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 Climbing Route Photos and Report

Mt. Shasta has been the place to be this week. As the weather forecast showed signs of improving, there was a buzz around the near pefect climbing and skiing conditions on the southern Cascade volcano. Newly opened trailheads were allowing access and a long holiday weekend brought the snow craved masses to our tiny northern California town.

Avalanche Gulch awaits photo: C. Krumholz

Avalanche Gulch awaits photo: C. Krumholz

And for good reason, Mt. Shasta was glorious. The amount of joy and stoke was immeasurable by the looks of the smiling, sun burned faces on the mountain. We’re still glowing from a great weekend and now fully primed for a full summer of climbs, backpacking trips, and seminars.

Red Banks climb team Mt. Shasta photo: C. Krumholz

Red Banks climb team Mt. Shasta photo: C. Krumholz

At SMG our entire staff was out either for work or for play and found each aspect to offer classic Mt. Shasta spring adventures. On Sunday teams climbed the West Face, Casaval Ridge, and Avalanche Gulch. Monday teams climbed via Avalanche Gulch and the Hotlum-Wintun Ridge.

West Face Mt. Shasta perfect conditions

West Face Mt. Shasta perfect conditions

No matter where your chosen line, there was nothing but ideal snow for crampons and smooth snow for skis and snowboards. Guides all remarked how absolutely perfect the climbing currently is on all routes on Mt. Shasta, the best it’s been in years.

Alpine climbing Avalanche Gulch photo: M. Whitman

Alpine climbing Avalanche Gulch photo: M. Whitman

This week is bringing hot temps and conditions will start to change. The skiing is still holding good above 9,000′ but with warm temps the lower mountain is getting sun cupped and textured. Casaval Ridge is still decent but the cat-walk is melting fast and the traverse sections are showing rocks as well.

Climbing the catwalk Casaval Ridge photo: A. Zok

Climbing the catwalk Casaval Ridge photo: A. Zok

There is always lots of anticipation around the opening of alternate trailheads. Currently you can drive to within 1.5 miles of the Brewer Creek trailhead. We ventured over for a visit to climb and ski one of Mt. Shasta’s classic ski lines, the Hotlum-Wintun ridge. It’s hard to argue this status when looking down the immense northeast face and rearly 8,000′ of relief.

Hot Tune ski Mt. Shasta, CA

Hot Tune ski Mt. Shasta, CA

 

Thumb Rock sunrise photo: Cobi Krumholz

Thumb Rock sunrise photo: Cobi Krumholz

We’re pretty excited to have a “normal” season once again. With an abundant snow pack, mild weather, and summer vacation on the horizon, grand adventure awaits!

Avalanche Gulch and West Face will be great through July and maybe longer and the north side glaciers will climb well into September this year.

Congratulations to all the climbers recently, it’s been a super fun start to the season and we’re stoked for summer on the mountain!

Mt. Shasta climb report: Casaval Ridge

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

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

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

Casaval Ridge Mt. Shasta

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

Sunset from Casaval Ridge Mt. Shasta ph: Adrian Fehr

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

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

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

Casaval Ridge Mt. Shasta ph: Adrian Fehr

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

Mt. Shasta summit cone ph: Adrian Fehr

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

Perfect climbing on Mt. Shasta ph: Adrian Fehr

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

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 Climb Report 5.14.12

We’re still buzzing here at SMG HQ after a fantastic week of climbing and skiing on the Cascade’s most sacred peak. Skiers are absolutely loving the near perfect conditions we’ve enjoyed in this ideal spring weather and summit climbers are finding all the south side routes in excellent shape for their alpine adventure.

Upper Red Banks Mt. Shasta

Upper Red Banks Mt. Shasta

We had several teams on the mountain this weekend and all are reporting total success. Climbers on Casaval Ridge were delighted to climb through the Cat Walk en route to the summit. Skiers found perfect melt-freeze pretty much everywhere while working the aspect to follow the sun. Our West Face teams were happily camped for a scenic and quiet Wilderness experience in Hidden Valley. Personally, I had a great climb up Avalanche Gulch yesterday (Sunday) checking in with our teams and enjoying a classic descent on the east side Konwakiton Glacier.

It truly doesn’t get much better than the current conditions we have. Awesome weather, light winds, and a consolodated snow pack. Do you need any other reasons to pack your bags for Mt. Shasta??

Daron Rahlves leaves a contrail on the West Face

Daron Rahlves leaves a contrail on the West Face

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!

Climbing Mt. Shasta – Selecting a route

In Michael Zanger (SMG Founder) and Andy Selter’s guidebook: The Mt. Shasta Book 17 routes to the summit of Mt. Shasta are included; each with unique variations and specific seasons. Of these, we at Shasta Mountain Guides regularly lead climbs up about 6 of them and routinely climb, ski, and explore the rest. Nearly all of the routes can be climbed on a custom trip if it’s not regularly scheduled.

Summit!

Shasta Summit!

 

Choosing an appropriate climb to suit your goals, skills, and conditions will help ensure a safe and more enjoyable experience. Here we will discuss the popular routes, the skills and preparation necessary, the ideal months for each climb, as well as a few photos to hopefully get you fired up!

Climbing gear

Mt. Shasta essentials

 

 

 

Climbing Mt. Shasta is a sustained physical, mental, and technical effort. It is a very reasonable objective for those who are in good physical condition, training specifically for the climb, and are motivated for a big challenge.

As a 14,179′ Cascade Volcano (2nd highest, and largest by volume) Mt. Shasta is best climbed with snow cover to minimize hazard and provide most optimal and efficient conditions. Although we will climb with crampons, ice axe, and even rope up on summit day; the technical challenges are moderate on most routes. The biggest challenge is physical; summit day is generally a 14-16 hour effort and with proper training and preparation a very attainable goal.

 

 

Avalanche Gulch

Climbing past the Heart in Avalanche Gulch

 

Avalanche Gulch  Also known as The John Muir Route this is the most direct route up the mountain, and for that reason the most popular. “The Gulch” is best climbed with plenty of snow; generally May-July, although earlier and later are possible. This route is best for all levels of climbers from novice to advanced. Access is via the Bunny Flat trail-head at 6,950′. Fresh water spring at Horse Camp at treeline with good camping here and at 50/50. We offer this climb in itineraries from 2-4 days. Our 3 day Expedition Style Summit Climb is our most popular climb and a great introduction to alpine climbing and mountaineering.

West Face climbing route

The West Face route from Hidden Valley base camp

The West Face Mt. Shasta’s southwest side holds a high mountain cirque and one of Shasta’s most beautiful base camp’s; Hidden Valley at 9,200′. This is a great alternative to the regular Avalanche Gulch route with the same technical challenge and far fewer climbers. This climb provides a more Wilderness experience and our base-camp in Hidden Valley is a fantastic location to make our summit bid. The route’s difficulties are moderate and it serves up an aesthetic and stunning experience for all levels of climbers. Conditions for a summit attempt are best May-July or later in a good snow year. This is also the route we often select for a ski or snowboard descent ; the fall line drops nearly 4,000′ uninterrupted feet from the top of the West Face ~ truly awesome!

Sunrise on the Hotlm-Bolam

Sunrise on the Hotlum-Bolam

Hotlum-Bolam Ridge – Northeast Side Mt. Shasta’s north side is an alpine playground! 8 Glaciers, including California’s largest –  the Whitney Glacier – adorn it’s flanks. The Hotlum-Bolam route is a perfect choice for climbers looking for an intermediate level climb and intro to glacier climbing. Due to it’s northerly aspect, the season is later; June-September. Our base camp is perched atop a glacial moraine at 9,400′ and has fresh snow melt flowing through camp with the climbing route directly overhead. The conditions are slightly more challenging than those on the south and west side; yet still a moderate technical difficulty for those in good physical condition. This is an excellent climb for new climbers as part of our 4 day Glacier I Seminar. We also offer 3 day summit climbs for those wanting a new challenge and scenic and remote climb on Mt. Shasta.

Casaval Ridge

Casaval Ridge in winter

Casaval Ridge This is Mt. Shasta’s winter and early season climb of choice. Stunning, exposed, and steep; this is a route for climbers with previous experience wanting a greater challenge. Casaval Ridge is an undeniably beautiful and challenging alpine climb; a route that divides Shasta’s south side with dramatic rock towers and steep snow pitches. This route requires ample snow is is best climbed in winter and spring.

Glacier Training on the Hotlum

Glacier Training on the Hotlum

 

 

Hotlum Glacier The Hotlum is, in our consideration, Mt. Shasta’s most visually interesting glacier. A series of ice falls and seracs follow the glacier’s movement. This is a perfect training ground for climbers with bigger aspirations to Mt. Rainier and Denali. We climb and train on the Hotlum as part of our Glacier II and III Seminars. The Hotlum is accessed via the Brewer Creek trailhead and is best July-September.

The Mt. Shasta climb is a great challenge with the potential for great rewards.  Dramatic scenery, rugged terrain, new experiences, and memories to last a lifetime.  Ready for a new adventure!