Mt. Shasta Guide Report: 12 Straight Days in Avalanche Gulch

Here is another in our series of special guide posts and trip reports. This comes from Greg Cunningham, a senior guide and dedicated skier. Greg spends the winter as a ski patroller at Kirkwood Mountain Resort and heads to Mt. Shasta as soon as the resort closes for the spring and summer volcano season.

Greg Cunningham Mt. Shasta summit plateau

Greg Cunningham Mt. Shasta summit plateau

We often say that what makes SMG special is our amazingly talented and skilled guide staff. We are honored to have such a capable crew who are passionate about the outdoors and sharing that experience with our guests. Thanks Greg and our entire guide family!

 

 

 

12 Straight Days in Avalanche Gulch

The 2015 guiding season with Shasta Mountain Guides got started in a hurry. After another meager winter in Tahoe, I was eager to get back up to Mt. Shasta and coax what I could out of the remaining ski season. My first ski trip was scheduled for April 25-27, and conditions were looking good; high pressure, warm days, and cool nights promised classic Shasta corn. Driving north from Kirkwood, I didn’t yet realize that my first three day would turn into a 12 day marathon of four consecutive ski trips, stellar clients, great friends, and 40,000 vertical feet of some of the best spring skiing anywhere.

Orly skiing up the lunar landscape of the Lower Gulch

Orly skiing up the lunar landscape of the Lower Gulch

Trip number one brought clear skies, perfect conditions, and two great guests. Luke and Orly showed up psyched and ready to go. We wasted no time getting after it, and spent the first two days skiing dreamy Shasta corn, acclimatizing, and dialing in our climbing skills for summit day. On summit day, conditions were absolutely ideal, and after recruiting Jacob from guide training to help out, we got Luke to the summit, skied two great ski lines and got a rare guided ski descent of the Trinity Chutes in great condition.

Kyle carefully climbing into the center Trinity Chute

Kyle carefully climbing into the center Trinity Chute

The second trip of the streak was a personal trip with friends from Kirkwood, and as I returned to Horsecamp the next day, I felt like I had never left. We were even able to use the same tent platforms that we had sculpted in the snow on the previous trip. This trip was a bit more casual than the first, but there was no shortage of motivated skiers, classic lines and great snow. I left my friends on Thursday evening and skied out to Bunny Flat, knowing that I would run into them tomorrow as I headed back in with my next group.

Skiing out of the Trinities

Skiing out of the Trinities

The third trip of the corn shredding extravaganza brought Phil and Andrew for Andrew’s birthday celebration, and probably the best conditions of the spring thus far. We quickly became friends, and since I had spent the previous six days skiing in Avalanche Gulch, we wasted no time finding the good skiing. The truth is, at this point in the weather cycle, the good skiing was everywhere, and it was hard to go wrong.  We skied great lines off of Casaval Ridge and in the Lower Gulch, and then lounged in the afternoon sun, as we rested up for our summit day.  On summit day, we started at 4am under a full moon that completely illuminated the Mountain, so much so that we didn’t need to use our headlamps. Climbing conditions were excellent, and we summited and skied 6,000′ continuous vert of Mt Shasta magic.

Dan and I on the summit on the fourth and final trip

Dan and I on the summit on the fourth and final trip

My fourth and final consecutive trip brought Dan out from Manhattan in search of a summit and a ski descent all the way back down.  We spent the first two days skiing, exploring all that Avalanche Gulch has to offer, and practicing our climbing skills for what was forecasted to be a somewhat rugged summit day. Our summit day was cold and a stiff north wind was blowing. Besides one other party, we were apparently the only ones on the upper mountain.  The snow was in excellent condition for cramponing, and we made good progress and summited right at noontime. The cold temps and north winds weren’t very conducive to soft skiing. Luckily, Dan grew up skiing in New England and is no stranger to skiing hard snow. We negotiated the upper mountain smoothly and efficiently, and to our relief, found softening snow for the last couple thousand feet of our run.  Although conditions were challenging at times, Dan was psyched and the trip was a total success.

And so concluded an epic start to the 2015 season.  4 ski trips back to back, summits on every trip, day after day of endless corn skiing, and 12 days and 40,000 vertical feet of human powered skiing. Mount Shasta has an entire range worth of skiing on one mountain, and although we skied only in Avalanche Gulch for the entire time, we were always skiing different lines and never getting bored.  Avalanche Gulch is still holding good snow, but my attention is now turning towards the other sides of the mountain in hopes of riding out the ski season as long as possible. Reports from the West Face are of good coverage and great, smooth snow, and it’s about time to start heading out to explore the North and East sides of the mountain.  I have a feeling I’ll be skiing for another month or more, and I can’t wait to share some more turns with new guests and old friends alike.

Spring is rocking on Mt. Shasta

We’re officially in spring mode. Warming temps, multi sport days, and the snowpack is beginning it’s creep up the mountain. We’re shifting into climbing season and most/all routes are in excellent condition. The weather is getting more reliable, but don’t be surprised when we see another cold front pass this way.

Dave Miller and Rich Meyer were here to lead our first Guide Training this year. As an IFMGA/AMGA certified guide, Dave is our Technical Director and keeps our staff honed for the challenges of climbing Mt. Shasta. Dave is a mountain professional and travels and guides among the great ranges of the world and looks forward to returning to Mt. Shasta each season.

Guide Training 2015

Guide Training 2015

Rich brings his expertise and perspective from over a decade of international adventure guiding. Fresh from the the Alps, Antarctica, and Chile; Rich is always excited to be back on the Shastahorn. We are extremely grateful to have such skilled staff leading climbs on Mt. Shasta. We spent several days learning, recreating, and enjoying the fantastic conditions on the mountain.

Rich Meyer skis up the middle moraines Mt. Shasta

Rich Meyer skis up the middle moraines Mt. Shasta

Cheers to Eric Layton who became the first American Splitboarder to pass the rigorous AMGA Ski Mountaineering Exam. Congratualtions Eric for this accomplishment. SMG Guides are the highest trained on Mt. Shasta. To get a glimpse of what Eric went through, check out this video he made of the exam. Bravo Eric!

We’ve had some great trips this Spring. Greg and Jacob were able to ski guide the Trinity Chutes with Luke who was especially stoked to ski this line.

Trinity Chutes Mt. Shasta. ph: Luke R.

Trinity Chutes Mt. Shasta. ph: Luke R.

Nick Caselli has been eager to get out on the rock and led Steve on the mega-classic Cosmic Wall in Castle Crags State Park. This alpine gem is a true adventure climb and a route we love in Northern California.

Cosmic Wall second pitch Castle Crags State Park

Cosmic Wall second pitch Castle Crags State Park

With summit climbs, ski trips, rock outings, and more there is no shortage of fun to be found in and around Mt. Shasta. We love this time of year, with great snow remaining the climbing will be good on the south side through June likely.

The only accessible trailheads are Bunny Flat and Clear Creek. Currently the snow level is just about 400′ from the parking area.

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Upcoming Saturday May 2

Photo Presentation from SMG’s Chris Carr. Rock climbing in the Mt. Shasta Area. Fundraser to benefit the Mt. Shasta Avalanche Center. 6:00pm Mt. Shasta Sisson Musuem.

Trip Report: Shasta Mountain Guides Ski Mountaineering Seminar

Here is a special report from SMG Senior Guide Dane Brinkley. This is a new, exciting trip for us and it’s no understatement to say the planets aligned and the team experienced the most amazing weather and ski conditions for four days in Hidden Valley. Check it out and prepare to be impressed (and maybe a little jealous!) 13,000′ of prime spring skiing, wow! Thanks Dane and hearty congratulations to the team!

Day 1: Gear Check, Tour from Bunny Flat to Hidden Valley

Basecamp Hidden Valley

Basecamp Hidden Valley

With great weather in the forecast and excitement in the air our crew of 6 met in the morning at the Fifth Season in Mt Shasta, CA. We were a team of 4 guests, myself and SMG Guide Jacob Swartz. We all got together on the morning of April 17 to make introductions and get our gear sorted. After a short while of being with this crew it became obvious that we were in for a great time! The most successful expeditions require a group of people that work together and help each other out and that was exactly what we had. The team departed Bunny Flat (6,950 feet), the snow was soft enough to make for easy travel on skins. Heavy packs made for slow but steady movement. Most of our group had just come from sea level so we took our time as we skinned to our basecamp in Hidden Valley (9,300 feet). A slow ascent is critical for proper acclimatization. The final traverse into Hidden Valley is steep and exposed to rock fall and avalanches on the warmest afternoons. We wanted the snow on the traverse to be soft enough to skin across but not so soft that we’d be exposed to these hazards. This was the case until about half way across at which point the snow became just firm enough to make skinning stressful for even the most experienced. We transitioned to boot travel and made the decision to do so relatively early. In my experience it’s best to anticipate transitions and to make them a little earlier than necessary. This way one can avoid putting oneself into an uncomfortable situation on a steep and exposed slope. The traverse now behind us, we made it into camp by about 4 PM and were pleased to find excellent snow coverage in Hidden Valley. We’d be able to skin right out of camp the next day and then ski all the way back to our tents. After hydrating and enjoying a big pot of organic chili made with couscous, lentils, and vegetables the crew was ready to rest up for the next day.

Day 2, Acclimatization & Ski Mountaineering Skills

We woke to a clear sky and warming temps. Breakfast would be bagels, cream cheese, Canadian bacon, coffee, and tea. Properly fueled and caffeinated we prepared ourselves for a full day of ski touring and mountaineering skills instruction. Our plan for the weekend was an ambitious one. With climbs and ski descents of both Shastina (12,330) and Mt. Shasta (14,179) proper acclimatization would be essential. With this in mind we used this day to actively prepare our bodies for massive elevation gain. This is a critical skill in mountaineering that doesn’t come as easily as one might think. Our experience at Shasta Mountain Guides has taught us that the old adage of “climb high, sleep low” rings true and is the best way to maximize one’s red blood cell production, which allows for oxygen transport in the blood stream. Our pace, to everyone’s surprise was slow and easy however efficient enough to still climb about 1000 feet an hour. We skinned slowly allowing our bodies to adjust, we used “pressure breathing” for efficient lung function, and we practiced the basic movement skills that we’d use in the next 2 days of mountaineering. We also thoroughly practiced self-arrests just in case any of us slipped on the way up or down. The skiing was as good as I’ve experienced in my 10 years on the mountain so we climbed and skied 2 laps each up to about 11,000 feet. The team returned to camp about 4 PM feeling stoked on the skiing, confident with skill, and hungry for dinner, which would be SMG’s famous “Mountain High Burritos”.

Day 3, Shastina via Cascade Gulch

Skinning up Cascade Gulch

Skinning up Cascade Gulch

We woke up once again to clear skies and mild temperatures. After breakfast we shouldered our packs and steadily began to skin toward Cascade Gulch, our chosen ascent route. The skinning was smooth and pleasant as we approached our first transition to crampons. We climbed a short steep chute with crampons before continuing on our skis and skins. The skinning felt quite easy and we all enjoyed the rhythmic sliding of feet and swinging of arms gradually and casually ascending Cascade Gulch. At a certain point we knew that we’d have to transition once again to crampons so we opted to do this just a little sooner than needed to ensure that we wouldn’t find ourselves fumbling with gear while clinging to an impossibly steep slope. We strapped our skis to our packs and used crampons to climb out of Cascade Gulch and onto Shastina’s crater rim. After a short time we found ourselves off of the rim and climbing the final few hundred feet of the Shastina’s summit cone. Another few minutes and we were on the summit of the third highest volcano in the Cascade Range! It could’ve been so much harder than it had been if we hadn’t taken time to acclimatize the previous 24 hours or if we tried to rush the pace. Our casual approach actually was helping us achieve big goals while maximizing the fun factor. We were happy to run into a group of 3 locals on the summit and enjoyed a few laughs on top before skiing 3000 feet of perfect corn all the way back to our camp. Back at camp morale was high and everyone was wearing a smile. To give ourselves the best possible chance at Shasta’s summit we would need all our strength the following morning. “Active Recovery” is the only way to stay fit on any demanding expedition. This includes hydration, nutrition, sleep, and some light stretching. With this in mind we dined early on organic soup and pasta with meatballs, and vegetables, in a cream sauce, then washed it down with herbal tea. The team all checked gear and packed backpacks for the next day’s adventure, climbing the West Face of Mount Shasta. Then, feeling strong and well fed we all retired early to get some sleep.

Day 4, Mount Shasta via The West Face

Topping out on the West Face

Topping out on the West Face

An early start was important to give ourselves the best chance at climbing then skiing optimal conditions. When my alarm sounded at 2:45 AM I got dressed, put my feet into my still damp boot liners, unzipped the door of my tent, then persuaded the foam of the liners into the cold plastic of ski boots. I straightened, looked up, and was taken aback by the sky above. Cloudless and so clear it felt as if our camp floated among the stars themselves and although the early morning air bit cold on my face and hands I was suddenly filled the warmth of confidence that today would be a safe and successful day. Our training and mindful preparation would pay off. I always try to give gratitude for these experiences at this quiet and still hour of the day before waking up my teammates. After a hot breakfast we left camp a few minutes after 4 AM and traveled out of camp under the light of headlamp with skis on our pack and crampons on our feet. In a short while we found ourselves standing beneath The West Face. We roped up in 2 teams. The mood was positive and we moved together supporting and encouraging one another. Ice axes in hand, one step at the time, together.

Summit Success!

Summit Success!

It’s important that we stick to our plan. It was a good plan having worked all weekend. Keep the pace steady and the mood casual. Remember to relax and breathe. Eat and drink every hour. Talk to and look out for each other. The climbing was wonderful, perfect cramponing on smooth frozen snow that would soften by early afternoon and make for incredible ski conditions. The top of the West Face gets a bit steep and the last 500 feet always seem to be the most challenging. With determination and patience we overcame the hardships of ski mountaineering and embraced the relief of sunshine and rest at 13,000 after finally reaching the very top of the West Face. Still having almost 1,200 feet of climbing to attain the summit we pressed upward, steadily still. “Misery Hill” was the next challenge. In stride, we climbed it. The positive vibe of the crew made the task almost easy and we overcame “Misery” together as a team. The next step of our climb was to cross the summit plateau, which is basically walking the flat distance of a soccer field (if soccer was played at 14,000 feet). This part felt like an active rest compared to the rigors of our climb so far. With the plateau behind us, we climbed the last 200 feet and before long were all standing on the summit! So far our mindful approach and careful training had paid off but the crew was feeling the elevation so we didn’t waste too much time. I always consider the summit our halfway point. It’s a long way back down to camp and I reminded myself that although the skiing was sure to be fantastic we still had a few hazards to manage. Afternoon rock fall is always a concern on Shasta and we must be careful with our decent, skiing well and avoiding any injuries on the mountain. We stepped into our skis and began out decent. Off of the summit, back across the plateau, carefully linking turns down misery hill, then traversing back to the top of the West Face.

Skiing the West Face of Mt. Shasta

Skiing the West Face of Mt. Shasta

Looking down we could tell that the sun had by then worked its magic and transformed a frozen surface from the early morning into something soft and smooth. 3,700 feet of perfect conditions waited below. Elated, we dropped in and enjoyed one of the most incredible ski runs in the country. Within an hour we were back at camp. All that remained was to pack up and descend to Bunny Flat. To our surprise the snow on the lower mountain hadn’t over-softened in the afternoon heat and again we were gifted 2,300 feet of perfect snow, which helped us manage the burden of skiing with 45lb backpacks. At 4:30 PM we arrived at the Bunny Flat parking lot tired and euphoric after 4 days and 13,000 feet of ski mountaineering on 2 of the most majestic volcanic peaks anywhere in the world.

Mt. Shasta conditions report 4.9.15

There is one truth is backcountry skiing; you better enjoy the up. You’re going to spend the majority of your day skiing uphill and a fraction of the time ripping turns and blasting pow on the way down. And if we’re being totally transparant, the skiing conditions can be a veritable mixed bag, from all time epic to challenging crusts that test the hardiest of skiers.

Mt. Shasta April 2015

Mt. Shasta April 2015

Such was our day. We had high hopes, 2 feet of new snow, the temps were staying cool, the sun was out and all of Northern California and Southern Oregon converged on Mt. Shasta; from Tahoe refugees to storm chasing van living dirtbags, the stoke was high at Bunny Flat.

Jacob and Dane putting in the perfect trench up the middle moraines Avalanche Gulch, Mt. Shasta 4.8.15

Jacob and Dane putting in the perfect trench up the middle moraines Avalanche Gulch, Mt. Shasta 4.8.15

As you emerged from the low hanging clouds and fog in town, the mountain shone brilliantly fully coated in the most recent winter storm in spring. Upon closer inspection, it became obvious that the wind had it’s way with Mt. Shasta, and the bluebird skies we all love were going to wreak even more havoc on the fragile snow surface.

Dropping in from 10,400', variable snow and zero visibility in Avalanche Gulch

Dropping in from 10,400′, variable snow and zero visibility in Avalanche Gulch

But that’s the beauty of backcountry skiing, it really doesn’t matter how good or bad the snow is, it’s all about being out with friends and putting yourself in beauty. The skin up was glorious, deep trailbreaking with the anticipation of scoring 2 feet of new snow. The reality was slightly different; just as our crew of 6 transitioned at Lake Helen for the descent, the clouds moved in and bluebird skies went to 100′ of visibility. At one point I couldn’t determine if I was moving or stationary and we skied “leapfrogging” one another to try to get some perspective. A true comedy as soon as the skier took first position an immediate slow speed tip over ocurred. Skiing is difficult enough, it’s near impossible when you can’t determine the fall line.

There were some highlights though and there were sections of smooth snow less effected by the wind and warming temps. There were plenty of deep turns to be found and soft snow under your skis always feels good. I reckon the best skiing will be once this snow consolodates and we get back to spring corn conditions. The climbers will be most challenged by the recent storm and anyone thinking about a summit climb will be extremely challenged by the deep snow and potential avalanche hazard. I recommend giving the snow pack some time to adjust.

Skiing up Avalanche Gulch

Skiing up Avalanche Gulch

It looks like we may see a little more precip in the next week, nothing big but enough for a couple refreshers. The snowpack above 8,000′ is great, near normal depths and we expect a super climbing season. The latest storm helped the lower elevations but soon we’ll be on dry ground from the trailhead at 7,000′

Heads up while the snow transitions; today’s (4.9.15) warm temps may produce some instabilities. Check the avalanche advisory and use good route finding and track setting for the best conditions. We’ll see you in the Shasta BC!

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Upcoming:

Cascade 2 for 1! Climb and ski both Shasta and Shastina basecamped in Hidden Valley. Are you ready for the challenge and the rewards? April 17-20

Mt. Shasta Conditions Report 3.16.15

It’s currently snowing on the mountain, we love rainy Mondays, and any other days for that matter! Despite the dry winter and unseasonably warm temps, Mt. Shasta has fared quite well this year and we’re grateful to have a fun and enjoyable winter at the top of the state! December and February delivered with significant storm totals to give us a solid base and thus far March has been kind with small systems to refresh and replenish our snowpack. The climbing and skiing have been fabulous!

Matt and Dane enjoy new snow at Lake Helen March 2015

Matt and Dane enjoy new snow at Lake Helen March 2015

The long periods of high pressure have provided for unusually fun climbing and skiing with spring-like conditions. Although it may not be the winter dreams are made of; ski touring in t-shirts, flip flops in the parking lot, and low to no avalanche hazard has made for stress free touring and smiles for miles for backcountry enthusiasts.

db3.12bl

Dane Brinkley drops into the Lake run with fresh powder and a clean slate for 3,500′

Last week we received 4-6″ of new snow on Wednesday. This past weekend delivered more wet weather and although the snow levels are high, this is just what we need to provide a good climbing season on Mt. Shasta. The best news is the long term forecast which is showing a cold and wet trough bringing significant valley rain and mountain snow early next week with snow levels down to 5,000′. After 35+ years guiding on Mt. Shasta, we know one thing is certain, you can never predict what the weather will do, despite what the calendar says.

Shay rips telemark turns in Avalanche Gulch March 2015

Shay rips telemark turns in Avalanche Gulch March 2015

We’ve been skiing some obscure lines as well as touring our old favorites. We have a full calendar of trips this year with something for everyone. Our upcoming Denali Prep Course 4/3-4/7 has just a couple spots left, as well as our new Cascade 2 for 1 for the hardiest mountaineers. Along with day classes and tours, summit climbs, ski descents, glacier seminars and spectacular ridge climbs for the alpinists out there, Mt. Shasta has been the place to be in 2015.

Casaval ridge is a striking feature on Mt. Shasta. Matt descending in good stlye.

Casaval Ridge is a striking feature on Mt. Shasta. Matt descending in good stlye.

Shasta Mountain Guides is your local professional guide service, on the mountain daily and in tune with the ever changing conditions. Call or email for questions or details. We look forward to seeing you on the mountain!

Upcoming Events

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March 17 REI Saratoga. Climbing Mt. Shasta Photo Presentation with Chris Carr SMG Director

March 18 REI San Carlos. Climbing Mt. Shasta Photo Presentation

March 19th REI Berkeley. Climbing Mt. Shasta Photo Presentation\

April 3-7 Denali Prep Seminar

April 17-20 Mt. Shasta Ski and Snowboard mountaineering seminar. Climb and ski/board both Mt. Shasta and Shastina

SMG/The Fifth Season Mt. Shasta Backcountry Ski Report 1.30.15

Like much of the West coast, Mt. Shasta has endured yet another mosty dry January. Above averge tempertures and abundant sunshine has at least provided ski conditions in the good to excellent range on Mt. Shasta. It’s hard to complain with mild temps and smooth sun softened corn snow, but this is the time for frozen fingers and raging wood stoves. With our wettest months coming up, we’re still confidant that we’ll see significant addition to our snowpack. Until then, we’ll be enjoying the beautiful spring like weather and winter sun.

January 2015 skiing Casaval Ridge Mt. Shasta

January 2015 skiing Casaval Ridge Mt. Shasta

Our last measurable precip was on January 16 with 6″ new snow on Mt. Shasta. This greatly improved the ski conditions and has created a smooth supportive base and good to great skiing on many south to east aspects.

Clouds lift to reveal 6" of new snow while ski touring in Avalanche Gulch Mt. Shasta January 2015

Clouds lift to reveal 6″ of new snow while ski touring in Avalanche Gulch Mt. Shasta January 2015

The alpine climbing has been quite good as well with firm cramponing and low avalanche hazard on the entire mountain. It is still early winter and although mild, above 11,000′ the snowpack is not going through melt freeze cycles, the ski quality generally diminshes at the upper elevations. We discovered this while climbing Shastina and were rewarded with a full value outing.

Skiing Shastina's mighty crater rim in Winter conditions

Skiing Shastina’s mighty crater rim in Winter conditions

Thursday (1/29)  USFS employees were out for their regular snow pack measurements, we’ll report back when we hear what the totals are. I estimate we’re not too far below average, certainly at the upper elevations we’re doing well, and I’ll go so far as to say we may have some of the best skiing currently in California, although that’s really not saying much.

It looks like we may see some new weather patterns early next week. Let’s keep the faith, there is still a lot of winter to go. There are early forecasts for an atmospheric river and general instability in the atmosphere to bring us back into the storm track.

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Upcoming Events

January 31st Truckee, CA Backcountry Basics

Feb 6-7 Avalanche Awareness and companion rescue Mt. Shasta

Feb 14-16 AIARE Level I Avalanche Seminar Mt. Shasta

Mt. Shasta and SMG gear up for winter

Early season will test the hardiest of  snow enthusiasts while we anxiously watch the weather forecasts and wait for drought ending relief. California has been left behind the last couple years and it’s without a doubt that our time has come for some serious winter weather. It’s still too early to make any predictions but this year spirits are high with anticipation, and if the the current conditions are any indication, we are in for a doozy! Our proximity to the ocean, our latitide, and elevation make for an always changing landscape, it’s rarely dull and always inspiring.

Looking up Broadway, Green Butte Ridge

Looking up Broadway, Green Butte Ridge

The recent wet weather to effect California has been a relief to all who live and recreate here. Finally some much needed precipitation to fill our drained lakes and rivers and to bring snow back to starved skiers and riders. We’re not quite to full covereage yet, but it’s certainly improving and far better than the last couple seasons.

Mt. Shasta December 2014

Mt. Shasta December 2014

A brief break in the weather action allowed a chance to get out on the ridges and upper mountain. Above 8,000′ snow pack depths ranged between 120-140 cm (4-5′). Although still shallow, the pack is supportive from the high water content. Base building material we like to say. With a slight cooling, clearing skies, and light winds, this past weekend offered some stunning scenery and excellent ski conditions for the eager. Avalanche hazard was low but will surely change with the significant weather system to arrive Wednesday.

Green Butte Ridge

Green Butte Ridge

The Mt. Shasta Avalanche Center resumed operations to weekly advisories, always be prepared for rapidly changing conditions. We are about to receive anywhere from 6-10″ of precip as the next round of tropical depressions track towards Northern California. The high elevation of Mt. Shasta will turn this into 5-10 feet of snow. We hope the snow levels drop and brings the white stuff to our friends at the Mt. Shasta Ski Park, our family and many others look forward to returning strong this season!

We know it’s early, but we are extremely excited about the upcoming winter season. With the new snow, backcountry skiing and riding will continue to improve. Our AIARE Avalanche courses will have good conditions and this sets us up well for the 2015 climbing season. We have much to be grateful for.

Let us show you the goods

Let us show you the goods

 

We invite you to come ski tour with SMG.

Holiday Cheer to our friends and families.

Spring conditions this week on Mt. Shasta

What a season…With fluctuations in the snow levels, we have been seeing rain up to 8,500′ dropping to 6,000′. By Monday morning temps had dropped and we had over a foot of new, cold snow above treeline. Add some steady winds from the north and we had avalanche concern for steeper south aspects on the upper mountain. The concern was confirmed when we skied up to a group who had triggered an avalanche that partially buried 4 of the 5 snow sliders in upper Anaconda Gulch on 3.10. Close call, heads up out there, we have had several storm systems with little time for the snow pack to adjust to the recent loads.

Climbing Casaval Ridge

Climbing Casaval Ridge

With careful route planning excellent snow conditions can be found.

Mt. Shasta backcountry conditions perfect!

Mt. Shasta backcountry conditions perfect!

Regular storms and light winds has delivered excellent ski conditions on the mountain. We are looking at several days of high pressure and warming temps, we may see 70 in town by this weekend. With that in mind we will likely see many Shastafarians enjoying the near perfect conditions, a welcome sight after a dry winter.

Snowboarding past avalanche debris in Avalanche Gulch

Snowboarding past avalanche debris in Avalanche Gulch

We’re stoked about the recent snow, we are still below average however. This may be a good year to be on Shasta earlier than later in the season. Unless of course, March and April return with wet weather and added snow. It’s never too late for winter conditions on the mountain.

We have our last AIARE Avalanche Course starting Friday. Upcoming guide training and summit season coming soon. Keep up the snow dance!

Backcountry skiing Mt. Shasta

Miracle March has lived up to it’s snowy reputation. As of March 4th we have received 3-5′ of new snow on the mountain. This has come with fluctuating snow levels and steady wet weather patterns. Generally the snow level has been around 6,500′, taking brief hiatuses to 5,000′. Classic Cascade cement which will make for great spring climbing and skiing on Mt. Shasta.

Mt. Shasta March 4, 2014

Mt. Shasta March 4, 2014

We had a short break in the storms Tuesday with more wet weather headed our way Wednesday-Thursday. The break in the action allowed us to get up to 10,200′ to investigate the snow pack and natural avalanche cycle. The storms ended with a nice frosty finish and cooling temps which made excellent powder skiing and riding.

Jenn skis the big trees

Jenn skis the big trees

We observed a large avalanche that likely occurred Sunday 3/2 and started in upper Avalanche Gulch and deposited a large amount of debris into both climbers gully and avalanche gulch proper. What was most impressive was the linear distance the avalanche traveled across relatively flat terrain, indicating a significant amount of energy and force.

avalanche debris in Avalanche Gulch

avalanche debris in Avalanche Gulch

Smaller storm slabs were observed from Casaval Ridge that likely occurred Monday with much less size and distance, yet still something to give wide clearance to.

avalanche activity in Avalanche Gulch

avalanche activity in Avalanche Gulch

Observing several red flags (recent avalanche activity, blowing snow, rapid temp increases) we were traveling conservatively and made our transition and ski from just below Lake Helen. We enjoyed 3,500′ of near perfect powder, finally winter comes to Nor Cal!

Middle Moraines

Middle Moraines powder riding

The storm cycle and impressive avalanche activity reminded us that winter is far from over. Be aware of ever changing conditions on the mountain and be prudent in your terrain choices as wet weather continues.

We will have excellent conditions for the upcoming AIARE Level I Avalanche Seminar March 14-16. Contact us for more details. Be safe and have fun in the backcountry!

Skiing returns to Mt. Shasta

Did you here that? That was the collective sigh of relief as California received a healthy amount of precipitation ending a far too long dry spell plaguing our thirsty state for over 13 months. Mt. Shasta received between 2-3 feet of new snow from the last storm. This base building material is perfect, but the best part is the upcoming and long term weather forecast; sometimes you wanna kiss those forecasters over at the NWS in Medford.

…THE FIRE HOSE WILL BE SET TO FULL BLAST AND AIMED DIRECTLY AT NORTHERN CALIFORNIA FOR MUCH OF THE NEXT SEVEN DAYS…

Jenn Carr skis up Avalanche Gulch

Jenn Carr skis up Avalanche Gulch

Currently we have 2-3 feet of snow on the mountain. That means in most places rocks and stumps are still lurking just below the snow surface. Many happy locals were out enjoying the phenomenal conditions we had on Monday but caution needs to be exercised until we have a more substantial snow pack; which hopefully will be in a couple more days. The upcoming holiday weekend could hold potential for some serious storm skiing on Mt. Shasta and bring us right back to normal seasonal values this year. A very welcome relief for everyone.

Jenn Carr skis down Avalanche Gulch

Jenn Carr skis down Avalanche Gulch

While waiting for the snow totals to pile up this week, I took the opportunity to head just a few hours north to ski in the Three Sisters Wilderness area with friend and fellow guide Jonas Tarlen. Jonas owns and operates Three Sisters Backcountry; 2 hand crafted yurts and a wood fired sauna perched at the base of the TamMcArther Rim in Central Oregon.

Jonas Tarlan Three Sisters Wilderness

Jonas Tarlen Three Sisters Wilderness

Arriving after several feet of new snowfall and clearing bluebird skies, we scored beautiful ski and weather conditions although with significant avalanche hazard. This provided a great opportunity to use safe terrain choices while exploring the area and snowpack. We had a great day and Jonas was the perfect host as he gladly shared his skills and local knowledge. If you’re looking for a fun few days to unplug in the backcountry, a cozy yurt in the woods surrounded by hemlocks and ski shots is a great way to do it. Contact TSBC.

backcountry slope testing

backcountry slope testing

So nothing but snow and smiles here in Mt. Shasta and soon back to full operations. Contact us for any questions at all.