"A climb of Mt. Shasta is a very special experience. It presents each individual with the unique opportunity to visit the Mt. Shasta Wilderness, part of the National Wilderness Preservation System...We encourage you to enter into the spirit of wilderness and humbly and carefully make your way through this landscape, ever mindful of the special privilege you have to realize yourself as a creature in harmony with wildness, pursuing the challenge and reward of personal growth. On your journey to the summit, travel lightly and quietly on the land. Experience the timelessness of rock and ice, the dormant volcanic energy of a sleeping giant, and the indifference of eternity. Come prepared to climb a major mountain."
-George Duffy, retired Climbing Ranger
Welcome to the Mt. Shasta Climbing Advisory
A couple notes for the Mt. Shasta Wilderness Area...
Dogs are NOT allowed anywhere in the wilderness OR on Sierra Club Property. Please respect this rule and know where the boundaries are. The Old Ski Bowl is a great place to take your dog that is outside the wilderness. Sun Bowl and Powder Bowl are part of Sierra Club property and dogs are NOT allowed in those areas either. There is a map posted at all trailheads to help educate oneself of the boundaries. Thank You!
Wilderness Permits are required to enter the wilderness. They are free and availabe at all OPEN trailheads or at the Mt. Shasta and McCloud Ranger Stations and at The 5th Season in Mt. Shasta. A summit pass is required to go anywhere above 10,000 feet, even if you do not plan on going to the summit. They are $20 for a 3-day pass or $30 for an annual and available for self issue at all OPEN trailheads, The 5th Season or at the ranger stations (Mt. Shasta/McCloud). The annual pass is only availabe at the ranger stations during business hours. When you are climbing or skiing, have your summit pass and wilderness permit ready to show a ranger. If it's in the bottom of your pack, while we'd love to trust you, the rangers will have you dig it out....no fun when your in your skiing/hiking groove!
Lastly, it is REQUIRED to packout your human waste, aka - feces, excrement, poop :) FREE human waste packout bags are supplied for you and are availabe at all trailheads and ranger stations, as well as The 5th Season and Shasta Base Camp. Please also be mindful of your trash while camping in the wilderness. Food scraps, match sticks, micro trash such as wrapper tear off's of bars, etc. all need to be packed out. The rangers find way to much of this stuff. Leaving your gear and food or trash out in an exposed manner while you venture away from your camp is not acceptable. Ravens, pine martens, squirrels and WIND will spread it far and wide. Not cool...
Thank you so much for obeying these simple rules and enjoy your Mt. Shasta Wilderness experience!! If you have any questions, don't hesitate to call the Mt. Shasta Ranger Station front desk at 530-926-4511 or The Climbing Rangers at 530-926-9614.
Have a great day!
USFS Mt. Shasta Climbing Advisory - Updated 5/16/13
CLIMBERS! YOU WILL NEED THE FOLLOWING MANDATORY ITEMS:
♦Wilderness Permit, Summit Pass, and Human Waste Pack-out Bags: you can get all of these for self issue at all the trailheads or at the Mt. Shasta Ranger Station 24/7. The Mt. Shasta Ranger Station is open Monday through Friday from 8-4:30pm. Annual summit passes are available for $30 (good Jan. 1 – Dec. 31) at the Mt. Shasta and McCloud Ranger Stations during business hours and at the Fifth Season in Mt. Shasta and REI Sacramento only. Regular summit passes (3-days, $20) are available by self issue at all open trailheads, Mt. Shasta Ranger station 24/7, and during business hours at the Fifth Season, Shasta Base Camp or at various REI stores in the Bay Area and Sacramento. Reservations are not required.
Please click here for further information on wilderness permits/summit passes and other information...
CONDITIONS & WEATHER: Please make sure to check the avalanche advisory before climbing. ALWAYS check current and expected weather conditions.
Conditions for climbing and skiing on Mt. Shasta are currently decent on most routes however deteriorating quickly. Our window of good climbing conditions will likely be shifted forward earlier in the year due to lack of snow coverage on the mountain. The Heart, Helen Lake, the upper portion of the West Face and the Catwalk on Casaval ridge already melted out. Once that spring sun starts blazing, it doesn't take long for the snow to melt. As the snow melts, rockfall increases and most routes become more dangerous! Spring conditions can also cause loose-wet avalanches and is something to think about when you climb. Even though the avalanche danger may be low, a beacon, shovel and probe is a great idea. Low avalanche danger means that avalanches are still possible!
The best conditions for climbing this season are now through probably the end of May. June is looking questionable, and July will likely host poor conditions, depending on how warm temperatures are this Spring. Stay tuned as we'll update the advisory often with current conditions. Always feel free to call with specific questions, but read through the advisory first!
Remember that while the days are becoming longer, warmer and more suitable for good climbing on Mt. Shasta, late season storms are not out of the question. Snow and full winter conditions are possible this time year and should not be taken lightly. Be sure that you are prepared for such conditions. Wind is also a big factor. As of late, northwest winds have been howling on the upper mountain. Sunny days are inviting, however winds on Mt. Shasta can be unrelenting, dangerous and COLD...wind chill factors in the negatives are not uncommon this time of year. The bottom line: BE PREPARED.
Lastly, At a height of 14,179 ft. Mount Shasta is a high altitude peak, and it is common for climbers to experience acute mountain sickness (AMS) with signs and symptoms of nausea, headache, and lightheadedness. Despite being a common condition, AMS should not be taken lightly. It can quickly develop into the much more serious and deadly pulmonary or cerebral edema. Stop, take a break, and if symptoms do not improve, descend, descend, descend. Become familiar with the signs of symptoms of AMS, HAPE, and HACE. Remember that AMS does not always come before cerebral or pulmonary edema.
September and October were warm and dry with September recording exactly zero precipitation. November remained warmer than normal with precipitation almost double normal values, 9.16" vs. 5.08". A local weather COOP observed the 2nd wettest November on record. December started out wet and warm, but temperatures cooled and brought snow to very low elevations. Since our avalanche cycle near Christmas, we've had a few small storms that brought some amounts of snow to the area, but did not produced any notable avalanches. January was below normal for precipitation with a long period of high pressure and sun that kept skiing conditions somewhat meager. We've had a few storms for 2013 that have brought us glimpses of wintery weather, but nothing to write home about! California and the Sierra Nevada have recorded the driest January and February on record. We currently have 1.5'-7' feet of snow above 6,500 ft. Since September 1st, Mt Shasta sits at 67% of normal. For 2013, we sit at 23% of normal
SELF RESCUE IS HIGHLY RECOMMENDED should one become injured or sick. Always check the weather forecast before you climb...
We recommend that you do not climb into deteriorating weather as many climbers have become lost, injured or died in poor weather.
Photo: South and west sides of Mt. Shasta, 4-21-13
Avalanche Gulch– John Muir Route (Regular Route) via Bunny Flat Trailhead: The avalanche gulch route is in decent shape for climbing, though it's deteriorating quickly and we are watching the snow melt daily! That being said, full winter conditions are not uncommon this time of year. This means the potential for avalanche danger, extreme wind and cold temperatures, possible post holing, and always the chance of late season snow. If choosing to climb this route, check the weather and avalanche advisory, and be prepared. There is snow on most of the route, but it's melting fast! Sections of dirt are already showing from the 6,000 to 7,000 ft. levels. Misery Hill is completely dirt as well as most of Redbanks.
Don't underestimate the power of wind as you leave your camp to climb. Stake your tent down WELL, and keep gear tidy and tucked away. Animals have also been known to tear food sacks apart and make a mess. Rangers find tents and gear often on the mountain, some of it pretty nice! While we appreciate the donations, you likely worked hard for your money that you spent on expensive gear. Keep it tight!
The Heart is showing exposed rocks, so this route could host some rockfall already. WEAR A HELMET! This simple tool of noggin protection can prevent a lot of bodily injury and potentially save your life. Further, an ICE AXE and CRAMPONS are mandatory and its up to you to know how to use them. Self-arrest would prevent almost all of the accidents we have on the Avy Gulch each year. Reading about self-arrest is good, watching a youtube video is great, practicing on a slope of low consequence is BEST! Self arrest is meant to be a quick reaction...once speed is gained in a fall, it's very difficult to stop, especially when the snow is firm in the morning when YOU will be climbing! Almost all slip/fall accidents happen in the Lake Helen to Redbanks (RB) area. Early season climbing means that, in the morning hours, the snow is smooth and firm. While this is great for climbing, it also increases consequences of attaining light speed if one slips and falls. Did we mention learn how to self arrest?
The chutes through Redbanks are in okay shape. The left most chute will be the best route through RB. The middle and right chute have no snow in them. Take the left chute, or go around through the notch. Going completely climbers left around RB is an option, but it does get steep (45+ degrees) near the topout. The bergschrund at the top of the Konwakition Glacier is open and exposed and travel around redbanks on the glacier is NOT recommended. Going through the left chute and on upwards will keep you away from the bergschrund and is the best route through RB currently. One may descend the same way, but DO NOT glissade through the chutes!!! Downclimb until your below the RB, then if you choose to glissade (slide on your butt), TAKE OFF your crampons and make sure the snow is SOFT!Watch for falling ice off the cliffs as the sun warms the south side. Pay attention to the weather as you climb. Many climbers become lost or disoriented on the upper mountain in the event of incoming weather. Wandering off the wrong side of the mountain has happened to many and is guaranteed to compromise one's safety and time line! The spring at Horse Camp is running and the composting toilets are open. A caretaker is also on duty. Elsewhere on Mt. Shasta, bring extra fuel to melt water; pack-out bags are mandatory for removing all solid human waste on the mountain.
READ THIS PLEASE:
LAKE HELEN and all other areas on Mt. Shasta: SANITATION/CLEANLINESS PROTOCOL: Please urinate AWAY from the general camping area at Helen Lake. The very east edge of the Helen Lake morain is the designated place for this. Don't forget your human waste packout bag and use them, it's required and you can get a citation if caught NOT using them! Believe me, we don't want to catch you, so please just use them and be part of the solution. You can deposit FULL bags at all trailheads in barrels provided. Please packout ALL food scraps and micro-trash. This should go without saying, but the rangers find a ton of it. We get thousands of climbers camping at Helen Lake each season. The sea is made of drops... your help with sanitation and cleanliness on Mt. Shasta makes a difference. Lets keep the places we love so much looking good so others can enjoy. Bottom line: LEAVE NO TRACE of your travels. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!!!
Carry the Ten Essentials. Learn more about mountaineering skills by reading Freedom of the Hills (published by The Mountaineers) and practicing before your climb, or TAKE A SNOW SCHOOL CLASS. Three outfitter-guiding services offer classes and guided trips on Mt. Shasta, and their links are on our web page under "Links".
Casaval Ridge, Green Butte/Sargents Ridge via Bunny Flat Trailhead: Both of these ridge routes are approaching poor shape. While not technically difficult, one must move efficiently and have good mountaineering skills to complete. Areas along the ridgelines have the potential for very long falls, potentially into rocks. These routes are famous for unrelenting wind and this year is no exception. Further, late season storms can move in quickly and easily create full winter conditions. Be prepared and check the weather and avalanche advisory before you climb. Most people stick to the ridges proper, however there are a few variations on the upper portions of the routes that are subject to the climbers discretion. As soon as rocks become exposed, these routes quickly melt and become poor. Rocks are already exposed on both routes in some areas such as The Catwalk on Casaval Ridge and various portions of Sargents Ridge. Be careful not to knock rocks down on climbers below you in Avalanche Gulch or the Old Ski Bowl. All that being said, both routes are classics... extremely beautiful and well worth the effort. The "hourglass" on Casaval ridge is melted out and composed of loose rock...most are traversing left onto the West Face.
Photo of the West Face, taken 4-21-13
Cascade Gulch, Shastina and West Face via Bunny Flat Trailhead: Although many books list the Cascade route as easy, it also has a lot of exposure to crevasses where it crosses the upper Whitney glacier, even when minimized to ¼ mile. Glacier travel training is recommended. Crevasses could be shallowly buried this time of year. Shastina north, east and south aspects are barely covered in snow. North winds can howl through Hidden Valley. If winds are expected, be prepared to batten the hatches and hunker down wherever you might camp. The West face is in okay shape but will not last long. As seen in the picture above, the exposed rock on the upper portion of the route will melt out soon and turn into rock. The West face is a great alternative to Avalanche Gulch. Generally less steep and with less rockfall, it hosts a great beginner/intermediate mountaineering experience.This doesn't mean you should let your guard down. Cross loading of slopes and wind slab formation is common on the West Face route during winter so check the avalanche advisory before you climb. While the West face is known for low rockfall potential, it was the site of a rockfall fatality accident several years back. Wear a helmet, use your ice axe and crampons, and carry a beacon, shovel and probe. No running water is available in Hidden Valley at this time. When returning back from Hidden Valley to Horse Camp/Avalanche Gulch, be careful not to descend to fast and end up in lower Cascade Gulch. If anything, error high and that will guarantee your return to the trailhead. Descend to low to fast, and you'll be wandering in the forest, in a gully and asking yourself, "Where am I?"
Sand Flat Trailhead: CLOSED FOR SEASON. Sand Flat road is melting out fast and large portions of the road are dirt. The Sand Flat winter cross-country trails are pretty much done for. Patches of dirt are showing along the trails and the snow is very dirty from tree litter. Please stop by the Mt. Shasta or McCloud Ranger Station for wilderness permits, summit passes and packout bags as well as climbing information. A Sand Flat winter trails map also exists and can be attained at the ranger stations.
Ski Bowl Trailhead: CLOSED FOR SEASON. The gate is still closed at Bunny Flat. The county is in charge of plowing the road and opening the gate when they see fit, not the Forest Service. Usually, the gate will open when all the snow has melted off the last 3 miles of the Everitt Memorial Highway. It's opened as soon as May or early June and as late as August. This year it will likely open earlier than "normal" as the snowpack is low. If you choose to hike past the gate up to Panther Meadows (2.5 miles), PLEASE stay off any portions of Panther Meadow that are melting out. A wet meadow can be very easily damaged. Let the meadow dry out and stay on durable surfaces like rocks and not grass or mud. There is still 2-4 feet of snow in the Panther Meadows/Old Ski Bowl area. Please stop by the Mt. Shasta or McCloud Ranger Station for wilderness permits, summit passes and packoutbags as well as climbing information.
Northgate Trailhead: OPEN. One may drive all the way into the trailhead currently. Summit passes, wilderness permits and packout bags are available at the trailhead. The bathrooms are open and packout bags are available inside. While rangers have not climbed this route yet this year, conditions from climber submitted pictures look good. The stream is still buried in snow at the normal high camp so snow must be melted for water. Be careful of weak snow bridges over the crevasses if you choose to venture out onto the glacier. Meager snow totals the year and wind have given us a shallow seasonal snowpack. Icy patches are not uncommon on this route making it difficult to self arrest. Be careful when descending...choosing to glissade in icy conditions and/or with bergschrunds nearby is dicey. Mountaineering experience is recommended for this route. The road into the Northgate trailhead is rough and while 4wd is not needed, low clearance vehicles are not recommended. Human waste packout bags are required and please keep a CLEAN camp!
Photo taken 5-12-13 of the east side of Mt. Shasta with the Hotlum/Wintun route in center and the Hotlum Glacier to the right.
Brewer Creek Trailhead: OPEN- However, approximately 3 miles of snow covered roads must be traveled to reach the trailhead. Summit passes and wilderness permits are now available at the trailhead. The bathrooms are open and packout bags are available inside. The route is in good shape for climbing and with decent skiing. Small sun cups and textured snow will be found below 9,000 ft. Mid-elevations are hosting smoother snow. Where the route traverses left, above the large snowfield and onto the summit bound snow ramp, rocks are already showing here. Rock and dirt patches are likely lower down on the route below treeline, though it's possible to stay on snow if you stay in select gullies. It is best to park where you reach the snow; please make sure to park appropriately and limit damage to the forest. Camping is allowed at vehicle. One cannot make it farther even if the snow is melted due to downed trees. We will clear the trees asap.
Clear Creek Trailhead: OPEN - One can drive all the way to the trailhead currently. Wildnerss permits and summit passes are available and the bathrooms are open. Packout bags are available inside the bathrooms. This route is in poor shape for skiing, though only has been viewed from a distance. For climbers and die hard clear creek skiers, patches and ribbons of snow will be found on this route currently. This route usually melts out fast. This is the easiest route on the mountain, granted you stay on the route. Hazerdous terrain exists on both sides of the Clear Creek route. The east side is a beautiful and dramatic aspect of Mt. Shasta and fairly low angle, though should not be taken lightly. An ice axe, crampons and helmet are still advised for this route when covered in snow. PLEASE, do not camp near any water source. You'll see great tents spots right next to the springs/stream...don't camp there. You could be issued a citation.(No fun...) Beautiful campsites exist in the small trees near the water. Simply, be mindful of green areas and stay off them with your big 'ol boots... or even your toes! The grass/flowers only have a short time to grow. Giv'em a chance pleeease! There is PLENTY of rock to step on to get water, etc.
For more detailed info on trailhead access or route condition information, please call the Mt. Shasta Ranger Station front desk at 530-926-4511 or speak directly to a climbing ranger at 530-926-9614. Thanks
Climber submitted photo from a recent trip on the Hotlam/Bolam ridge route.
Horse Camp: The Horse Camp cabin and the surrounding property are owned and managed by the Sierra Club Foundation. The composting toilet and spring water are closed during the winter months, but are turned on during spring, summer and fall. The cabin is open year round and all are welcome, however one cannot sleep inside the cabin except in emergencies! Make sure you close the door when you leave... DOGS ARE NOT ALLOWED ON HORSE CAMP/SIERRA CLUB PROPERTY, AS WELL AS IN THE MT SHASTA WILDERNESS. PLEASE RESPECT THE RULES... THANK YOU!
ALWAYS check the weather before you hike or climb. Have a safe and enjoyable season.
If you would like more information, feel free to come by the Mt. Shasta Ranger Station for slide shows, pictures, or to speak with a ranger and/or our very helpful front desk personnel.
Tips: Climb early and descend early! This limits exposure to inclement weather (afternoon thunderstorm buildups are common) and allows plenty of time to descend before dark. Avalanche training along with a transceiver, shovel and probe are recommended in winter and spring! Get an alpine start (2-5am) and have an early turn around time around 12 to 1 pm. Proper equipment, clothing and training are a must. Helmets are recommended and expect rock or ice fall at all times. Mt. Shasta is a 14,000 ft. lightning rod and is frequently hit by lightning (usually in summer and fall months), so don’t push your luck with building thunderheads. Do not expect to be rescued. Rather, prevent rescues from happening in the first place, and be prepared to handle rescues within your own climbing party should something happen. Nature sets its' own terms and YOU must judge how much risk you are willing to accept. Extra warm gear, like a down jacket, balaclava and extra gloves are a good idea in winter, spring and fall as climbers often develop superficial frost bite during strong winds. Anchor your tent well wherever you camp! Tents can and do blow away frequently. Do not plan to camp above treeline if you do not have anchor lines for your tent! The wind chill temperature near the summit in winter and spring can be well below zero.
Best time to climb: The best time to climb Mt. Shasta is generally from late May to mid July on the SW side of the mountain when summer days are longer and the weather is generally stable. However, in dry years (2007/2008), the thin snow pack creates the best climbing conditions in April, May and early June. When the snow melts away, you are left with 7000 feet of scree, talus and boulders. In heavy snow years the climbing season extends to August or September. There is NO trail to the summit. Climbing is much more fun on consolidated snow! The routes on the north and east sides are not recommended for un-guided novices; glacier travel and route finding skills are prerequisites. Spring and summer can bring the chance of thunderstorms.
THE TEN ESSENTIALS-Keep you and your party out of search and rescue statistics by using common sense and carrying the following: map, compass, sunglasses/sunscreen, extra food and water, extra clothing, headlamp/flashlight, first aid kit, matches/lighter, stove, knife and a bivy sack.
If you choose to climb: Solo climbing is not recommended! Traveling with an experienced group is a good idea, and remember - do not split up the group! Wear a helmet, use common sense and carry the ten essentials. The mountain has extreme weather changes. Therefore, it is a good idea to set-up a turn around time for your party.
A note on wind... Mount Shasta stands by itself in the atmosphere. There is nothing anywhere near its' height for over a hundred miles. Because of that, Mt. Shasta creates a lot of unique wind conditions. Especially during the winter, spring and early summer, the snow covered mountain provides very little friction for accelerating winds bending around and over this topographic anomaly. Winds over 100 mph at tree line (8000 ft.) are common. It's anyone's guess what the winds at 14,000 ft. could be when instruments measure 150 mph winds 6000 ft. lower down on the mountain. Winds of 40 mph can knock you off balance. Winds of 60-70 mph can force you to crawl (and cry!). Hurricane strength winds (>74 mph) can make it nearly impossible to stand and destroy well anchored tents. The strongest winds occur with big pressure and temperature gradients in the atmosphere, and tend to occur in front of, and behind, storms. The lowest winds occur when the center of a high pressure is over the Mt. Shasta area. Take this seriously as wind has resulted in searches, injuries and fatalities.