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!


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.


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 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


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!