This is a spectacular route with stellar views of the Hotlum and Bolam glaciers, as well as the Shasta Valley reaching up to Oregon.
From the North Gate trail head enjoy the shaded hike through old growth Red Fir winding your way to tree line. You will also encounter stretches of krummholz White Bark Pine. At tree line camp sites are abundant giving the option of camping relatively low to avoid any strong winds and still have a reasonable summit day. The more desirable high camp at around 10,000 feet offers good bivouac sites with access to running water mid to late season.
From the high camp, ascend along the obvious lateral moraine that stretches up toward the Ramp. There is a bergschrund below the Ramp that one can easily circle around the right side and traverse above to enter the Ramp. Be careful on your descent when the bergschrund is gapping open. The Ramp offers relatively easy climbing leading up to the Step at 13,100 feet. Very icy conditions can develop late season at the bottom of and along the Ramp. It is not unreasonable to follow the line of the moraine and find safer climbing on mixed ground between the Ramp and the Bolam during late season conditions.
The Step is a nice flat repose that offers scenic views and a great spot for a break. From the Step the route climbs up a snow apron toward two rock spires called the Rabbit Ears. Below these spires the route traverses climber’s right circling counter clockwise around a rock buttress crossing the Bolam gulley toward another obvious rock outcropping called the Shark’s Tooth. This climbing traverse is fun and icy conditions can make it very challenging. A variation of this route continues up passed the Rabbit Ears staying on steep rock. Although a fun twist, it can be a very dangerous descent. It is perhaps best to save this variation for another time, descending the route described above.
From above the Bolam gulley ascend along the ridge to the North Summit. A ridge line extends horizontal from the North Summit to the Summit proper. Another variation from the Shark’s Tooth leads through a broad gap between the North and West summits past the odiferous Sulfur vents below the summit pinnacle. Descend along the same traverse.
Options for experienced climbers are abundant. Late season conditions can be icy. Be very careful descending. This route is best done in two, even three days.
North Gate trailhead is OPEN and summit passes, wilderness permits, and pack-out bags are available. The road is rough. Drive slow and careful and a 2wd vehicle can make it in.
Late season conditions are in affect on this route. This means rockfall, ice patches and hard snow conditions. Glissading has been difficult due to firm snow/ice patches. The mountains climbing routes are shifting toward poor conditions for most routes. That said, if you still choose to climb, this route is probably the best at this point. Please note: This route is not for novice mountaineers. One must have solid ice axe and crampons skills and glacial travel skills as well, especially if off route or attempting the nearby glacier routes. Don't forget your HELMET also! Flowing water is available with no worms this year, however you should still treat the water. The snow line is sitting about 10,000 to 11,000 feet currently. The upper Bolam chute is completely melted out between the rabbit ears and the shark's tooth. The normal high camp at 9,700 feet is melted out with dry camping.
For the Hotlum glacier, crevasses are starting to show. Snow bridges will be weak with the hot summer sun. There is also water running at the Hotlum Hilton area. Standard glacial travel protocol is a must if venturing onto the glaciers. That said, if one stays on the Hotlum/Bolum ridge route, no crevasses/bergschrunds will be encountered as of yet. All north side routes are recommended for more experienced climbers.
The bergschrund at the bottom of the "ramp" is showing. Be careful in this area, stay clear of the glacier by sticking well to the climbers right up the lower portion of the route, then traversing left onto the ramp. Be especially careful when descending. Cut back to the left immediately after descending the ramp. Some crevasses on the Hotlum glacier may blend into the seasonal snow fields...be careful if you're not familiar with the glacier boundaries. Weak snow bridges are always the issue during spring/early summer as the warm temperatures and sun thin the bridges. Self arrest skills are a must on this route. If icy patches are encountered they can make for difficult self arrest, even for the seasoned pro.
Come on into the Mt Shasta Ranger Station for a great visual powerpoint slide show of the route!