General Route Description: 

Casaval Ridge is the obvious classic line that bisects Mt. Shasta’s mass, separating the West Face from Avalanche Gulch.  Casaval is a moderate climb with big risk potential in the form of exposure to long falls.  The ridge’s serrated spine rises from 8,000 feet behind Horse Camp to just over 13,300 feet at its upper terminus at the base of Misery Hill.  

The route that follows Casaval Ridge is a singular line that weaves through gendarmes, across traverses, and along an exposed ridge top.  The options seem limitless.  Most of it is not particularly technical, but a fall would be tragic.  The upper portion of the ridge, above the Second Window, holds the route’s biggest challenges.  Parties of mixed abilities often carry a light rope to belay difficult, exposed sections.

At approximately 12,800 feet one reaches the Catwalk, which is a sidewalk width ledge with airy exposure.  Early season the Catwalk is snow covered making it more forgiving.  It can be avoided, if one chooses, by a short traverse toward the West Face for easier terrain.  Later in the season, when snow has melted, the ridge becomes a little raw and touchy.   The two main options for a bivy site are at the top of Giddy Giddy Gulch at 9,800 feet, and a flat bench along the ridge at approximately 10,300 feet. The upper sight can often be extremely windy. The route can also be accessed via the First or Second Windows.  

This is a fun, rewarding, and beautiful route.  Part of the experience is the lofty bivy along the ridge top, so take two days.  This route is best done early to mid-season with ample snow coverage.

Route Map: 
Summer Conditions Photo: 
Winter Conditions Photo: 

Current Route Conditions

08-20-2016-Casaval Ridge

Conditions update by: Climbing Ranger Nick Meyers Shasta-Trinity National Forest

Casaval Ridge is in poor shape simply due to lack of snow. We recommend waiting until next season. There is a lot of exposed rock along the ridge that will only grow larger with more sun and warm temperatures. The section above the windows on the approach to the hour glass will require a detour if you wish to stay on snow. Small loose wet slides off the southeast side of the ridge are common during the spring/early summer, so beware of this hazard only when snow is present on those slopes. When snow is absent, rockfall is your other issue. Another factor to remember during the summer months it isn't uncommon for the area to have thunder cells build up in the afternoons, creating visibility issues and the potential for lightening along with the cells. Being on a ridge top when electrical activity is present can be downright scary! DO NOT CLIMB in white out/thunder cell conditions.

 If you still choose to climb this route, wear a helmet and crampons, and have your mountain axe in hand. Casaval Ridge can get VERY windy. Your camp and climb of this route could easily be thwarted during a wind event. Even though the weather may show sun in the box, check the wind forecast if you want to increase the odds of a successful climb of Casaval Ridge. Consider camping at Horse Camp or be sure to anchor your tent very well if windy. On your climb, wind can easily knock climbers off balance and cause a fall. Immediate self-arrest is mandatory to prevent a long slide for life on the smooth and firm snow currently in place on Mt Shasta. If however, you catch this route on a windless, sunny day... you're in for a treat. Once one reaches the top of the ridge, near the base of Misery Hill, it is common for climbers to get disoriented in a "white out" and wander off of the wrong side of the mountain. 

 For those who want a challenging, but fun winter ascent of Mount Shasta, this route fits the bill.  This is not a route for the faint of heart, however.  While this route is not technically difficult, Casaval Ridge presents its difficulty by providing exposure to long slips and falls along much of the upper ridge line. It is recommended that one has strong self-arrest skills, route finding, and solid winter mountaineering experience and judgment!  

For your descent, many choose to descend down Avalanche Gulch and then traverse back to their camp along the ridge. This is one option however on warm days, deep, soft and unconsolidated snow can greet climbers attempting the traverse back to camp on the ridge. There is also the chance for loose-wet slides on that southeast aspect of Casaval Ridge. Eliminate this problem by camping at Horse Camp and descending Avalanche Gulch entirely. The other option is to descend the ridge the way you climbed which can be tedious and slow. Give us a call if you have questions!