorgeous with the fresh snow and blue skies.

Mt. Shasta Winter

Mt. Shasta Winter

The extended high pressure, certainly not uncommon in January in California can provide excellent winter recreation. We’ve enjoyed spring-like ski conditions and were able to lead a climb this weekend that put Jay B. on the summit on a trip out from Colorado. Congrats Jay and thanks to Joe Crawford for leading a successful climb! Nice one boys!

Jay crosses the plateau Mt. Shasta's summit in sight

Jay crosses the plateau; Mt. Shasta’s summit in sight

It looks like the next round of precip will be here later this week, just in time for our first AIARE Level I Avalanche Seminar. This should provide excellent course material and a refresh to the Mountain. Avalanche hazard has been low but can increase once new snow arrives. There is exactly one space remaining for this weekend’s seminar if anyone is interested.

Local Professional skier Forrest Coots has been finding great skiing on the upper mountain

Local Professional skier Forrest Coots has been finding great skiing on the upper mountain

For the adventurous, there has been some excellent climbing and sliding at the upper elevations. South and east aspects were holding sun warmed snow surfaces as well as a variety of other types of conditions. Gullies and depressions filled with some new and windblown snow to make for smooth and fun riding, you just have to poke around a bit for the best turns.

Dane stepping into a 4 mile ski run Avalanche Gulch

Dane stepping into a 4 mile ski run Avalanche Gulch

The extended high pressure has temporarlily closed the Mt. Shasta Ski Park and The Mt. Shasta Nordic Center. Normal operations will resume once snowfall returns, hopefully this weekend. Until then, we have one more day of high pressure before the next round of storms approach. Get out and enjoy the winter, the weather is beautiful and there’s some good skiing to be explored!

The 13th annual Snowball is coming January 24th, this important event for the Friends of the Mt. Shasta Avalanche Center is key to their operation. This will help fund and support the remote weather stations in the Shasta-Trinity backcountry with a new station installment planned for Ash Creek Butte.

Upcoming Events

AIARE Level I Avalanche Seminar

Ascension Uphill Ski Race

Snowball

Happy Spring Equinox from Mt. Shasta

Spring is here! And we have the great conditions to prove it! Buttery smooth corn, mild temps, light wind; Jenn called it hero snow. We enjoyed a nice afternoon tour up Avalanche Gulch to Casaval at 9,500′ for a perfect pitch of naturally groomed snow.  A beautiful ski tour and welcome to Spring!

Spring corn is popping

Spring corn is popping

The climbing and skiing conditions are excellent right now on many routes. It looks like we have a high pressure in place for at least another week. There is no question that we will see some more snow, until then we will enjoy the mild conditions. Joe Zuiches leads a summit climb this weekend. As long as we have good weather and snow conditions, the climbing and skiing are perfect.

Climbing Casaval Ridge

Climbing Casaval Ridge

Avalanche Gulch, Casaval Ridge, the West Face are all great options right now. At least until the next round of winter weather. Just because the calendar says Spring,  Mt. Shasta will see more stormy weather potentially through May and June. Long range forecasts are for wetter and cooler conditions.

Based on current snow depths, it looks like Mt. Shasta is about 4-6 weeks ahead of schedule. The best advice for a Shasta adventure this season is to plan early; April-May for the south side and June-July for north side routes.

We welcome the change of season, Mt. Shasta and the surrounding area is full of outdoor opportunities. We invite you to explore it and be ready to be amazed!

Mt. Shasta Conditions update

We have been spoiled with fantastic spring weather and conditions this season and sure enough Mother Nature reminded us that we can still expect winter storms, wind, and even snow at any time on Mt. Shasta. Our climbers and guides demonstrated true grit in some challenging conditions in the last couple weeks; persistance and hard work have paid off with some incredible memories, vistas, and hard won summits.

Above the clouds on Misery Hill

Above the clouds on Misery Hill

The climbing and skiing on Mt. Shasta has been nothing less than spectacular. The mountain was given a refresh with close to a foot of new snow last week. Smooth, consolidated climbing surfaces makes for great crampon conditions and epic skiing on many aspects. I had the opportunity to show some friends the unique and beautiful Konwakiton Glacier Ski descent, a hidden Shasta gem on the east side of the mountain. Great to ski with you CF and AT!

Mt. Shasta Konwakiton Glacier Ski Descent

Mt. Shasta Konwakiton Glacier Ski Descent

The women at She Jumps joined us in a climb with Summit For Someone. 7 hard charging ladies made it to the summit with Polly and Jen. Windy with variable snow added to the challenge, but everyone dug deep and made it to the top in great style, congrats team!

She Jumps on Mt. Shasta

She Jumps on Mt. Shasta

SMG High Camp

SMG High Camp

Over the years we have made many improvements in the menu that we serve on the mountain. Sourcing organic climbing meals with meat and vegetarian options has been our goal. It’s been successful based on the comments we’re getting from folks this year:

“Off the charts good!”

“Food was second to none!”

“I don’t eat that good at home”

It has been so much fun this spring and early summer with the ideal climbing and ski conditions. We’ve enjoyed excellent company and motivated climbers and guests. It looks like we are getting into an early summer weather pattern, mild days and cool nights are making this week and weekend look very good for a summit climb. Good luck in your next adventure!

Mt. Shasta Summit!

Mt. Shasta Summit!

Welcome Spring with great snow conditions!

Green Butte Ridge

Green Butte Ridge

It was a week to climb the ridges. With small systems bringing us regular snow fall, we had to carefully watch the forecast and gamble a bit on getting into the alpine zone. Patience paid off and the rewards were near perfect powder skiing! The key this week was relatively light winds at the mid elevations. This laid a smooth, even blanket of Cascade powder and made for the best turns of the season! Taking advantage of the new snow, I was able to try the new Black Diamond Amperages in their intended element and had some of the most fun ever sliding on snow. Modern gear and designs are increasing the fun factor immensely, check it out!

Casaval Ridge on 3.23.12

Casaval Ridge on 3.23.12

As we would expect this season, Mother Nature completely disregarded the change to Spring and brought cool temps and snow to the mountain this week. We’re close to about 60% of normal for the snowpack this year. With another Winter storm advisory today, the hopes are for a continued wet pattern for the Spring. We’re encouraged by these conditions and are looking forward to a fun, and perhaps earlier climbing season.

We’ve had a great week of ski touring and Avalanche Courses. Rich and Dane completed our final AIARE Level I and Chris finished up a Level I with the Lassen National Park Ski Patrol. With regular new snow fall, it made for excellent conditions for the class and estatic skiers in the backcountry.

Casaval Ridge

Casaval Ridge

 

Thoughts are slowly starting to think of summit climbs and descents from the upper mountain. We’re still in a winter weather pattern and may focus on the skiing the mid and lower mountain  for a few more weeks. Until then; Casaval, Green Butte, the Middle Moraines, etc. are all holding some of the best conditions of the season. Call or email for details!

Climb Report June 16

It was a long wait, but ultimately worth it.  For when the sun broke through the clouds, the snowfall ceased, and the thermometer creeped upwards to much more reasonable seasonal temps; the climbing and skiing conditions ripened into those once-in-a-lifetime days that we dream about.

Buttery smooth snow, low to no avalanche hazard, perfect styrofoam crampon conditions. Snow covered rocks and glazed over glaciers.  This is the Shasta we wish for.

Conditions so good that our crew of seasoned professionals is spending their free time exploring and recreating on Shasta’s pristine slopes on their days off.  Enjoy some of their adventures:

 

Cascade Gulch Mt. Shasta

SMG Guides ski above Hidden Valley

The coverage and snow quality doesn’t get any better on the mountain.  Hidden Valley is buried in snow and the West Face, Shastina, and Cascade Gulch all look fantastic!

Trinity Chutes

Drew Smith about to ride the right Trinity

There’s so much snow that the Trinity Chutes are calling adventurous skiers and boarders with all-time sliding and riding lines!

Green Butte Ridge

The view from Green Butte Ridge

All of the routes accessed from Bunny Flat are in prime shape; Avalanche Gulch, the West Face, Casaval and Sargent’s Ridge.

Weather forecast for the weekend is calling for cooler and windy conditions.  Be prepared for a great adventure!