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Avalanche Advisory for 2014-03-23 06:18:37

  • EXPIRED ON March 24, 2014 @ 6:18 am
    Published on March 23, 2014 @ 6:18 am
  • Issued by Nick Meyers - Shasta-Trinity National Forest

The avalanche danger is LOW for all elevations and aspects. Normal caution is advised.

Carry an avalanche beacon, shovel, and probe and know how to use them when traveling in the winter backcountry.

Snow conditions on Mt Shasta are smooth and firm in the AM hours. This poses risk for a long slide for life should one slip and fall. Ice axe, crampons and self-arrest skills are required for a safe climb...and ALWAYS wear a helmet!

Generally safe avalanche conditions. Watch for unstable snow on isolated terrain features.

Generally safe avalanche conditions. Watch for unstable snow on isolated terrain features.

Generally safe avalanche conditions. Watch for unstable snow on isolated terrain features.

Avalanche Problem 1: Normal Caution

  • Character ?
  • Aspect/Elevation ?
  • Likelihood ?
    Very Likely
  • Size ?
    Very Large

Overall, LOW avalanche danger exists for all elevations and aspects on Mt Shasta. Remember, LOW avalanche danger means natural and human triggered avalanches are unlikely, however small avalanches in isolated areas or extreme terrain are possible.

Snow instabilities over the past days have been absent and will continue through today. Our isothermic and rock solid snowpack is keeping avalanche problems at bay.

That being said, a wet week looks to be in store for us. Most avalanche activity occurs during and/or 24-48 hours after a storm. As we received precipitation this week in the form of snow on the mountain, one can expect the avalanche danger to rise. New snow and wind will contribute to avalanche instability.



Recent Observations

Yesterday, a trip to the summit hosted beautiful weather and absolutely zero wind, which is always a treat. Above Redbanks, it is rarely good skiing and that was certainly the case. These upper elevations (>12,500 ft) are wind hammered and weather beaten most of the time and thus timing is everything to get some decent turns up there. Conditions included wind packed-chalky snow, icy sastrugi, and a mix of both at times. Below Redbanks, the snow was smooth and good skiing potential was there, but it simply wasn't warm enough for the snow to soften until about 11,500 feet at approximately 2:30pm. From here down, conditions improved and we soon found some sweet spring California corn back to Bunny Flat.

Rime icefall and a few rocks were encountered on the climb up from Lake Helen. The Redbanks are still plastered in rime and those chunks have to come down at some point, so be careful. Stay out of the fall line when you climb by moving right and left laterally out of the "bowling alley".

Overall, the spring skiing conditions have been excellent on the lower to mid elevation, southerly aspects of Mt Shasta as of late. Lower slopes have not been too soft or punchy providing good exits from the upper slopes which have been thawing nicely if your timing is right on warm days. The snow coverage is still decent considering our well below average snowfall this season. Only the most sun exposed areas are beginning to melt out but travel on snow is still easily navigated. Stay tuned to our ever changing conditions as Spring continues!

For climbers, conditions are excellent on all routes. The season for climbing Mt Shasta is going to be shifted forward this year. On a normal year with ample snow on the ground, good climing conditions usually start in April and can go all the way into July sometimes. This year is not the case...the best conditions to climb Shasta this year will be NOW through April and potentially May. The extent of good climbing conditions will hinge on our Spring weather. More snow could potentially extend the season and warm days with shining sun will shorten it. While the mountain looks like it's got a thick blanket of snow on it, in reality there is only about 2-5 feet of snow on the ground, depending on aspect and elevation. Good climbing conditions, in general, means snow on the mountain. As the snow melts, rockfall increases and a climb of Shasta becomes more dangerous. All in all, sooner than later will be best for climbing Shasta. Check the climbing advisory on our webpage also!

PLEASE NOTE: Snow conditions on most routes are smooth and firm, especially in the AM hours. Conditions as such have lead to accidents due to slip/falls and failure to self arrest. A slip and fall on smooth, firm and sometimes icy snow can result in a slide for life on the steeper slopes of Mt Shasta. Self arrest skills with an ice axe and proper crampon use are essential for a safe climb. Do not under estimate the importance of proper knowledge and skills with your ice axe/crampons/self arrest techniques. Further, an avalanche beacon, shovel and probe are recommended for any climbers attempting Shasta currently. Lastly, with snow on  mountain, the rockfall danger has been low. However, rime ice can plaster exposed rocks on Shasta this time of year. As the days warm, the rime ice will flake off and fall onto climbers below, especially on the Avalanche Gulch route. Ice is like a rock and a HELMET should always be worn.

Aerial photo of the South side of Mt Shasta, taken by local pilot Troy Bainbridge about 2 weeks ago.


While Northgate, Brewer Ck and Clear Ck trailheads are officially closed, the bathrooms are still open with packout bags inside, and one can still access the Mt Shasta Wilderness. However, your summit pass and wilderness permits must be purchased at McCloud or Mt Shasta Ranger Stations. NO DOGS are allowed in the Mt Shasta Wilderness OR Sierra Club Property. Thanks!


Terrain:  Remember most of the terrain that we like to play on is greater than 30 degrees.  Avalanches are possible on anything steeper than 30 degrees.  Avoid cornices, rock bands, terrain traps and runout zones of avalanche paths.

Weather:  Most of our areas avalanche danger will occur 24-48 hours after a storm. We still can see persistent weak layers from time to time and we always will be sure to let you know about that!  Heed the basic signs: Wind (significant snow transport and depositions), Temperature (rain/snow/rain/snow, which in turn weakens the snowpack), and Precipitation (Snow or rain add weight and stress to the current snowpack).

SnowpackIf snow accumulates, give the snowpack a chance to adjust to the new snow load before you play on or near steep slopes (greater than 30 degrees).  Most direct action avalanches occur within 24-48 hours of recent snowfall.  Watch for obvious signs of snowpack instability such as recent natural avalanche activity, collapsing of the snowpack (often associated with a “whumphing” sound), and shooting cracks. If you see these signs of instability, limit your recreation to lower angle slopes.

Human Factor: Don’t forget to carry and know how to use avalanche rescue gear. You should NOT be skiing or climbing potential avalanche slopes without having beacons, shovels, and probes.  Only one person in a group should be exposed to potential avalanche danger at a time.  Remember, climbing, skiing, and riding down the edge of slopes is safer than being in the center.  Just because another person is on a slope doesn’t mean that it is safe.  Be an individual!  Make your own decisions.  Heed the signs of instability: rapid warming, “whumphing” noises, shooting cracks, snowing an inch an hour or more, rain, roller balls, wind loading, recent avalanche activity.



    Weather and Current Conditions

    Weather Summary

    In Mt Shasta City this morning at 0500, we have clear skies with a current temperature of 32F.

    On Mt Shasta (South Side) in the last 24 hours...

    Old Ski Bowl - 7,600 feet. The Old Ski Bowl weather station has received no new snow in the last 24 hours. The current temperature is 32F with a low of 27F and a high of 44F. Total snow depth is 49 inches with 3 inches settlement.

    Gray Butte - 8,000 feet - The current temperature is 33F. Temps have ranged from a low of 30F to a high 42F.  Winds have averaged 6-14 mph and variable in direction with max gusts topping out at 21 mph from the east/southeast.

    Castle Lake and Mt Eddy (West side of I-5)... 

    Castle Lake - 5,600 feet, the current temperature is 38F with a low of 31F and a high of 49F. Castle Lake has received no new snow and has a current snowpack of 0-7 inches.

    Mt Eddy - 6,500 feet, the current temperature is 30F with a low of 24F and a high of 44F. Mt Eddy has received no new snow and hosts a current snow depth of 16 inches with little settlement. Winds have averaged 3 mph and southerly in nature, with gusts to 10 mph from the east.

    THIS SEASON: Since September 1st , we have received 11.33 inches of water, normal is 34.87 inches, putting us at 32% of normal. For the year of 2014, Mt Shasta has received 8.51 inches of water with normal being 18.99 inches which puts us at 44% of normal. And lastly, for March we sit at 52% of normal, receiving 2.47 inches of water, normal is 4.70 inches.


    High pressure and dry conditions will persist for the region through today and partially into Monday. This will mean sunny skies and likely another nice day for climbing and skiing on Mt Shasta. A front will push into the area Monday night and bring scattered showers to the area with up to .80" of water by close of day Thursday.

    The extended forecast for the coming week and next weekend actually looks fairly wet. Talk of an "atmospheric river event" was mentioned in discussion for the 5-7 day forecast. That is still a ways out so we'll have to see about that. A nice late season storm would be nice though! Snow levels with said storms will be not much lower than 5,000 feet.

    Always check the weather before you attempt to climb Mt Shasta. Further, monitor the weather as you climb. Becoming caught on the mountain in any type of weather can compromise life and limb.

    CURRENT CONDITIONS at Bunny Flat (6950 ft)
    0600 temperature: 32
    Max. temperature in the last 24 hours: 44
    Average wind direction during the last 24 hours: East, switching to NW
    Average wind speed during the last 24 hours: 5-15 mi/hr
    Maximum wind gust in the last 24 hours: 21 mi/hr
    New snowfall in the last 24 hours: 0 inches
    Total snow depth: 49" inches

    Two Day Mountain Weather Forecast

    Produced in partnership with the Medford NWS

    For 7000 ft to 9000 ft
    (4 a.m. to 10 p.m.)
    Sunday Night
    (10 p.m. to 4 a.m.)
    (4 a.m. to 10 p.m.)
    Weather Sunny Clear Sunny
    Temperature (°F) 53 27 53
    Wind (mi/hr) Southwest 5-10 mph in afternoon South/southwest 5-15 mph East/southeast 5-15 mph
    Precipitation SWE / Snowfall (in) / 0 / 0 / 0
    For 9000 ft to 11000 ft
      Sunday Sunday Night Monday
    Weather Sunny Clear Sunny
    Temperature (°F) 36 19 38
    Wind (mi/hr) West 10-20 mph West 0 South/southwest 10-15 mph, increasing to 20-30 mph in afternoon
    Precipitation SWE / Snowfall (in) / 0 / 0 / 0


    This advisory does not apply to Ski Areas or Highways and is for the Mt. Shasta, Castle Lake and Mt. Eddy back country. Use this information for guidance only. You may find different conditions in the back country and should travel accordingly. This advisory expires on midnight of the date it was posted unless otherwise noted.