This route is one of the most sought after ski/board descents on Mt. Shasta, as well as an excellent climbing endeavor. Often referred to as the “Hotoon," it is a permanent snowfield between the Hotlum and Wintun glaciers. No crevasses are encountered along the route's length, as long as one does not stray out onto the Hotlum Glacier. It is sometimes called a ridge, though don't expect much of a ridge.
From the Brewer Creek trailhead a climb into the alpine expanse of the Hotlum and Wintun glaciers is simply amazing. The route begins on low angle slopes near tree line, then steepens as one gains the moraine leading to the lower reaches of the huge snowfield. There are ample bivouac sites here between 9,800 and 10,000 feet on top of the moraine. As one ascends, the slope angle gradually kicks up, but nothing of concern. At around 12,800 feet the route begins to traverse climber’s left over a shallow ridge that separates the "Hotoon" from the Wintun, and below a steepening rock buttress. Climb up and climber’s right of Ship Rock, an isolated column of basalt at about 13,200 feet. From Ship Rock up is the steepest portion and the most highly consequential portion of the route. Slope angle at the top of the chute just below the true summit is over 40 degrees. A variation of this route continues straight up, foregoing the traverse at 12,800 feet, finishing through the narrowing chute at the top of the snowfield.
Though there isn't much glacier hazard on the route you must be comfortable with glacier skills. This route can be very icy in the late season, and a fall would be extremely serious. Early to mid-season the skier or snowboarder can find nirvana. The descent from summit to tree line is spectacular. Check the road status on our site as the winter snowpack can keep the trailhead out of reach by car until June or July. This adds distance to your approach. Take two days to enjoy this route.
The Brewer Creek trailhead has been CLOSED for the 2016 season. You can still access the Mt Shasta Wilderness from the trailhead, however summit passes and wilderness permits must be acquired from either McCloud or Mt Shasta Ranger Stations. The bathrooms are open and human waste packout bags are available inside. Travel at your own risk. Early season storms can easily bring ample snow and make your hasty retreat challenging! Vehicle access to the trail head will become limited due to snow covered roads with more frequent winter storms, as well.
The current conditions for climbing and skiing this route are overall poor. The general snow line is about 11,000 feet. One will encounter widespread sun cups on this route. Still, about 2-3k vert of skiing is possible if your up for the challenge! The snow is firm in the early morning but softening quickly. Climb early to avoid any possible post-holing on hot days. As with all the east side routes, sun hits them early and too soft of snow is more of a problem than to firm of snow. However, cooler days or days with an easterly wind, the route can stay firmer. Hopefully you can time it right! Overall, if it were up to us, we'd recommend waiting until Winter or next Spring to climb/ski this route.
Water is flowing in some areas. Expect to melt snow but you can likely find some small flows. Some patches of hard snow and/or ice are possible and crampons and an ice axe are absolutely necessary. Some post holing has been occuring as early as 9am, so get a good, early start. This route does not see much rockfall, but wear a helmet regardless as it's always possible on Mt Shasta.
Current avalanche danger is overall LOW, but will be most sensitive during the warmest parts of the day for loose wet snow instabilities. A beacon, shovel and probe are recommended. Even though you may not get fully buried by a loose wet slide, they can certainly sweep you into undesirable terrain and of course, still bury you in a terrain trap. We've had numerous incidents in the past this time of year on this route due to hot temps creating loose wet avalanches. Be aware.
This route is pretty straight forward with a couple variations possible near the top. Stay on snow and don't knock rocks down onto climbers below. Icy patches may be found in areas as the seasonal snow pack dwindles. Where most people run into trouble on this route is descending back to their car. It's common to miss your vehicle too far to the south (skiers right). Skiers tend to try and ski as low as possible on the long fingers of snow that extend below tree line...while we don't blame them, this will take one to far to the south. When descending, be sure to make a gradual trend skiers left, aligning yourself between Ash Creek Butte and the large lava flow that abruptly drops off at around 9,000 feet. If you put yourself in between these two land forms, you'll nail the descent every time. Again, just remember to trend left at the base of the lava flow at about 9,000 feet, not too far, but by placing yourself in between Ash Creek Butte and the blocky lava flow. This is mostly an issue for skiers and when there is snow down to the trailhead.