Mt. Shasta Early Spring Update

It’s mid-April in Northern California and the sound of raindrops continue to be the theme for the winter and spring of ’16-’17. We have officially surpassed the mark for the wettest winter on record for the Northern Sierra section of CA, yay! The weather station at 7,600’ on Mt. Shasta is measuring close to 20’ of settled snow, this is truly remarkable and we are going to have excellent alpine conditions on Mt. Shasta this year.

Although it’s Spring per the calendar, there is still plenty of snow falling in Northern California. As the ski resorts are closing, our season is just ramping up and the backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering will be truly epic for the next several months.

Backcountry powder skiing Mt. Shasta

Backcountry powder skiing Mt. Shasta

Today (4.18.17) was yet another perfect day of backcountry skiing on Mt. Shasta. We received 4-5″ of cold snow on a soft supportive base with light winds which made for pretty sublime conditions.

West Face Mt. Shasta

West Face Mt. Shasta

Our season is off and running. The last couple weeks have brought amazing snow quality and beyond stoked guests. Several of our guides have been leading ski tours, splitboard seminars, and climbing classes as we wait for the jet stream to bring more seasonal weather and we are able to get onto the upper mountain.

Untracked smooth snow for miles on Mt. Shasta

Untracked smooth snow for miles on Mt. Shasta

Eric Layton, senior guide and splitboard guru just spent 3 days on the mountain and racked up some serious vertical of untouched and butter smooth spring powder. To say they were stoked would be an understatement and they were thrilled by the untouched canvas of volcano ski touring.

Fantastic skiing on Mt. Shasta

Fantastic skiing on Mt. Shasta

The Mt. Shasta Avalanche Center has completed their avalanche advisories for the season; that’s not to say that the hazard has diminished, and it’s just the opposite. We have received several more storm systems this week and if the forecast is correct it looks like this weekend could provide the first real spring like weather this year. Sunny skies and mild temps are on tap. With all the new snow, and rapidly warming temperatures, we are very concerned with the possibility of wet slide avalanches this weekend. We strongly recommend caution and to avoid runout zones and gullies, especially below Lake Helen. There is a high probability of south and east slopes to become unstable and for large, destructive wet slides to run a long distance. 

Ski Mountaineering training Mt. Shasta

Ski Mountaineering training Mt. Shasta

Once we have a few cycles of mild days and cold nights, the hazard will diminish and we expect a long and enjoyable season on Mt. Shasta. Our guided climbs and trips are beginning to fill and we recommend contacting us soon to secure your dates.

Upcoming Events:

Guide training with Dave Miller and Rich Meyer 4/21-23. We can’t wait to see our crew back with such epic conditions!

Mt. Shasta Ski Mountaineering Seminar 4/21-24 Senior Guide Dane Brinkley leads 4 days of advanced ski mountaineering with some excellent weather and conditions lined up

The Geology of Mt. Shasta Presentation by Dr. William Hirt Friday April 21 at 7:00pm Sisson Museum

Summit climbs and ski descents each weekend starting now!

Call or email for the latest. Happy Spring!

Mt. Shasta Conditions Report and Winter Update

To say that we have received a lot of snow this season is a vast understatement. January alone is 197% of normal so far. California has been absolutely clobbered; Shasta, Tahoe, and Mammoth all received epic amounts of snow which has guaranteed a great ski season and full reservoirs. The snowpack on Mt. Shasta at 7,600′ is measuring close to 10′ and yes, another storm is headed our way this week.

Mt. Shasta West Face January 2017

Mt. Shasta West Face January 2017

A series of potent and wet storms came in with fluctuating snow levels. Fortunately, it all fell as snow above 7,500′ and it’s safe to assume that the upper slopes of Mt. Shasta received over 8′ of snowfall this week. After the warm system on Wednesday, the temps dropped and we received another 2 feet of colder snow to deliver excellent powder skiing conditions.

Mt. Shasta backcountry skiing

Mt. Shasta backcountry skiing

We finally had a break in the weather and fantastic high pressure sunny skies for the weekend as Mt. Shasta is holding excellent skiing from the chairlifts at The Mt. Shasta Ski Park to the earned turns in the Mt. Shasta Backcountry. It has been beautiful with all the winter weather and sky-high ski stoke here in far northern California.

Mt. Shasta backcountry skiers

Mt. Shasta backcountry skiers

A deep winter snowpack and regular storms not only benefit the powder skier, but these storms will ensure that the climbing, ski mountaineering, and backpacking trips will have excellent conditions. Without question, Mt. Shasta will be primed for outdoor recreation all year long.

Mt. Shasta West Face and Casaval Ridge 2017

Mt. Shasta West Face and Casaval Ridge 2017

With the abundant snow conditions and growing interest in backcountry skiing; our guides have been busy teaching Avalanche Courses and leading ski tours this winter. Dane Brinkley has been showing guests the charm and unique terrain from the Beyond the Boundaries program hosted with the Mt. Shasta Ski Park. Nick Caselli is our resident split-board guide and ready to share his expertise with snowboarders getting into the backcountry.

Earning a long run on Mt. Shasta

Earning a long run on Mt. Shasta

Backcountry Skiing Mt. Shasta, CA

Backcountry Skiing Mt. Shasta, CA

We’ve been working in partnership with our local Mt. Shasta Avalanche Center this season and are hosting the free monthly Avalanche Awareness presentations at our downtown shop. It’s been a full turnout this year and it’s great to see so many enthusiastic for learning. February 3rd is the next date. Nick Meyers is the Lead Avalanche Forecaster and Climbing Ranger on Mt. Shasta and works tirelessly to educate the public, thanks Nick! I always enjoy the opportunity to tour with Nick and observe him in action. Not a bad office:

Nick Meyers

Nick Meyers Lead Avalanche Forecaster

We are entering into one of the most exciting weeks of our winter season. Not only is there another storm coming with 1-2′ of snow expected, but there is a great weekend of activities planned for the backcountry enthusiast.

Mt. Shasta Ascension Race

Mt. Shasta Ascension Race

Mt. Shasta Snowball!

Mt. Shasta Snowball!

Saturday there will be the annual Mt. Shasta Ascension Backcountry Ski Race, free demo day at the Mt. Shasta Ski Park, and Shasta Mountain Guides is offering a free Intro to Backcountry Ski tour. To top it off, Saturday night is the highly anticipated 15th Annual Mt. Shasta Snowball. I’m tired just writing all that, hope to see you here, it’s going to be a blast!

The winter is still early and we have a solid base to guarantee an excellent season. As guides we are a local resource available to answer your specific questions and are happy to share our daily observations. Please be safe out there and always remember to check the daily avalanche advisory:

Mt. Shasta Avalanche Advisory.

Have fun and see you on the mountain!

Mt. Shasta Climbing Route Photos and Report

Mt. Shasta has been the place to be this week. As the weather forecast showed signs of improving, there was a buzz around the near pefect climbing and skiing conditions on the southern Cascade volcano. Newly opened trailheads were allowing access and a long holiday weekend brought the snow craved masses to our tiny northern California town.

Avalanche Gulch awaits photo: C. Krumholz

Avalanche Gulch awaits photo: C. Krumholz

And for good reason, Mt. Shasta was glorious. The amount of joy and stoke was immeasurable by the looks of the smiling, sun burned faces on the mountain. We’re still glowing from a great weekend and now fully primed for a full summer of climbs, backpacking trips, and seminars.

Red Banks climb team Mt. Shasta photo: C. Krumholz

Red Banks climb team Mt. Shasta photo: C. Krumholz

At SMG our entire staff was out either for work or for play and found each aspect to offer classic Mt. Shasta spring adventures. On Sunday teams climbed the West Face, Casaval Ridge, and Avalanche Gulch. Monday teams climbed via Avalanche Gulch and the Hotlum-Wintun Ridge.

West Face Mt. Shasta perfect conditions

West Face Mt. Shasta perfect conditions

No matter where your chosen line, there was nothing but ideal snow for crampons and smooth snow for skis and snowboards. Guides all remarked how absolutely perfect the climbing currently is on all routes on Mt. Shasta, the best it’s been in years.

Alpine climbing Avalanche Gulch photo: M. Whitman

Alpine climbing Avalanche Gulch photo: M. Whitman

This week is bringing hot temps and conditions will start to change. The skiing is still holding good above 9,000′ but with warm temps the lower mountain is getting sun cupped and textured. Casaval Ridge is still decent but the cat-walk is melting fast and the traverse sections are showing rocks as well.

Climbing the catwalk Casaval Ridge photo: A. Zok

Climbing the catwalk Casaval Ridge photo: A. Zok

There is always lots of anticipation around the opening of alternate trailheads. Currently you can drive to within 1.5 miles of the Brewer Creek trailhead. We ventured over for a visit to climb and ski one of Mt. Shasta’s classic ski lines, the Hotlum-Wintun ridge. It’s hard to argue this status when looking down the immense northeast face and rearly 8,000′ of relief.

Hot Tune ski Mt. Shasta, CA

Hot Tune ski Mt. Shasta, CA

 

Thumb Rock sunrise photo: Cobi Krumholz

Thumb Rock sunrise photo: Cobi Krumholz

We’re pretty excited to have a “normal” season once again. With an abundant snow pack, mild weather, and summer vacation on the horizon, grand adventure awaits!

Avalanche Gulch and West Face will be great through July and maybe longer and the north side glaciers will climb well into September this year.

Congratulations to all the climbers recently, it’s been a super fun start to the season and we’re stoked for summer on the mountain!

Mt. Shasta Spring Update

Spring on Mt. Shasta is an exciting prospect and each day brings something new; an updated weather forecast, cool tempertures, sun, wind, maybe even some new snow. Such is spring in the Cascades. Our weather in California can be stable and consistant but in early spring of an El Niño year, anything is possible.

Mt. Shasta Hidden Valley basecamp

Mt. Shasta Hidden Valley basecamp and West Face route

One of the challenges of mountaineering is to manage our goals and attitude to reflect the current reality. It’s easy as climbers to focus on the end result, did you stand on the summit or not? But the adventure of alpinism absolutely lies in the process. And if we ignore the beauty and struggles of the entire expedition and judge our success on whether or not we reach the summit, then we’ve missed the whole point.

all smiles in Avalanche Gulch Mt. Shasta

all smiles in Avalanche Gulch Mt. Shasta

With the variable weather and unseasonably cold temps, reaching the summit has been especially challenging this month (May 2016) on Mt. Shasta. We’ve carved small windows of opportunity from the weather forecast, adjusted our climb schedule to maximize climbing chances, bundled under layers of fleece and down and huddled from the blowing wind. The truth is, not everyone reaches the summit; goals fall short and objectives un-met. It’s easy to feel disappointed but we want to remember that whatever our high point, just by choosing to climb and taking that first step, we’ve already accomplished so much pushing beyond our comfort zone. Congratulations to all climbers, whatever your high point is.

Alpine start Mt. Shasta, CA

Alpine start Mt. Shasta, CA

Early spring and summer on Mt. Shasta is one of our favorite times of the year. With cool evenings, mild days and occasional storms smoothing out the snow surface. We joke of our recreational stress syndrome (R.S.S.) and manage the affliction with a cold beer on the tailgate or camp chair after a full day. Morning ski tours followed by afternoon bike rides. Do you pack the climbing gear or load the kayaks, mountain or road bike, glacier hike or trail run? So many decisions…

S. Fork Sacramento River Clean Up. SMG guides pulled out a ton of garbage and junk from this pristine watershed

S. Fork Sacramento River Clean Up. SMG guides pulled out a ton of garbage and junk from this pristine watershed

We at SMG are locals, we live in Mt. Shasta, this is our home and our guides are like family. This past week on a perfect spring day, we had a group of guides volunteer their time to help with an annual project that SMG supports; a garbage clean up of public lands. Special thanks to Adam, Razor, Aysha, T.L., and Chris who filled 2 large trucks with garbage, appliances, and junk from the South Fork of the Sacramento River drainage. Bravo!

Currently there is 2-3 feet of snow at Bunny Flat, this and the Northgate trailhead are the only trailheads accessible. Clear Creek is 2-3 miles and Brewer Creek is between 5-6 miles to reach the trailhead.

Our calendar is rapidly filling, please be in touch if you have any questions or wish to join a Mt. Shasta summit climb. Good luck, be safe, and enjoy Mt. Shasta!

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!

Mt. Shasta Climb Report and Current Conditions 5.27.15

Climbing season on Mt. Shasta just went into high gear. With a festive holiday and near perfect snow and weather, mountaineers who made the journey to Northern California were rewarded with Mt. Shasta in ideal late spring conditions.

West Face Mt. Shasta May 2015  ph: C. Krumholz

West Face Mt. Shasta May 2015 ph: C. Krumholz

The mountain received new snow last week and with an improving weather window, the conditions in the alpine zone were beautiful. A reliable boot pack facilitated the climbing and the refreshed snow surface made for epic glissading and skiing on all aspects.

Mt. Shasta shadow West Face  ph: C. Krumholz

Mt. Shasta shadow West Face ph: C. Krumholz

SMG had groups on the south, west, and north sides of Mt. Shasta and all the teams had climbers reach the summit. Avalanche Gulch was the choice for many, we counted over 70 tents at Lake Helen Saturday night. The West Face teams found ideal climbing and a full glissade from the top of the route all the way back to camp in Hidden Valley. Greg and Jonas led our ski mountaineering expedition to the Hotlum-Wintun and found classic Shasta skiing for 7,000′ of relief.

SMG Guide JC serves up dinner at high camp.

SMG Guide JC serves up dinner at high camp.

Although it was a little impacted in Avy Gulch the favorable conditions minimized hazards. We witnessed very little rock fall and all routes have great climbing and melt-freeze conditions. We anticipate the south side routes to have good conditions through June and probably longer and the north side routes to be good through August and beyond.

a 4,000' glissade down the West Face of Mt. shasta  ph: C. Krumholz

A 4,000′ glissade down the West Face of Mt. shasta ph: C. Krumholz

It’s always fun to see friends old and new and we love the inspiration! The postcard-perfect views were beautiful and the alpine conditions allowed us to sample a variety of temps and climbing techniques. It’s always such a joy to witness climbers have a great adventure, be pushed beyond their comfort zone, and achieve their goals. Over the years we’ve made many friends on Mt. Shasta, it’s the most enjoyable part of what we do, thanks for climbing with us!

Mt. Shasta summit team May 2015  ph: C. Krumholz

Mt. Shasta summit team May 2015 ph: C. Krumholz

Congratulations to all the climbers this week on Mt. Shasta. Now that we are moving into summer, we are settling into prime climbing season. Best conditions are here and now. See you on the mountain!

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Upcoming Events

5/26 and 5/27 USFS Climbing Ranger Nick Meyers will be at REI Santa Rosa and REI Saratoga for Mt. Shasta climbing presentations.

June 6-7 American Liver Foundation Liver Life Challenge The Liver Life Challenge Mt. Shasta Climb, the American Liver Foundation’s annual mountaineering expedition to fight liver disease.

Look for exciting news from SMG, it’s going to be a great summer!

Trip Report: Shasta Mountain Guides Ski Mountaineering Seminar

Here is a special report from SMG Senior Guide Dane Brinkley. This is a new, exciting trip for us and it’s no understatement to say the planets aligned and the team experienced the most amazing weather and ski conditions for four days in Hidden Valley. Check it out and prepare to be impressed (and maybe a little jealous!) 13,000′ of prime spring skiing, wow! Thanks Dane and hearty congratulations to the team!

Day 1: Gear Check, Tour from Bunny Flat to Hidden Valley

Basecamp Hidden Valley

Basecamp Hidden Valley

With great weather in the forecast and excitement in the air our crew of 6 met in the morning at the Fifth Season in Mt Shasta, CA. We were a team of 4 guests, myself and SMG Guide Jacob Swartz. We all got together on the morning of April 17 to make introductions and get our gear sorted. After a short while of being with this crew it became obvious that we were in for a great time! The most successful expeditions require a group of people that work together and help each other out and that was exactly what we had. The team departed Bunny Flat (6,950 feet), the snow was soft enough to make for easy travel on skins. Heavy packs made for slow but steady movement. Most of our group had just come from sea level so we took our time as we skinned to our basecamp in Hidden Valley (9,300 feet). A slow ascent is critical for proper acclimatization. The final traverse into Hidden Valley is steep and exposed to rock fall and avalanches on the warmest afternoons. We wanted the snow on the traverse to be soft enough to skin across but not so soft that we’d be exposed to these hazards. This was the case until about half way across at which point the snow became just firm enough to make skinning stressful for even the most experienced. We transitioned to boot travel and made the decision to do so relatively early. In my experience it’s best to anticipate transitions and to make them a little earlier than necessary. This way one can avoid putting oneself into an uncomfortable situation on a steep and exposed slope. The traverse now behind us, we made it into camp by about 4 PM and were pleased to find excellent snow coverage in Hidden Valley. We’d be able to skin right out of camp the next day and then ski all the way back to our tents. After hydrating and enjoying a big pot of organic chili made with couscous, lentils, and vegetables the crew was ready to rest up for the next day.

Day 2, Acclimatization & Ski Mountaineering Skills

We woke to a clear sky and warming temps. Breakfast would be bagels, cream cheese, Canadian bacon, coffee, and tea. Properly fueled and caffeinated we prepared ourselves for a full day of ski touring and mountaineering skills instruction. Our plan for the weekend was an ambitious one. With climbs and ski descents of both Shastina (12,330) and Mt. Shasta (14,179) proper acclimatization would be essential. With this in mind we used this day to actively prepare our bodies for massive elevation gain. This is a critical skill in mountaineering that doesn’t come as easily as one might think. Our experience at Shasta Mountain Guides has taught us that the old adage of “climb high, sleep low” rings true and is the best way to maximize one’s red blood cell production, which allows for oxygen transport in the blood stream. Our pace, to everyone’s surprise was slow and easy however efficient enough to still climb about 1000 feet an hour. We skinned slowly allowing our bodies to adjust, we used “pressure breathing” for efficient lung function, and we practiced the basic movement skills that we’d use in the next 2 days of mountaineering. We also thoroughly practiced self-arrests just in case any of us slipped on the way up or down. The skiing was as good as I’ve experienced in my 10 years on the mountain so we climbed and skied 2 laps each up to about 11,000 feet. The team returned to camp about 4 PM feeling stoked on the skiing, confident with skill, and hungry for dinner, which would be SMG’s famous “Mountain High Burritos”.

Day 3, Shastina via Cascade Gulch

Skinning up Cascade Gulch

Skinning up Cascade Gulch

We woke up once again to clear skies and mild temperatures. After breakfast we shouldered our packs and steadily began to skin toward Cascade Gulch, our chosen ascent route. The skinning was smooth and pleasant as we approached our first transition to crampons. We climbed a short steep chute with crampons before continuing on our skis and skins. The skinning felt quite easy and we all enjoyed the rhythmic sliding of feet and swinging of arms gradually and casually ascending Cascade Gulch. At a certain point we knew that we’d have to transition once again to crampons so we opted to do this just a little sooner than needed to ensure that we wouldn’t find ourselves fumbling with gear while clinging to an impossibly steep slope. We strapped our skis to our packs and used crampons to climb out of Cascade Gulch and onto Shastina’s crater rim. After a short time we found ourselves off of the rim and climbing the final few hundred feet of the Shastina’s summit cone. Another few minutes and we were on the summit of the third highest volcano in the Cascade Range! It could’ve been so much harder than it had been if we hadn’t taken time to acclimatize the previous 24 hours or if we tried to rush the pace. Our casual approach actually was helping us achieve big goals while maximizing the fun factor. We were happy to run into a group of 3 locals on the summit and enjoyed a few laughs on top before skiing 3000 feet of perfect corn all the way back to our camp. Back at camp morale was high and everyone was wearing a smile. To give ourselves the best possible chance at Shasta’s summit we would need all our strength the following morning. “Active Recovery” is the only way to stay fit on any demanding expedition. This includes hydration, nutrition, sleep, and some light stretching. With this in mind we dined early on organic soup and pasta with meatballs, and vegetables, in a cream sauce, then washed it down with herbal tea. The team all checked gear and packed backpacks for the next day’s adventure, climbing the West Face of Mount Shasta. Then, feeling strong and well fed we all retired early to get some sleep.

Day 4, Mount Shasta via The West Face

Topping out on the West Face

Topping out on the West Face

An early start was important to give ourselves the best chance at climbing then skiing optimal conditions. When my alarm sounded at 2:45 AM I got dressed, put my feet into my still damp boot liners, unzipped the door of my tent, then persuaded the foam of the liners into the cold plastic of ski boots. I straightened, looked up, and was taken aback by the sky above. Cloudless and so clear it felt as if our camp floated among the stars themselves and although the early morning air bit cold on my face and hands I was suddenly filled the warmth of confidence that today would be a safe and successful day. Our training and mindful preparation would pay off. I always try to give gratitude for these experiences at this quiet and still hour of the day before waking up my teammates. After a hot breakfast we left camp a few minutes after 4 AM and traveled out of camp under the light of headlamp with skis on our pack and crampons on our feet. In a short while we found ourselves standing beneath The West Face. We roped up in 2 teams. The mood was positive and we moved together supporting and encouraging one another. Ice axes in hand, one step at the time, together.

Summit Success!

Summit Success!

It’s important that we stick to our plan. It was a good plan having worked all weekend. Keep the pace steady and the mood casual. Remember to relax and breathe. Eat and drink every hour. Talk to and look out for each other. The climbing was wonderful, perfect cramponing on smooth frozen snow that would soften by early afternoon and make for incredible ski conditions. The top of the West Face gets a bit steep and the last 500 feet always seem to be the most challenging. With determination and patience we overcame the hardships of ski mountaineering and embraced the relief of sunshine and rest at 13,000 after finally reaching the very top of the West Face. Still having almost 1,200 feet of climbing to attain the summit we pressed upward, steadily still. “Misery Hill” was the next challenge. In stride, we climbed it. The positive vibe of the crew made the task almost easy and we overcame “Misery” together as a team. The next step of our climb was to cross the summit plateau, which is basically walking the flat distance of a soccer field (if soccer was played at 14,000 feet). This part felt like an active rest compared to the rigors of our climb so far. With the plateau behind us, we climbed the last 200 feet and before long were all standing on the summit! So far our mindful approach and careful training had paid off but the crew was feeling the elevation so we didn’t waste too much time. I always consider the summit our halfway point. It’s a long way back down to camp and I reminded myself that although the skiing was sure to be fantastic we still had a few hazards to manage. Afternoon rock fall is always a concern on Shasta and we must be careful with our decent, skiing well and avoiding any injuries on the mountain. We stepped into our skis and began out decent. Off of the summit, back across the plateau, carefully linking turns down misery hill, then traversing back to the top of the West Face.

Skiing the West Face of Mt. Shasta

Skiing the West Face of Mt. Shasta

Looking down we could tell that the sun had by then worked its magic and transformed a frozen surface from the early morning into something soft and smooth. 3,700 feet of perfect conditions waited below. Elated, we dropped in and enjoyed one of the most incredible ski runs in the country. Within an hour we were back at camp. All that remained was to pack up and descend to Bunny Flat. To our surprise the snow on the lower mountain hadn’t over-softened in the afternoon heat and again we were gifted 2,300 feet of perfect snow, which helped us manage the burden of skiing with 45lb backpacks. At 4:30 PM we arrived at the Bunny Flat parking lot tired and euphoric after 4 days and 13,000 feet of ski mountaineering on 2 of the most majestic volcanic peaks anywhere in the world.

Climbing Mt. Shasta 2015

March has arrived and we find ourselves in a mild high pressure weather window. Hardly the lion we were hoping for, but we can enjoy the snow coated Mt. Shasta while tracking the jet stream for our next storm system. Historically March can be very wintery and wet in Northern California, there is some hope on the horizon for additional snow next week. And despite the talk of drought, we have been very fortunate on Mt. Shasta to receive significant storms this year to put our snow pack about average for 2015. And average=awesome on this Cascade peak!

Welcome sign at Horse Camp, Mt. Shasta

Welcome sign at Horse Camp, Mt. Shasta

Current Conditions: We did receive a modest amount of new snow last Friday-Saturday (2/27-28). Enough to smooth the snowpack and reset the climbing and skiing, but not quite enough for prolonged powder turns. With the mild temps on tap this weekend, we expect yet another excellent corn cycle on Mt. Shasta. There is several feet of snow at the trailhead and above 8,000′ the pack is smooth and mostly consolodated. A slight concern for isolated wind slabs but otherwise low avalanche hazard exists. Best skiing will be on south and east aspects during the warmest part of the day. Climbing is possible with good, winter conditions on all routes. There will be icefall concern as the weather warms later this week from the upper mountain shedding rime ice.

Mt. Shasta local pro Forrest Coots skis around the avalanche debris in Avalanche Gulch March 3rd

Mt. Shasta local pro Forrest Coots skis around avalanche debris in Avalanche Gulch March 3rd

Upcoming highlights: As mentioned above, we’re just slightly above normal (102%) for our water this year. The mild and wet storms that we received translated into a deep, consolodated upper mountain snowpack. This means Spring and Summer will have excellent climbing and ski mountaineering on Mt. Shasta this year.

The West Face of Mt. Shasta and Shastina

The West Face of Mt. Shasta and Shastina

We are offering a new program this year for motivated adventure seekers; a Cascade 2 for 1. A chance to climb both Mt. Shasta and Shastina in a single trip! April 17-20 will be our new Ski and Snowboard Mountaineering Seminar. 4 days camped in Hidden Valley with the goal of skiing the West Face Gully on Mt. Shasta and the Southeast Face of Shastina.

Perfect corn skiing on Shastina's Diller Canyon

Dr. Sean Malee SMG’s Medical Advisor skiing perfect corn on Shastina’s Diller Canyon

April 28-May 1 will be for the climbers with the same goal but hopefully epic glissading down the routes! For mountaineers looking for an extra challenge and the opportunity to explore Shastina, one of the Cascades  hidden gems!

Dane Brinkley topping out on Shastina with Sean Malee and Nick Caselli

Dane Brinkley topping out on Shastina with Sean Malee and Nick Caselli

Local Senior Guide Dane Brinkley has been keeping busy leading our day ski tours. He’s stoked to find the best snow on the mountain and will be available for our Serendipity Day Tours this winter and spring.

Although it’s been an interesting winter, we’re hoping to see several more storms before spring really sets in. It’s always hard to predict but it’s hardly unusual to see cold, wet weather in April and May. The prime climbing season is just around the corner and we’re fired up for our 33rd season on the Mountain! As always, contact us for the latest conditions, we’re on the Mountain daily.

Mt. Shasta Summer Climbing Report and Photo Essay

 

Sunrise over Casaval Ridge Mt. Shasta

Sunrise over Casaval Ridge Mt. Shasta

It’s mid summer and with the ideal weather and route conditions, we’ve been in full tilt operations here at SMG. It’s been an amazing couple weeks with the annual fundraising climbs that we lead for the Breast Cancer Fund-Climb Against the Odds, Fred Hutchinson Climb to fight Breast Cancer, and Summit For Someone. We have the greatest respect for the climbers on these expeditions and congratulate you all on your efforts, both on the mountain and off!

For the last several years, Sequoia Photography has photographed the climb for the BCF. We’re sharing her beautiful photos here to hopefully motivate and inspire. This event is an incredible culmination of hard work and dedication by many people. Thanks for all you do!

Cathy Ann Taylor and Sean Malee, part of the SMG family!

Cathy Ann and Sean

Cathy Ann and Sean

The conditions are holding up great on the West Face route, we’ll probably climb here through July before switching to the north and east side routes for the remainder of the 2012 season.

Climbing the West Face Mt. Shasta

Climbing the West Face Mt. Shasta

Climb On!

Climb On!

 

Snow, ice, crampons! Come cool the summer heat on Mt. Shasta!

 

Climbing the West Face route Mt. Shasta

Climbing the West Face route Mt. Shasta

 

 

 

Eric Layton keeps a close eye on his team

Climbing a classic peak in great style.

West Face summer climbing Mt. Shasta

West Face summer climbing Mt. Shasta

Pat fired up!

Who-Hoo!

Who-Hoo!

Post summit shaka! Linda, Teasha, and Amy celebrate!

Basecamp stoke!

Basecamp stoke!

 

climbing is FUN!

climbing is FUN!

Drew enjoying the fruits of his labor. Special thanks to the Fifth Season for offering this delicious mountain breakfast! Bacon and fresh strawberries, c’mon!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’re ecstatic over the wonderful summer 2012 season here on the mountain. This is because of the amazing climbers we get to meet and share this adventure with. Along with our staff of “the best guides on the planet”, we can’t be more grateful for a safe and successful season so far.

We still have lots of time left for a Mt. Shasta summit climb or seminar. The North side glacier routes will be in great shape through September and we’ll be watching how conditions hold up on the south and west side.  As always, call or email for more details.

Thanks to all our climbers and organizations who climb with us here at SMG, you are all heroes!

 

Mt. Shasta Climb Report 5.14.12

We’re still buzzing here at SMG HQ after a fantastic week of climbing and skiing on the Cascade’s most sacred peak. Skiers are absolutely loving the near perfect conditions we’ve enjoyed in this ideal spring weather and summit climbers are finding all the south side routes in excellent shape for their alpine adventure.

Upper Red Banks Mt. Shasta

Upper Red Banks Mt. Shasta

We had several teams on the mountain this weekend and all are reporting total success. Climbers on Casaval Ridge were delighted to climb through the Cat Walk en route to the summit. Skiers found perfect melt-freeze pretty much everywhere while working the aspect to follow the sun. Our West Face teams were happily camped for a scenic and quiet Wilderness experience in Hidden Valley. Personally, I had a great climb up Avalanche Gulch yesterday (Sunday) checking in with our teams and enjoying a classic descent on the east side Konwakiton Glacier.

It truly doesn’t get much better than the current conditions we have. Awesome weather, light winds, and a consolodated snow pack. Do you need any other reasons to pack your bags for Mt. Shasta??

Daron Rahlves leaves a contrail on the West Face

Daron Rahlves leaves a contrail on the West Face