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 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 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 climbing conditions update June 2015

Mt. Shasta is sizzling! Summer is officially here when swimming in the lake is the post climb afternoon activity. Now is the time to seek the cool snow and great climbing conditions on Mt. Shasta. The snow coverage is excellent above 9,500′ and Misery Hill at 13,200′ looks fantastic and not miserable at all!

We <heart> Misery Hill

We heart Misery Hill  ph: C. Krumholz

We have been on Avalanche Gulch, the West Face, the Hotlum Glacier, and the Hotlum-Wintun this past week. All routes have very good snow climbing above 9,500′. We are walking on dry ground to Horse Camp and beyond and patchy snow will be encountered to Hidden Valley. On the northeast side, you will reach snow after about 500′ vertical of hiking.

We appreciate the feedback and shared photos from our guests and love this time-lapse of climbers on Shasta’s West Face. Thanks Jonathan S. for sending this along and for a great climb on the mountain!YouTube Preview Image

Congratulations to the American Liver Foundation and their successful climb this week. We always have great respect for climbing for a larger cause. A special shout out to Kendall McGuffrey who at 12 years old was here climbing for his mom. Great effort Kendall, I know we’ll see you in the mountains again!

American Liver Foundation on Mt. Shasta's summit

American Liver Foundation on Mt. Shasta’s summit

Good to excellent climbing is found on most routes. We have seen warm temps and heavy rain this week, heads up for potential for rock fall. Hopefully it is cooling off the and the snow pack gets a good freeze which will enhance the climbing conditions.

Mike Whitman enjoys the view while melting snow for the summit climb

Guide Mike Whitman enjoys the view while melting snow for the summit climb

Although the skiing is winding down for this season, there is still plenty of good turns to be found for the adventurous and those willing to work a little harder. Polly Layton skied with Anne and Cynthia and scored 3 days of great fun from Hidden Valley.

Ski touring from Hidden Valley June 2015  ph: P. Layton

Ski touring from Hidden Valley June 2015 ph: P. Layton

The ladies charged, were fit and motivated, and skied both the lightening bolt on Shastina and the West Face on Mt. Shasta. Polly reported some of the best ski conditions she’s had on the mountain. A little bit of new snow smoothed the route and made for awesome summer skiing! Congrats, you set the new record for the Cascade 2 fer completing 2 summits in 2 days!

Mt. Shasta holds California’s largest glaciers and the Hotlum is our favorite. Our upcoming Glacier Seminars are a perfect introduction to learning the skill of glacier travel and crevasse rescue. Mt. Shasta’s north side is a completely different mountain with ice falls and seracs and some of California’s most diverse landscapes.

Dane tours up the Hotlum Glacier June 2015

Dane tours up the Hotlum Glacier June 2015

Each passing day, the snow level slowly inches higher up the mountain. We’re pretty excited about the current state of conditions on Mt. Shasta. This season is likely the best climbing we’ve seen in the last 4 years. Although California is experiencing severe drought, we’re fortuntate here up north to have a near normal snowpack.

Old Ski Bowl Mt. Shasta

Old Ski Bowl Mt. Shasta

The Mt. Shasta area and Siskiyou county have to be some of the most scenic and rugged destinations in the American west. We invite you to explore the area by boots and bikes, on rivers and lakes; you’ll be surrounded by fresh air and few other distractions but nature’s beauty.

Come visit us at our new storefront location; 230 North Mt. Shasta Blvd. Doors will be open July 1st, look for more details to come! Happy summer!

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!