Mount Shasta: Current Climbing and Skiing Conditions 2022-05-06

Current Conditions on Mount Shasta

Latest Conditions Update 2022-05-13

Avalanche Gulch: Consistent skinning now begins at roughly 7500' in the Gulch.  Snow surfaces were breakable crust.  Skiing is expected to be improving with the warmer temperatures and a small amount of warm precip that happened below 9,000' today.

Prior Conditions from 2022-05-11

Blackbird Mountain Guide, Jason Smith, checked in today with an update from the mountain.  The prognosis: Snowy! 

Ski Conditions on Shasta were generally good and expected to improve by this weekend as the snow transitions.  There were crusts that had formed on high solar aspects. Solar down low had already made a lot of progress toward transitioning to spring snow.

Approaches in/out of Avalanche Gulch were getting a bit bony. Skinning was still possible to link from the Trailhead at Bunny Flat to consistent snow in the gulch.

Climbing conditions got a lot tougher with the last couple storms.  Snow depths of 10-12" at 8400' added a lot of work to what had been pretty good climbing conditions.

 

Mount Shasta current conditions for skiing and climbingCurrent skiing and climbing conditions on Shastina and Mount Shasta from the south.  Photo: Jason Smith. 

North Side of Mount Shasta current skiing and climbing conditions from the north gate trailhead

North Gate: Deep snow made for difficult travel on the North Side of the Mountain on the Hotlam Bolam over the last few days. Fresh snow made for difficult climbing and skiing reportedly was not great due to coverage and firm higher where the snow where the snow had been blown off.  Recommended mode of travel was climbing (vs skiing).  Current skiing and climbing conditions on Shastina and Mount Shasta from the south.  Photo: Jason Smith.

North Gate trailhead before the storm shows the current conditions on mount shasta

North Gate: Conditions at North Gate Trailhead before the last storms (12" or so since then at 8400') Photo: Jason Smith.

 

Avalanche Gulch skiing conditions today

Skiing conditions in Avalanche Gulch on Mount Shasta today were epic!  Some crusts noted at higher elevations (just below Helen Lake) and transitioned snow lower down. New snow made it more difficult for climbing Mount Shasta on all routes.  Photo: Jason Smith.

New snow on avalanche gulch have improved the current skiing conditions on Mount Shasta and made current climbing on Shasta more difficult

New snow on has improved the current skiing conditions on Mount Shasta and made the climbing a little more difficult. Photo: Jason Smith.

Mount Shasta Skiing and climbing Conditions as of 2022-05-06

Backcountry Skiing corn on mount shasta at sunset back to camp in Hidden Valley below Casaval Ridge

Skiing corn at sunset down to Hidden Valley on Mount Shasta. Photo: Jason Smith


Type 1 fun season is in full swing up here at the corn skiing capital of the world - Mount Shasta!  After receiving a wallop of season-saving storms in mid-April, conditions are starting to feel a bit more spring-like. The corn snow on West facing aspects between 9,000’ and 13,000’ is mind blowing with the right timing! However, the warming spring temps are also causing the lower reaches of the mountain to melt out quickly in places.  The window for type 1 style skiing (the type without carrying your skis on your back for miles) is rapidly closing.  


Over the past few days, I had the privilege of guiding a backcountry skier on the mighty West Face of Mt. Shasta. Our approach to Hidden Valley on day one was rather easy. We skinned up Giddy Giddy Gulch and skied down to our camp. After setting camp and melting water, we opted for some "hippy" cruiser-turns below the foot of Casaval Ridge.

The skinning was easy, and the corn skiing was unbelievably good! Nothing beats corn skiing at 7PM with a golden sunset below two of the most iconic summits on the west coast: Mount Shasta and Shastina!  

Ski mountaineering on Mt. Shasta using ice axe and crampons

Putting our ski mountaineering skills to good use during our ascent of Shastina, Mount Shasta's little sister! Photo: Jason Smith


On our second day we opted for a tour and climb of Shastina, the iconic sub peak of Mt. Shasta.  After a causal start, we found our way up easy volcanic ramps to the foot of the Lightning Bolt Couloir.  While the Lightning Bolt is not really a true couloir, this proud line descends from near the summit of Shastina directly down towards Hidden Valley. It is distinctly visible from I-5 far below. 

On top of this, the Lightning Bolt Couloir on Shastina offers a near perfect 30-degree pitch as you link turns down the side of the massive volcanic cone.  The climb up our line was in great condition.  We worked our way to the summit of Shastina and then proceeded to leapfrog to camp far below, railing turns in perfect corn snow.    

After one night on Shasta, conditions in the lower West Face/Hidden Valley zone quickly began to shift.  On our exit, we discovered that the lower approaches above Horse Camp had burnt out. What had been easy skinning a day earlier was now a convoluted nightmare of rock and hollow snow patches.

The window for skiing the West and South aspects of Shasta is starting to close - and quickly!  Two-plankers, knuckle-draggers, telemarkers and other snow sliders are recommended to make the corn pilgrimage sooner rather than later.  Those approaches are not going to get any easier - get after it people!

All smiles on the summit of shastina, about to begin a backcountry ski descent down the Lightning Bolt Couloir to Hidden Valley

On the Summit of Shastina, an iconic sub peak of Mt. Shasta! Photo: Jason Smith

Despite the bad news for skiers and splitboarders on Mount Shasta, climbing conditions are becoming quite good!  April's snow has transitioned into firm and predictable climbing early in the morning with the lower approaches melting out.

The bottom line for climbing is there is little to no post-holing!  Leave your snowshoes at home! Casaval Ridge looked to be in great shape - on my to-do list between trips this week.  I had a glimpse of the Whitney and Bolam Glaciers from the summit of Shastina - the snow cover looks very thin and there’s lots of blue ice showing. The North side would probably be a good time if you have two tools, a rope, a partner, and a few ice screws for protection, as well as an early start! 

Backcountry skiing corn snow off of Shastina near Mount Shasta

Backcountry skiing corn snow off of the summit of Shastina, with Mt. Shasta looming high above. Photo: Jason Smith


I will have some more conditions updates early next week from the corn skiing vortex. Until then, cheers! 

Words and photos by AMGA trained Blackbird guide, Jason Smith. Jason has been busting out Shasta trips this season, he's your go-to guy for Shasta conditions reports!

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