Shast Climbing Season image

By Pete Gauvin and Seth Lightcap

Photo: Greg Grenzke

Editor Pete Gauvin on the Clear Creek route in late May

Wet spring helped preserve snow for summer climbing and skiing

Don’t put away those skis and crampons yet! Weeks of cool temps and steady moisture through June have kept Mt. Shasta’s snowy flanks in prime shape leaving the window open for stellar late season climbing and skiing well into July and perhaps beyond.

Over a foot of new snow fell above 10,000 feet in the second week of June doing wonders for several east and west side routes that had become a little too haggard for good climbing and skiing.

“With the weather we’ve had, the climbing should be good well into July,” predicted Jacques Bleisae, manager of The Fifth Season mountain shop in Mt. Shasta. “I don’t know if it’ll be good into August. That’ll depend on how hot conditions are in July. But we’re in good shape for this time of year.”

The east side’s Hotlum Wintun route, accessed from the Brewer Creek Trailhead at 7,200 feet, faired especially well in recent storms leaving the epic line with some of the best summer ski conditions seen in years. As of the last week of June the Wintun Glacier held smooth snow right off the summit (14,179 feet; 17 feet were gained when the USGS recently recalibrated its height) down to about 10,000 feet with lightly sun-cupped snow for another 1000 feet or more. Barely a 20-minute hike on dirt dropped you at the car after more than 5000-foot vertical ski descent.

Two of the southwest side routes, accessed from the Bunny Flat Trailhead at 8,000 feet, should have fantastic climbing conditions through July as well. Both the Avalanche Gulch and West Face Gully routes were holding strong with ample snow for “scree-free” climbing all the way until Misery Hill. Other than the Trinity Chutes, you won’t find great ski conditions in Avalanche Gulch come July, but the slidin’ and ridin’ right next door on the perennially smooth West Face should be fairly fantastic mid-summer.

The new snow couldn’t save notable southwest side ridge routes such as Casaval, Green Butte and Sargeant’s though. These ridge lines are burnt crispy and done for the year.

Moving around the mountain you might also be tempted by a north-side route out of the North Gate trailhead or a south-side route out of the Clear Creek trailhead. Expect a few miles on a dirt approach trail and patchy rough snow on the routes out of these two trailheads. Skiers should look elsewhere but climbers may not be deterred as one can link up the strung out snow patches to find secure footing climbing amongst the sea of scree.

Though you never really know until you get there, odds of you falling into a fabulous Shasta experience this summer are looking up at the moment. Choose your route and weather window wisely and good adventures should follow.