Shasta mountain guides and clients at Horse camp on Mt Shasta

Mt Shasta Ski & Climbing Conditions Update

A shot from Mountain guides on Shasta of the south side of Mount Shasta

The south side of Mt Shasta on May 7, 2024.  Shown are Shastina, the West Face and Avalanche Gulch. Photo: Blackbird Shasta Mountain Guide Mike Henry

Mt Shasta Backcountry Skiing & Climbing Conditions Update

2024-05-09  |  West Face & Avalanche Gulch 

This weekend's storm released a huge amount of snow and wind on Mt Shasta.  Surfaces that had been shaping up with a beautiful corn cycle took a turn for the worst and when the clouds lifted on Sunday, layers of wind sculpted snow emerged.  This had a negative effect on ski quality, but ultimately added to the great snowpack this season and will help to extend what is already going to be a fruitful ski mountaineering season on Mt Shasta.

Climbing with a Blackbird Shasta mountain guide on the lower part of Casaval Ridge
Climbing the lower extent of Mt Shasta's Casaval Ridge with Blackbird Shasta Mountain Guide Mike Henry before the storm on May 1, 2024.  Photo: Mike Henry

Here's what Blackbird Mt Shasta guide Mike Henry said about conditions for climbing and skiing on Monday, May 1, 2024:
Here's what I'm seeing on the mountain today. I did a tour up giddy giddy gulch up to the point where you can drop into either the lower portion of Casaval Ridge or on the other side into Avalanche Gulch. I chose Avy Gulch to get a look at that side as well.
It's really clear the wind did a number on the snow. With elevation gain, skiing becomes progressively more firm with a widespread breakable crust. Ridges and high points in the terrain are completely scoured to the old snow surface as well. Wasn't the most pleasant skiing today. I thought it would be better, honestly.

Today, there was little to no warming above 7800 ft. so there really hasn't been a shed cycle yet. I’m concerned Wednesday & Thursday might be the days when things start to slide due to rapid warming like the forecast is calling for.

Overall, I think in order to get good skiing on Shasta right now, we need a few melt freeze cycles. 1, to smooth the snow surface & 2, let warming shed the new snow.
Woind Textures on Avalanche Gulch created by this weekend's storm.
Wind Textures on Avalanche Gulch created by this weekend's storm.  Photo May 5, 2024: Mike Henry

With reactive wind slabs causing multiple serious injuries on the mountain in the last two weeks, climbers and ski mountaineers should exert extra caution
with the new snow and make careful evaluations of the snowpack before exposing themselves to avalanche hazard.  Unsettled weather in early spring can make for hazardous conditions on Mt Shasta and if you don't have confidence in your decision making with severe weather and snowpack evaluation, you should hire a guide on Mt Shasta or turn around before exposing you team to avalanche hazard. 

Remember, avalanche hazard can be difficult to predict from below and often teams move into the reactive slab before they're able to detect the dangerous slab that is lingering above them.  Wind slabs should be considered guilty before proven innocent - don't climb into a slope that could contain a large wind slab overhead!
A Guided team on Mt Shasta with a Blackbird Mountain Guide
Our team on Mt Shasta braved the storm this weekend with Blackbird Mountain Guide Mike Henry.  Photo May 5, 2024: Mike Henry
Wind Textures on Avalanche Gulch created by this weekend's storm.  Photo May 5, 2024: Mike Henry
Clouds lifting after the storm reveal new snow on Mt Shasta
Clouds lifting after the storm reveal new snow on Mt Shasta.  The increased avalanche hazard means it's a good idea to hire a guide on Mt Shasta or make very conservative decisions.  Photo May 5, 2024: Mike Henry

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