Mt. Shasta summer photos and update

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

Rocking the summit Joey, Marcus and JC

Rocking the summit Joey, Marcus and JC

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

Climbing Hotlum-Bolam Ridge Mt. Shasta

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

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

Mt. Shasta, CA summer powder skiing

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

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

Mt. Shasta, CA summit plateau

Mt. Shasta, CA summit plateau  photo Cobi K.

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

Stoked on Shasta!

Stoked on Shasta!  photo Mike W.

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

Guides camp on the river, planning the next mission

Riverside basecamp planning the next mission

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

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.

 

Late Summer Mt. Shasta Conditions Report

August is upon us and we’re scrambling to enjoy the last few weeks of summer here in the north state. If you have your mind on a climb in 2012, do it soon! Late summer brings a number of changes to Mt. Shasta. Warm summer temps melt the remaining snow on the south side climbing routes and we cease guiding on these routes. We finished up on Avalanche Gulch in mid July and the West Face went to the end of the month.

We recommend and are climbing on the north side glacier routes for the remainder of the season. These climbs are slightly more difficult (both technically and physically) than the regular south side climbs. Being glaciated and north facing, it can be icy and steeper late in the season.

Hotlum-Bolam Sunrise

Hotlum-Bolam Sunrise

We really enjoy the Hotlum-Bolam route accessed from the Northgate trailhead. This is a perfect introduction to glacier climbing and provides a scenic and enjoyable ascent on Shasta’s much less frequented north east flank. This climb features snow and ice up to 45 degrees, belayed sections, and a growing glacier and bergschrund; a perfect next step!

The other highlight is climbing on the Hotlum Glacier. This is a large and active glacier with a series of 3 spectacular ice falls to avoid or play on, depending on your objectives. If you want to expand your skills and experience or are training for bigger objectives, the Hotlum is a perfect destination for advancced skills and climbing.

Tucker on the Hotlum Glacier

Tucker on the Hotlum Glacier

This season, 2 of our guides; Tucker Cunningham and Drew Smith made an ascent of the Hotlum Headwall. This is a 300′ tall face of questionable rock perched at 13,000′ at the top of the glacier. This has seen only a handfull of ascents and they did it great form; see Tucker’s report here: Tucker Cunnngham’s Adventures and Drew’s photos here: Drew Smith MyPlan

Looking down the Hotlum Headwall

Looking down the Hotlum Headwall

These routes will be in great shape for the next month or so.  Although it is possible to climb Mt. Shasta year round; we usually stop scheduling group climbs in mid September. As the fall progresses days are cold and short and the possibility of new snow and poor weather increases. Along with generally poor conditions on most routes, we don’t really recommend a climb until more favorable conditions prevail.

Hotlum Glacier

Hotlum Glacier

We hope you get out and enjoy the remaining summer in the mountains! We’ll be wrapping our regular season and anticipating what comes next here in NorCal!

 

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!