The bottom line is that the ski season on Mt Shasta still has some life left and the climbing conditions are quite good! This weekend we skied and climbed the West Face and Avalanche Gulch. We found consolidated snow and great corn conditions on both routes, but with heavy weekend traffic over the last couple of weekends, the snow quality has deteriorated significantly. Last week's minor precipitation on the mountain smoothed the surfaces out a bit and there was some excellent skiing to be had if you were willing to hunt for it.
There is still lots of snow at Bunny Flat. We found the snow to be firm and well frozen this weekend, especially on Saturday. Snow was firm right from the parking lot on Saturday, and supportable to boots on Sunday, but soft even in the early hours of the morning below 9,500'. On Saturday you could have started in crampons from the trailhead and been happy, on Sunday the surface was soft enough that each step sunk in a few inches. The surface for skinning was excellent both days and there were people who skinned all the way to the Thumb on Saturday (kids, don’t try this at home). On Sunday's climbing trip (no skis) we opted to begin without crampons until the snowpack was consistently frozen and supportive to boots at 9700’ or so. It's easy to skin up to at least Helen Lake.
Check the freezing levels on the NWS recreational weather forecast to make sure you’re going to get a good freeze (you can find them on our Mt Shasta skiing and climbing conditions page). If it’s not looking like a great freeze, start early! On Saturday the snowpack held out and was supportable to boots even in the mid afternoon, but on Sunday by 1pm the snow became much softer and walking outside of well-trodden terrain was a chore below 10,500’. Even the glissading was tough in sections as the snow was too soft in some sections to support climbers.
There are now many well-established glissade tracks. While this is great news for climbers as it makes glissading a bit easier, it also makes the surface rougher for skiers. Overall, Avalanche Gulch is looking pretty beat up by ski tracks, post holes from climbers, glissade tracks and a couple of large avalanche debris flows.
Another thing to note is the rockfall hazard. While the hazard hasn’t been alarming, there was a large rockfall event on Sunday that required a helicopter rescue. Rock, ice and objects from climbers and skiers (such as Nalgenes, ice axes, etc) are always a concern on this and other routes on Shasta and climbers should be vigilant as they ascend. Yelling “ROCK!”to alert climbers below of falling rocks or other objects is a really critical to alerting them and helping them to dodge the object. Also, remember to climb with caution when you’re climbing near any of the loose rock on the Red Banks or the top of the West Face!
The West Face
This route has been hit hard by skiers in the last couple days! This weekend saw massive crowds similar to Memorial Day and skiers were the biggest user group on the mountain.
The West Face is getting bony near the top and the entrance will be totally melted out within the next few days. This will mean skis off to enter the route, but won’t mean it will be done for the year. The skiing there was EPIC on Saturday and we scored a few thousand feet of pristine corn before the hordes overtook the various options on the face. The skiing was still good where there were tracks and people seemed to be having a great time on all of the gullies the West Face has to offer.
Getting out of the West Face is hit or miss. On Saturday with a good freeze the prior evening, the traverse back to Bunny Flat was supportable with good glide. On Sunday, the freeze down low was not as hard and the traverse was deep mank and a bit more of a struggle. Timing is everything, and some days it’s tough to get the timing right on both the West Face and the descent back to the trailhead.
The Hotlum Wintun
The Hotlum-Wintun Route is looking thin in the mid elevations. We didn’t ski it (still snow on the road 10 miles before the trailhead), but looking down it looks like excellent snow quality, but much thinner in the mind elevations than I would have suspected. The rock ridges separating the various drainages are very melted out in many places.
We didn’t ski Clear Creek either, but the road is clear to within 3.5 miles of the trailhead, and it sounds like great skiing! Check out a quick insta trip report here.
Check out our Mt Shasta skiing and climbing conditions page for all the details! It's got conditions reports, weather information, webcams and details on permits for climbing and skiing Mt Shasta. If you’re keen on climbing or skiing Mt Shasta, give us a shout!