| Mount Shasta Avalanche Center (2023)

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Greetings CLIMBERS! Congrats...Youhave landed at the best place on the internet for Mount Shasta adventure information.We want tohelpplan safe and enjoyable adventures.

An excessive heat wave will impact the region beginning Monday and significantly warm temperatures will persist through the remainder of the work week. Daytime temperatures at 10,000 feet will be around 60 degrees with afreezing level well above14,000 feet. Expect afternoon thunderstorms to build over the high country. The upper mountain may become capped in cloud cover and limit visability. Mount Shasta is a 14,000 foot lightning rod. Don't underestimate it. If you start to see weather approaching, stop climbing and reassess the hazard. Some routes still remain climbable, although snow coverage is getting very thin. Climbers should planon walking on rock and dirt for the first few thousand feet, if not higher.

Climbing the standard Avalanche Gulch route is notrecommended. This climbpresentspoor conditions and unclear route navigation on the upper mountain. If you choose to climb, youare doing so under your own risk!More information on Avalanche Gulch is posted below, and the most recent observation can be viewed HERE.

All trailheads (Bunny Flat, North Gate, Brewer Creek, Clear Creek, Sand Flat, and Old Ski Bowl)are open and accessible by vehicle. Outfitter guides have ceased trips on the south and west side routes. Clear Creek is the go-to route for first time summit seekers. On dryer routes like Clerar Creek, werecomend ussing hiking poles, wearinga helmetfor summit day, and having a sturdy pair of hiking boots. Glaciatedroutesare displayingmore exposed ice, rock, and crevasseseach week. Snow bridges are becoming weak.Climbing still remains possible for those properly equipped. Werecommend carrying 12-point crampons, an ice axe, and a helmet for all routes involving snow or glacier travel. It’s important that climbers practice proper self-arrest technique. Most of the remaining snow fields sit above large boulder fieldswhere a slip andfall without self-arrest can be ugly, if notfatal. Please do your part in recreating responsibly. Packout all your trash and leave Mount Shastabetter than you found it.

The current weather and seasonal trends have increased the risk of specific hazards that you should consider:

1. Rockfall:As snow melts, rock will continue to dislodge from the upper mountain. As you travel on the upper mountain, be cognizant of the loose rock around you. Anything you dislodgecould hit a climber below. Keep your head up and wear a helmet. To help mitigate exposure to rockfall, start a couple of hoursearlier than usual. Get off the upper mountain before 11am.

2.Glaciers:Warm temperatures will increase the melt out rate for glaciated routes on the east and north side routes of Mount Shasta. Snow bridges are weakening daily. If you are climbing a glaciated route, your best bet is to start during the coldest temperatures to increase the stability of these bridges. Glacier travel means having a rope team rigged for crevasse rescue, carrying a probe, and glissading with extreme caution.

3. Heat illness:Heat exhaustion and heat stroke can happen, with high elevation sun exposure and dehydration speeding up the process. Reflection of the snow, plus direct sunlight and high temps, will turn that mountain into a giant solar oven. Expectwarm conditions on the lower/mid-mountain on given days. Bring good sunscreen and sun protection. Drink water!Don't forget your glacier sunglasses.

4. Slips and Falls:This can happen on any steep slope on Mount Shasta. A slip and fall on a snow slope that terminates into a boulder field has dire consequences. Self-arrest is a mandatory skill to have in the mountains.Expect firm snow in the early morning, quickly transitioning topunchy, unsupportable snow later in the day.

For lingering Avalanche Gulch climbers, the standard route from Helen Lake is no longer a straightforward climb. Gaining the Red Banks from the Left or Right of the Heart will involve increased exposure and technical scrambling amongst loose rock in steep terrain. Please realize this route is NOT RECOMMENDED anymore. Aspiring climbers need excellent route navigation and technical ability if choosing to climb.

Short Hill and Misery Hill arefully melted out, with only rock exposed. Walk with caution while traversing to Short Hill. The rock in this area is very loose and could fall on other climbers below. Build yourself a margin of safety by climbing early and setting yourself a turnaround time of noon or earlier. Do not climb into bad weather and have the skills and knowledge needed for the route. Always carry navigation tools and know how to use them.

Weather notes for theweek:

Hot weather will be in place for the week. The freezing level will sit above 14,000 feet. At 10,000 feet, daytime temperatures will hover in the 60’s, with a low in the 50’s at night. Afternoon thunderstorms are possible and could produce rain and lightning. Do not get caught on the upper mountain in a thunderstorm. Getan early start to limit your exposer to the sun. Winds will be sping around the compass from all directions at light speeds and moderatre gusts.


Camping at Lake Helen:Conditions have become quite poor for camping. The best option is to camp on the dirt sites. Remember to pee and/or use your wag bag on the far east side of the Helen Lake moraine.A small privacy pit exists to use your wag bag. Collectsnow for water uphill, to the north ofcamp. Thousands of climbers camp here; cleanliness will prevent illness! On another note, wind can often be very strong around camp and the upper mountain. Anchor your tentwell.Before heading up the mountain, walk through your camp and collect any micro trash left behind. We greatly appreciate your help in maintaining the natural and cultural integrity of this landscape.

Self-Care:Sun exposure is intense. Snow blindness is a thing.Keep your skin covered and apply sunscreen liberally and often to any exposed skin. Wear DARKsunglasses and ahat. There is no tanning on Shasta, just burning.

Skiing:Skiing is no longer recommended for the majority of the routes on Mount Shasta. At this point in the season, carrying skis will be more of a hindrance than an asset.

Human Waste:We have been finding it on the mountain. Remember, you are required to pack out your waste within the Mount Shasta Wilderness area. If a Climbing Ranger catches you leaving human waste on the mountain, you will receive a federal citation. Be sure to bring up a wag bag, provided FREE at all trailheads. Moreover, we can all agree that encountering free-range human fecesis gross!

Be Prepared!!

Our goal is to ensure you have a positive wilderness experience and come home in one piece! So,


Accidents and Hazards

Many incidentsoccuron the mountain everyseason. The most common accidents includerockfall injuries, lost climbers, and slips and falls in steep terrain. Most accidents can be prevented with proper planning and preparation.

  • Do not climb into a whiteout.Always carry a map and compass and/or GPS device and route plan ahead of time.
  • Keep your group together.If you split up, have a solid plan and make sure everyone has proper equipment and knows the way.
  • Do not glissade with crampons on.If you choose to glissade, take OFF your crampons and make sure the snow is soft.
  • Know how to properly self-arrest with your ice axe.A slip and fall on the upper mountain can be fatal.
  • Wear a helmet and watch out for rockfall.Climbers get hit every year.

With the right knowledge, skill, equipment, and decision-making, all of these accidents can be easily prevented. Please, wear a helmet, and know how to use your ice axe and crampons any time of the year.

There is always the potential for thunderstorm activity during the summer months to shroud the mountain in clouds, limiting visibility. Climbers becoming disoriented on the upper mountain in whiteout conditions and subsequently descending the wrong route is not uncommon. These kinds of scenarios have resulted in many searches over the years. It should go without saying, but we will say it as a solid reminder: Check the weather before you go and more importantly, monitor the weather as you climb. DO NOT CLIMB INTO A WHITEOUT! Being caught on the mountain in any type of weather can compromise life and limb.

Understand that if something goes wrong or a member of your climbing party gets injured, you need to be prepared to self-rescue. If you have an emergency on the mountain, call 911. Be prepared to provide your location and the nature of the injury.

Many hazards exist in mountain terrain. Some of these include:

  • Ice and rockfall
  • Altitude
  • Extreme weather
  • Avalanches

Icefall and rockfall are possible year-round. It's a simple equation: as snow melts, rockfall increases. If rime ice is seen plastered to exposed rocks above, it will eventually flake off and fall onto climbers.Wear a helmet and keep your eyes upslope as you climb. Pay attention to other climbers: rockfall is often caused by climbers resting in melted out areas and accidentally dislodging rocks onto slopes and climbers below. Be careful not to kick rocks down onto others.

At the height of 14,179 feet, Mount Shasta is a high altitude peak. It is common for climbers to experience acute mountain sickness (AMS) with signs and symptoms of nausea, headache, and lightheadedness. Despite being a common condition, AMS should not be taken lightly. It can quickly develop into a much more serious and potentially deadly pulmonary or cerebral edema. Rest and hydration are vital to alleviating AMS symptoms. If these symptoms do not improve, your only choice is to descend!

Mt Shasta is a 14, 179-foot volcano with steep slopes, avalanches, glaciers, rockfall, altitude, and extreme weather. Some may feel like Mt Shasta is "safe" due to its proximity to Interstate 5 and its "easy" climbing objective connotation. This is false. One should still expect cold, winter-like conditions at any time of year. Have the appropriate gear AND skill level. Mountaineering is dangerous, and climbers must constantly evaluate the terrain, weather, and many other factors to have a safe trip. One should also not expect immediate rescue. Many factors can prolong rescues. Thus, it is necessary, no matter what mountain of the world, that you be prepared.

Mountain Weather

Check the WEATHER FORECAST before coming up onto Mt. Shasta! Our site's main menu hosts numerous resources on the weather. Researching the mountain weather should be an important part of your trip planning.

Clouds and Precipitation: While you may encounter fair weather at lower elevations, cloud caps can form up high. Never climb into a whiteout, as many climbers have become lost or died in similar conditions. Many routes from all aspects of Mt. Shasta converge on the upper mountain (>12,500 feet). During limited visibility conditions, climbers have descended the wrong side of the mountain. Keep an eye on the sky as you climb, turning around if clouds begin to build on or near the mountain.

Lightning: Mt. Shasta is a 14,000-foot lightning rod and is frequently hit by lightning (usually in summer and fall months), so don't push your luck with building thunderheads.

Wind: Winds can reach over 100 mph at tree line (8,000 ft) and much higher in the alpine region. Winds of 40 mph can knock you off balance. Winds of 60-70 mph can force you to crawl. Hurricane strength winds (>74 mph) can make it nearly impossible to stand and will destroy well-anchored tents. The strongest winds occur with big pressure and temperature gradients in the atmosphere and tend to occur in front of and behind storms. The lowest winds occur when the center of high pressure is over the Mt Shasta area. Take this seriously as the wind has resulted in searches, injuries, and fatalities.

Tips & Notes

Climb early and descend early. This limits exposure to inclement weather (afternoon buildup of clouds is common), allows plenty of time to descend before dark and allows a rescue effort to ensue before dark if one gets injured or lost.

Get an alpine start (2-5 am) and have a turnaround time of 12 to 1 pm. Proper equipment, clothing, and training are a must. Helmets are always recommended and expect rock and ice to fall at all times.

Bring extra warm gear (like a down jacket, balaclava, and extra gloves) in all seasons as climbers often develop superficial frostbite during strong winds. The wind chill temperature near the summit in winter and spring can be well below zero.

Anchor your tent well wherever you camp. Tents can and do blow away frequently. Do not plan to camp above treeline if you do not have anchor lines for your tent.

Solo climbing is not recommended. Traveling with an experienced group is a good idea, and remember - do not split up the group!

The routes on the north and east sides are not recommended for unguided novices; glacier travel and route finding skills are prerequisites.

Mountain Rescue

Do not expect to be rescued. Rather, prevent rescues from happening in the first place, and be prepared to handle rescues within your climbing party should something happen. Nature sets its own terms, and YOU must judge how much risk you are willing to accept.

When to Climb

The BEST time to climb Mt. Shasta is usually fromMay to mid-July on the south and west sides of the mountain when summer days are longer and the weather is generally stable. However, in dry years, the thin snowpack creates the best climbing conditions in April, May and early June. When the snow melts, you are left with 7,000 feet of scree, talus, and boulders. In heavy snow years, the climbing season extends to August or September. There is NO trail to the summit. Climbing is much safer and more fun on consolidated snow.

A winter climb of Mt. Shasta is possible. Still, it is more difficult and dangerous: extreme weather, short days, avalanches, falling ice and potential post-holing increase the difficulty and danger on all routes. If you choose to travel in the backcountry during the winter and spring, you need to have the proper equipment and training to stay safe. An avalanche beacon, shovel, and probe and the ability to identify avalanche terrain and snow stability are essential. A climb of Shasta should not be taken lightly.

Every year, many climbers become lost, injured or killed while attempting Mt. Shasta. Many of these accidents could have been prevented with a little bit of pre-planning and training.YOU need to come prepared.

What to Bring

  • MANDATORY: wilderness permit, summit pass, human waste pack-out bags. Available for self-issue at all open trailheads.
  • THE TEN ESSENTIALS: map and compass, sunglasses and sunscreen, extra food and water, extra clothing, headlamp/flashlight, first aid kit, matches/lighter, stove, knife/multi-tool, bivy sack

Wilderness permits, summit passes, and pack-out bags are currently available at all trailheads, the Mt. Shasta and McCloud Ranger Stations and The Fifth Season outdoor store in Mount Shasta City. All trailheads are currently open. Annual passes ($30) areavailable at The Fifth Season storeas well as the Mount Shasta/McCloud Ranger Stations. The Mount Shasta and McCloud Ranger Stations are usually open Monday through Friday from 8 to 4:30 PM.Check our climbing regulations for more details.

Using common sense and carrying the TEN essentials keep you and your party out of search and rescue statistics. Wear a helmet, and know how to use your ice axe and crampons. Be prepared and pay attention. The mountain has extreme weather changes.

Winter and Spring months usually see periods of heightened avalanche danger, though this danger could exist in the summer months under the right circumstances. Research the weather and avalanche danger while planning your trip. Have your climbing party bring avalanche beacons, probes, and shovels armed with proficient skills in their use. Know how to identify avalanche terrain and evaluate snowpack stability.

Shasta Alpine Hut

The stone cabin at treeline on the Avalanche Gulch climbing route is open year-round and all are welcome. However, one cannot sleep inside the cabin, except in emergencies. The composting toilet is open for the season and drinking water is available at the spring. Caretakers are present five days a week for the climbing/hiking season. If you plan on camping, there are two dozen dispersed sites on the property, anominal $3/bivy and $5/tent fee is asked. There is a fee deposit tube inside the cabin. This fragile area gets a lotof use. Please practice Leave-No-Trace principles. Lastly, the property owner, the Sierra Club Foundation, manages its property under the Mt. Shasta Wilderness rules – dogs, horses, and other domestic animals are not allowed. No drones. Thanks!




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