Mt. Shasta Conditions Report 3.16.15

It’s currently snowing on the mountain, we love rainy Mondays, and any other days for that matter! Despite the dry winter and unseasonably warm temps, Mt. Shasta has fared quite well this year and we’re grateful to have a fun and enjoyable winter at the top of the state! December and February delivered with significant storm totals to give us a solid base and thus far March has been kind with small systems to refresh and replenish our snowpack. The climbing and skiing have been fabulous!

Matt and Dane enjoy new snow at Lake Helen March 2015

Matt and Dane enjoy new snow at Lake Helen March 2015

The long periods of high pressure have provided for unusually fun climbing and skiing with spring-like conditions. Although it may not be the winter dreams are made of; ski touring in t-shirts, flip flops in the parking lot, and low to no avalanche hazard has made for stress free touring and smiles for miles for backcountry enthusiasts.

db3.12bl

Dane Brinkley drops into the Lake run with fresh powder and a clean slate for 3,500′

Last week we received 4-6″ of new snow on Wednesday. This past weekend delivered more wet weather and although the snow levels are high, this is just what we need to provide a good climbing season on Mt. Shasta. The best news is the long term forecast which is showing a cold and wet trough bringing significant valley rain and mountain snow early next week with snow levels down to 5,000′. After 35+ years guiding on Mt. Shasta, we know one thing is certain, you can never predict what the weather will do, despite what the calendar says.

Shay rips telemark turns in Avalanche Gulch March 2015

Shay rips telemark turns in Avalanche Gulch March 2015

We’ve been skiing some obscure lines as well as touring our old favorites. We have a full calendar of trips this year with something for everyone. Our upcoming Denali Prep Course 4/3-4/7 has just a couple spots left, as well as our new Cascade 2 for 1 for the hardiest mountaineers. Along with day classes and tours, summit climbs, ski descents, glacier seminars and spectacular ridge climbs for the alpinists out there, Mt. Shasta has been the place to be in 2015.

Casaval ridge is a striking feature on Mt. Shasta. Matt descending in good stlye.

Casaval Ridge is a striking feature on Mt. Shasta. Matt descending in good stlye.

Shasta Mountain Guides is your local professional guide service, on the mountain daily and in tune with the ever changing conditions. Call or email for questions or details. We look forward to seeing you on the mountain!

Upcoming Events

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March 17 REI Saratoga. Climbing Mt. Shasta Photo Presentation with Chris Carr SMG Director

March 18 REI San Carlos. Climbing Mt. Shasta Photo Presentation

March 19th REI Berkeley. Climbing Mt. Shasta Photo Presentation\

April 3-7 Denali Prep Seminar

April 17-20 Mt. Shasta Ski and Snowboard mountaineering seminar. Climb and ski/board both Mt. Shasta and Shastina

Mt. Shasta current conditions report

Spring on northern California’s Mt. Shasta can bring just about anything. Sunny high pressure or cold winter snow, mild days or blowing winds; we love it all! Cool mornings, longer days and unlimited recreation! Now is your chance to climb Mt. Shasta.

High camp Avalanche Gulch

High camp Avalanche Gulch

Climbing Mt. Shasta is always a challenge and adventure and reaching the summit can be a great achievement. Students from the Drew School in San Francisco experienced this when they chose to spend their spring break on a mountaineering seminar here on Mt. Shasta. Mr. Colby and 8 high school seniors spent 4 days learning the ropes before a successful April summit, congratulations team!

With this year’s low snowpack, we have made several summit climbs and groups have reached the top in early spring conditions. Currently there is a low pressure system bringing new snow to the mountain and clouds and wind to the area. Our first guide training begins this weekend and we look forward to the return of our professional staff.

SMG's medical advisor Dr. Sean Malee enjoys the Spring conditions

SMG’s medical advisor Dr. Sean Malee enjoys the Spring conditions

Spring is one of our favorite seasons on the mountain. Backcountry skiing and alpine mountaineering are prime. It’s also time to bring out the bikes, boats, climbing racks, hiking boots, fishing rods, camp chairs, and mellow vibes for high season in far Northern California!

As we’ve discussed, this year we have a below average snow pack. With that in mind we expect best conditions for summit climbs to be May-June on south side routes and June-August for north side routes. NOAA is calling for several inches of new snow this week, this will make for some fun skiing and transitional snow for climbing. With enough new snow, we may see an increase in avalanche hazard, be vigilant and conservative with mountaineering hazards.

As always, don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions at all, we are happy to help you plan your adventure.

Mt. Shasta Memorial Day Weekend

I never trust a weather forecast greater than 24-36 hours in advance, and even then I’m skeptical…We’ve seen a little bit of everything this week and now it’s looking great for a climb or ski this Memorial Day Weekend, especially after a little snowy refresh on the mountain, 3-6″ of new snow today! Just yesterday on 5/24, Joe Zuiches led a summit climb on The West Face and timed the ascent just ahead of the approaching front. Cold temps and consistant winds increased the challenge but they enjoyed the rewards of a hard earned summit; awesome job Corey and Jamie!

Until the latest front passing through the area Thursday night and Friday we’ve been enjoying some of the best spring weather we can ask for! Mild days, light winds, and cold nights have created excellent, smooth cramponing and wickedly fun corn skiing! Our climbers, skiers, and guides have been loving the fantastic conditions!

It looks like this system will blow itself out Saturday and Sunday and Monday should be beautiful days on the mountain. There’s still time to join us…

Mt. Shasta, where stoke is served up in huge servings!

Spring Skiing Mt. Shasta

Spring Skiing Mt. Shasta

We’ve often stated that May is prime season on Mt. Shasta. A combination of optimal climbing conditions, ultra smooth ski and summit trips, along with breathtaking California spring weather has  made this a month to remember. We’ve enjoyed several weeks of near perfect alpine adventure here in Northern California, and we encourage you to come explore for your self. The last 3 weeks have had successful summits and estatic climbers and skiers.

 

Here’s some highlights while you’re making your travel plans.

Ski West Face Mt. Shasta

Ski West Face Mt. Shasta

 

“…this was one of the best three days in my life. Thanks a million for getting me on top that awesome, huge, magical mountain.”

 

Hidden Valley Basecamp

Hidden Valley Basecamp

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“I have not been camping since I was a kid. I forgot how fun it was. I could stare at that mountain all day.”

 

 

Red Banks Mt. Shasta

Red Banks Mt. Shasta

 

 

 

 

 

“Fantastic teacher, very skilled, funny, personable, inspiring. It exceeded my expectations! Loved it! Our guide Andrew truly made the trip.”

 

 

 

 

 

This weekend kicks off the summer season. We have climbs and ski trips on the Hotlum-Bolam, Casaval Ridge, West Face and Avalanche Gulch routes starting tomorrow. Looking forward to awesome alpine conditions this week, see you here!

When is the best time to climb Mt. Shasta?

This is a very common and important question, and rightfully so. Proper conditions will greatly increase the safety of the group, as well as increase the likelihood of summit success on a giant Cascade volcano. We’ll answer best we can with the understanding that it greatly depends on the current mountain snowpack and weather.

Casaval Ridge

Casaval Ridge in early season

Historically and statistically, April-September can have some of the most stable weather on Northern California’s Mt. Shasta. Part of the Cascade mountain range, Mt. Shasta is a strato-volcano and on average receives over 500″ of snow per season. This snowpack is what creates good and saf(er) climbing conditions on the volcanoes. The snow provides an efficient and essential surface for climbing. As a Cascade peak, underneath all the snow lies an unstable rock surface. Optimally we climb when the snow still covers these loose rocks and the weather mostly stable. With proper timing we will climb when the snow is frozen in the wee hours of the night and early morning. Then typically, by 10:00 or 11:00 the surface has softened and makes for a quick and exciting descent with one of the longest glissades on the planet!

Mt. Shasta summit pinnacle

The primary factor is we want to climb Mt. Shasta when there is adequate snow coverage and a reasonable chance for high pressure and good weather. The current winter snowpack depths and weather patterns will ultimately determine when that is.

Unlike peaks to the south in the Sierra Nevada Range, we need the snow depth for safe and efficient travel. The old notion to wait for the snow to melt is a potentially dangerous solution and certainly a tedious challenge of uphill scrambling on loose, steep, rocks. We at SMG choose climbing routes in optimal condition and utilize several trailheads and aspects as conditions change throughout the year. We are on the mountain daily scrutinizing route conditions as they quickly change.

We recommend and regularly schedule summit climbs from April-September. A climb outside of this timeframe is certainly possible as a private and custom trip. In 35 years of guiding on Mt. Shasta,we’ve found best summit success in the spring and summer months.

Green Butte Ridge

April Ski Mountaineering Mt. Shasta

April and May are generally considered early season and can have fantastic alpine conditions. We feel this is the best timing for true alpine climbing and ski mountaineering with all of the routes having excellent conditions. There may still be concerns of avalanche hazard in Avalanche Gulch, especially if we receive new snowfall, but the ridges are prime now. You will be on snow the entire trip, from the trailhead to the top. Weather tends to be a bit colder and the wind a bit stronger as compared to later in the season. The advantage is the scenery is absolutely stunning and there are far fewer climbers on the mountain. Casaval Ridge is the preferred route for climbing and this is the season for a summit climb and ski or snowboard descent! Our experience is that there is a 90% chance of climbable weather in May, and 70-80% in April.

 

June summit!

June and July are peak season on the mountain. This is typically the best stable weather and adequate snowpack combo. Avalanche Gulch and the West Face are both in prime climbing condition at this time. In a big winter we may receive enough snow to allow climbing on the south side routes through August. In drought years, earlier is better. This is also the most impacted season, but anything is still possible; we have skied fresh powder in June and had snowstorms in July that dropped over 4 feet!

Hotlum Glacier August

August and September can have excellent and stable weather on the mountain. The North side Glacier Climbs are perfect at this time. August can be hot, but over on the north side, it’s cooler and the glaciers in prime shape. We may see afternoon thunderstorms, but they are usually late on Mt. Shasta and infrequent. Avalanche Gulch is typically done at this point, but the Hotlum and Bolam Glaciers are perfect! The snow level and temps may be creeping up on the south side routes and these may be too melted to allow safe climbing with serious rock fall a real hazard. As we get deeper into September, the days are short, temps a bit cooler, and the chance for snow not uncommon. The route conditions will deteriorate and we’re usually finishing up by mid September.

 

SHASTAAAAH!

Fall and Winter A climb is always possible however Fall often has very poor climbing conditions due to melted snow and glaciers. For those intent on an off-season climb, the Clear Creek route is a good choice. If one is resolved to experience whatever the mountain chooses to dish out, a winter expedition is a wonderful experience. Statistically, it is also the least likely time to be able to reach the summit. Severe, unpredictable weather and winds, extreme temps, deep, unconsolidated snow all make for a challenging winter ascent. This is the time to bring the backcountry skis and boards, Mt. Shasta is legendary for off-piste recreation.

We’ve had summer conditions in a January summit and fierce winter storms with powder skiing in July. One thing is for certain, there are few sites that equal the rugged beauty of Mt. Shasta in a storm; the clouds reveal a fresh landscape that will leave you breathless. Be prepared for all types of weather and temperatures, any time of year. Check the current weather and do not trust any forecast more than 2 days in advance, storms move quickly and can create whiteout conditions.