Mt. Shasta Summer Climbing Update

Summer is in full swing in Northern California. We are seeing hot days, mild nights, and a melting snowpack on California’s largest Cascade Peak. Mt. Shasta has experienced an excellent climbing season on the main south side routes but this is finally starting to change as we enter into late season.

Climb team under the Milky Way on Mt. Shasta. photo: Cobi Krumholz

Climb team under the Milky Way on Mt. Shasta. photo: Cobi Krumholz

We are grateful to our staff and guests for such a remarkable year. We have enjoyed excellent climbing conditions due to the deep snow pack and our guides have been going non stop providing safe and successful ascents.

Sunrise at Thumb Rock Mt. Shasta climbers

Sunrise at Thumb Rock Mt. Shasta climbers

With the heat of summer taking it’s toll on the mountain snow, we are transitioning to the more favorable north side glacier climbs for the remainder of the climbing season. As the summer progresses, the quality of the climbing diminishes and hazard increases and we start to change our focus and chose routes with more optimal climbing conditions.

Mt. Shasta North Side

Mt. Shasta North Side photo: Bubba Suess

The north side Hotlum-Bolam route is one of our favorites and still holds very enjoyable conditions for a climb. With a stunning base camp equipped with fresh water streaming close by, a direct climb with some glacier features to navigate, and a remote Wilderness setting that escapes the more impacted south side, it’s a classic route to enjoy as an introduction to glacier climbing.

Alpine start on Hotlum-Bolam Mt. Shasta

Alpine start on Hotlum-Bolam Mt. Shasta

Although still possible, we are no longer offering climbs on the Avalanche Gulch route for 2017. Rock strewn slopes, steep, difficult climbing, and the ever present hazard of rock fall from climbers above have made the decision to end guided climbs this year on the south side.

Climbing Mt. Shasta Hotlum-Bolam route

Climbing Mt. Shasta Hotlum-Bolam route

We climb the north side in 3 or 4 day schedules. The 4 day Glacier I Seminar is one of our most popular trips. This combines a summit climb with an extra day for skills training and acclimation. This is a perfect introduction to the more technical climbing found on the north side as well as offering added time to enjoy the spectacular location and activity.

Training on the Hotlum Glacier Mt. Shasta

Training on the Hotlum Glacier Mt. Shasta

August will have good climbing on the Hotlum Glacier and we will complete our climbing season by early September. Beyond that most routes will be in poor condition and it’s generally recommended to wait for more favorable snow and conditions.

Skiing the Hot-Tune Mt. Shasta, CA

Skiing the Hot-Tune Mt. Shasta, CA

The skiing is over for all but the most dedicated. Deep sun-cups and penitentes have formed and are far from fun to ski. We enjoyed our last ski trip in late June with Tom H. and family who returned to Shasta for a birthday run on the classic Hotlum-Wintun route. Unless you’re headed to South America, it’s time to hang up the skis and put an end to the epic year of 2017.

We are updating our website with dates and climbs for 2018. This year was remarkably busy on Mt. Shasta. We recommend planning early for best choice of availability. Until then, we have climbs on the north side until September 7th.

Thanks again to all our guests and guides, we can’t express enough how grateful we are for such a memorable season thus far. Cheers to everyone who helped make it a success!

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!

Mt. Shasta Summer Update

July brings classic summer weather to Mt. Shasta; days are warm and winds mild with relief from the heat found on the upper mountain and glaciers. We wrapped up the south side season and are no longer leading trips on Avalanche Gulch or the West Face. After the drought winter of 2014, we were pleasantly surprised to have really good climbing on the mountain.


Mt. Shasta summit!

Although we are done on the regular routes, there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy a Mt. Shasta climb or seminar. For the summit enthusiast, the east side Clear Creek route offers a non-technical ascent with minimal objective hazard. Don’t underestimate the effort, non-technical doesn’t mean easy! This is the longest route to the summit and involves rock and scree travel.

For a greater technical challenge and excellent preparation for bigger peaks, the north side of Mt. Shasta is a perfect choice. With California’s largest glaciers, this is a great way to beat the heat while climbing a challenging and spectacular route.

SMG guide Joe Crawford leads the Hotlum-Bolam

SMG guide Joe Crawford leads the Hotlum-Bolam

The north side routes are more technical (steeper and icier) and will require great effort to reach the summit. This is recommended for climbers with previous experience or as part of our Glacier I Seminar. There are patches of ice showing on the glaciers and climbing will require good planning and travel technicques.

With the low snow pack and warm summer temps, the climbing season will be a little shortened on Mt. Shasta this year. We expect good conditions through August on the north side and Clear Creek can be climbed as long as the weather holds up, likely through Labor Day and beyond.

BCF climbers cross the summit plateau

BCF climbers cross the summit plateau

It has been as amazingly successful season so far, we can not thank our climbers enough for allowing us the opportunity to share this experience with you. We’re looking forward to the remaining climbs on Mt. Shasta, and especially excited of the early reports of a big winter on the way! It’s never to early to be dreaming of winter storms!

Thank You! Mt. Shasta climbers, guides, and friends

September 16 was the final day of our 2013 climb and ski season on Mt. Shasta. Brandon Seymore led the strong team of  Shannon and David to the summit in full alpine conditions. Solid blue ice required multiple pitches of steep climbing and the route was full of added challenges. The final push up the summit cone the team endured hurricane winds and cold temps. Congratulations on a great effort! A fine way to cap the Mt. Shasta climbing season finishing on a high note!

Ice climbing on the Hotlum-Bolam

Ice climbing on the Hotlum-Bolam  photo: D. Webster

The south side of Mt. Shasta currently is completely barren of snow; save for a few small patches tucked into shady corners, the mountain is as dry as it gets. The north side glaciers, though sporting California’s only true permanent snow, are scree covered, sun cupped, and solid ice above 11,000′. Add to that a NOAA forecast of a wet cold front approaching the area with new snow expected this weekend and you have a recipe for difficult climbing conditions. We will schedule guided climbs once better conditions allow.

Basecamp on Shasta's northside

Mt. Shasta northside in fall  photo: M. Shamsee

2013 was Shasta Mountain Guides’ 32nd season of operation. As with previous years, our climber’s safety, enjoyment, and success is achieved through the diligent effort of our guide staff. This year’s crew is one of strongest, most dedicated group of fun and unique individuals we’ve ever seen. We can not express our gratitude enough. Thank you Rich, Dave, Dane, Kerr, Brian, Pierson, Pat, Jason, Patrick, Wilson, Joe C., Tucker, Greg, Andrew, Ryan G., Eric, Natalie, Ryan M., KP, David, Brandon, Jonas, Justin, Adam, and Joe Z.

Shasta Basecamp

Things we love: Alpine sunsets around Basecamp  ph: M. Shamsee

To those who climbed, skied, and hiked with us this year; Thank you for allowing us the opportunity to share this grand adventure with you. Mt. Shasta is a special place and we are grateful to share our local knowledge and passion for the mountain with you. Please, please share your pictures and comments on our Facebook Page and other social media, we love to hear from our guests!

Greg Cunningham summit plateau

Greg Cunningham summit plateau  photo: M. Shamsee

Fall in Mt. Shasta can be dazzling with cooling temps, changing colors on the trees, and the ever present prospect of snow coating the upper elevations. The skis are waxed and ready for the changing season, but there is still lots of time before we’ll be making laps on Green Butte. Until then, we’ll be on the rocks, in the alpine, and at the beach. Happy fall, see you when the snow flies!

If you are looking for a new adventure this fall season, a few of our senior SMG guides are leading trips to international destinations. We work in partnership with International Alpine Guides to offer other select peaks and trips.

Mexico Volcanoes

Mexico Volcanoes

Dave Miller, our fully certified Technical Director will be climbing the Mexico Volcanoes starting October 26. Nine days of high altitude mountaineering with a highpoint of Pico de Orizaba at 18,491′

Fresh off his recent summer in the Alps, Dave is excited to head back to Mexico.


Chile Volcano Ski

Chile Volcano Ski

Rich Meyer, adventure ski seeker, departs soon for his second foray to Chile’s northern Patagonia region in search of volcano skiing, great food, local hot springs, and corn snow in September. Looking for the best spring skiing in the fall, join Rich in the Lakes District for this unique adventure


Go Climb a Glacier !

The tomato plants are thriving, the mountain lakes have reached perfect swimming temps, and the snows of Mt. Shasta have retreated from all but the north side glaciers. It’s been a hot summer after a below average winter and we have ceased guiding the traditional south side Avalanche Gulch route as well as the West Face climb. There are however still excellent options if you are hoping for a Mt. Shasta summit this season.

Approaching basecamp on the Hotlum-Bolam route Mt. Shasta

Approaching basecamp on the Hotlum-Bolam route Mt. Shasta.
photo: Garret Smith

Mt. Shasta is home to 7 glaciers including California’s largest. We find the northeast side Hotlum-Bolam and Hotlum-Wintun routes to offer excellent late season climbing and we lead trips for all levels of mountaineers on these climbs. This season currently has good conditions and will get icier and more challenging as we get later into August and September. Stay cool on a CA glacier this summer!

Senior Guide Eric Layton tying in for the Hotlum-Bolam

Senior Guide Eric Layton tying in for the Hotlum-Bolam
photo: Garret Smith

Mt. Shasta’s glacier climbs are a perfect introduction to climbing more technical routes as well as preparation for future climbs like Mt. Rainier and other Cascade peaks. We’ll climb steep snow and ice passing by the large bergschrund at the base of the ramp before the final steep pitches to the north summit. We climb both the Hotlum-Bolam and Hotlum-Wintun in 3 day summit climbs and 4 and 5 day Glacier Seminars.

Approaching the glacier on the Hotlum-Bolam Ridge Mt. Shasta

Approaching the glacier on the Hotlum-Bolam Ridge Mt. Shasta
photo: Garret Smith

The north side of Mt. Shasta is a very different experience than climbing the far more popular south side routes. Sometimes just reaching the Northgate trailhead is an adventure! We hike through whitebark pine forests and through volcanic landscapes to reach our basecamp perched on moraines at 9,500′. Glacier fed creeks flow close by and we enjoy views of the route straight up in front of our tent doors.

Hotlum-Bolam route Mt. Shasta

The view from camp
Hotlum-Bolam route Mt. Shasta

We’ve enjoyed great trips recently and expect to have good climbing for several more weeks on Mt. Shasta. Enjoy the long, mild summer days; they’re going fast and we’ll be feeling the first signs of fall in the air soon.

We will finish up our summit season in mid September this year. Although climbable year round, we find fall to have some of the most challenging and potentially dangerous route conditions on the mountain, it’s usually better to wait until next year. October brings perfect rock climbing (Rocktober!) and surfing to California, that’s where the SMG crew will be until the new snow starts to fly!