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Avalanche Advisory for 2015-01-10 07:03:44

  • EXPIRED ON January 11, 2015 @ 7:03 am
    Published on January 10, 2015 @ 7:03 am
  • Issued by Nick Meyers - Shasta-Trinity National Forest

Overall, LOW avalanche danger exists for all aspects and elevations. Always practice safe travel habits and sound decision making when traveling in the backcountry.

Smooth and firm conditions persist near and above treeline on Mt Shasta. A slip and fall on steeper terrain will result in a slide for life without self-arrest skills. An ice axe, crampons and helmet are highly recommended. 
Be prepared and know how to use your equipment.


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

LOW avalanche danger exists for all aspects and elevations. Always practice safe travel habits and sound decision making when traveling in the backcountry.

As mentioned above, concern continues for slide for life conditions if one is to slip and fall on the steeper slopes of Mt Shasta. Many areas are hosting smooth snow with an icy glaze on top. Self-arresting on this type of snow surface is very difficult. 

Other areas consist of wind blown sastrugi, hard and chalky snow. While this snow is still very smooth and potential for a long slide is there, this type of snow surface allows for better chance at self-arrest should one fall.

An ice axe, crampons and helmet are highly recommended for upper mountain adventures and as ALWAYS, carry a beacon, shovel, probe and know how to use all this equipment! 

Recent Observations

A high cloud deck yesterday and increasing clouds today has and will keep the snow on the firm side at all elevations on the mountain. The storm forecasted for Sunday/Monday is still on track, though precip amounts will be light, potentially 1-4 inches of new snow with freezing levels near 5,000 - 5,500 feet. Definitely not complaining. This will be a nice little "refresh" and help smooth out some of the lingering sastrugi. Northwest winds are going to kick up late today and crescendo into Monday reaching 20-30 mph with gusts higher - not gale force but strong enough to move some new snow around. Even though new storm snow totals are not looking fat, wind blown snow loading on leeward aspects could create small to medium size wind slabs on our old, hard snow. At this point, the avalanche danger remains low for all aspects and elevations today. Staring into my crystal ball (we do that here in Mt Shasta), I'm thinking the avalanche danger will rise for a short period during and after this small storm. Wind loading on E-SE-S-SW aspects near and above treeline will be of most concern. Remember, specifically on Mt Shasta, funky wind eddies and local orographics can load slopes not suspected. 

Mr. Coots taking some morning steps up the lower runout zone of Avalanche Gulch (7,800 feet) on 1.9.15 {Photo: H Meyers}

**...emitting a long, deep sigh...** Um, can somebody check the calendar for me? I'd like to try my hand at some persuasive writing directed at Mother Nature... Dear Mother Nature: We are on our knees, almost on our hands, praying for more snow. There are two really good reasons for this prayer: water and mental health. Both are really important. We understand you just have to do your thing, and perhaps we should just be fortunate for weather at all. Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating. Mother Nature, there is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather and all are thankful for this. So if I may give some advice: Advice is like snow - the softer it falls, the longer it dwells upon, the deeper it sinks into the mind. Thus, I'll keep at it - soft, consistent, fluffy, light advice: Please, let it snow.

Its a mixed bag out there. All snow available for decent recreation in the forecast area is limited to areas above 6,000 feet. Mt Shasta, Mt Eddy, Castle Lake, Ash Creek Butte all are holding anywhere from 1-6 feet of snow. This snow is a fantastic base ready for some new snow to freshen things up. We've seen a slow transition in surface conditions on Shasta itself where most skiing and other recreation has been taking place. No single snow surface condition dominates and thus one will need a variety of skiing techniques to stylishly shred Shasta's slopes. Inversions over the past week have kept lower elevation temps cooler and mid elevations warmer. Given that and some daytime sunshine, east, southeast and south facing slopes that are out of the wind and at mid elevations have been seeing some softening during the warmest portions of the day, ie. corn snow. Other areas one will find wind packed powder, rough sastrugi, and icy ridgetops/exposed areas. Overall, I would say conditions have improved over the week and numerous reports have come in of decent, smooth skiing if willing to hunt it down.

Avalanche danger-wise: the snow is, if I may say, bomber at this point. If we had to label our current avalanche problems, old wind slabs and wet slabs/sluffs would be appropriate... The MSAC had one photo submitted of a small wet sluff that occured sometime during the week off of the East aspect of Casaval Ridge into Avalanche Gulch (photo below). We had a few days of glorious sunshine and warm overnight temps over the week causing localized areas of temperature induced, wet instabilities. Clouds and cooling temps have nixed that problem for this weekend.

Smooth and firm snow conditions still persist for folks venturing onto the upper mountain, climbers and skiers alike. A helmet, ice axe and crampons are strongly recommended and self arrest skills mandatory for a safe trip. 

A photo spread from brother and sister duo, Hanne Meyers and Forrest Coots. Beginning from top left and working clockwise: FC dropping into the East side from Thumb Rock area - {Photo: Ingmar} / South side Shastina ski with Shasta proper in the background {Photo: Ingmar} / Forrest skins up Avalanche Gulch on 1.9.15, below Lake Helen (Photo: H. Meyers} / Small wet sluff that occured sometime in the past week due to daytime warming and above freezing night time temps on the East aspect of Casaval Ridge into Avalanche Gulch, approx. 9,700 feet. {Photo: H Meyers}

Report your observations to the MSAC! A photo, a few words... send them in! ( or 530-926-9614)

Castle Lake area has a shallow snowpack. Be careful of shallow buried objects. Skiing has been reported as poor to non-existent.

Sand Flat Winter Trails: OPEN

Pilgrim Creek Snowmobile Park: OPEN, however due to lack of low elevation snow, one must drive up the road several miles before enough snow is encountered. One CANNOT DRIVE over Military Pass.


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.

The Five Red Flags of Avalanche Danger any time of year include:  1) Recent/current avalanche activity  2) Whumpfing sounds or shooting cracks  3) Recent/current heavy snowfall  4) Strong winds transporting snow  5) Rapid warming or rain on snow.



    Weather and Current Conditions

    Weather Summary

    In Mt Shasta City this morning at 0500, we have a current temperature of 37 degrees, calm winds and mostly cloudy skies.




    Old Ski Bowl - 7,600 feet, the current temperature is __ F. Snow on the ground totals 62 inches with no settlement. We've had no new snow in the last 24 hours or over the past week.  Temperatures have ranged from __ F to __ F. 

    Gray Butte - 8,000 feet, winds have averaged __ mph from the __ , with a max gust to __ mph from the __. The current temperature is __ F and temps have ranged from __ F to __ F in the last 24 hours.  

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

    Castle Lake - 5,600 feet, the current temperature is __ F. Temps have ranged from __ F to __ F in the last 24 hours. The Castle Lake area has 1-3 feet of snow on the ground and a few folks have been sliding around on skis up there.

    Mt Eddy - 6,500 feet, the current temperature is __ F. Temps have ranged from __ F to __ F in the last 24 hours. Current snow depth is 23 inches with no new snow and no settlement. Winds have averaged __ mph and __ in direction, with gusts to __ mph from the __.

    WEATHER SYNOPSIS:  Partly to mostly cloudy skies continue today. The small storm enroute to the area is on track to arrive later Sunday into Monday and still isn't anything to get too excited about. That said, precip amounts have been raised a trace...most of the light precip will fall on Sunday night and .05 inches of water is expected. This will likely mean some snow flurries on the mountain and 1 to 4 inches of snow...freezing levels will maintain this season's pattern: that is higher....expect snow levels to be about 5,000 to 5,500 feet. Winds out of the Northwest will increase tomorrow into Monday at mid and upper mountain levels with this storm. Don't be surprised if you experience steady 20-30 mph wind with gusts higher, NW. Things will clear up for the week as high pressure ridging builds... the next best chance at winter weather will be next weekend and this storm looks decent.

    THIS SEASON: Since September 1st (the wet season) , we have received 22.08 inches of water, normal is 18.02 inches, putting us at 122% of normal. For the year of 2014, Mt Shasta finished off with 34.36 inches of water with normal being 43.21 inches, leaving us at 79% of normal for 2014. For December, Mt Shasta finished at 163% of normal, receiving 12.83 inches of water, normal is 7.85 inches. For January/2015, we've received 0.00 inches of water, normal is 2.14.

    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. Be prepared.

    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.)
    Saturday Night
    (10 p.m. to 4 a.m.)
    (4 a.m. to 10 p.m.)
    Weather Partly/Mostly cloudy Mostly cloudy Mostly cloudy; slight chance of light rain and snow after 10am
    Temperature (°F) 45 27 41
    Wind (mi/hr) Southwest 5-10 mph Southwest/West 5-10 mph Northwest 5-10 mph
    Precipitation SWE / Snowfall (in) / 0 / 0 / 0
    For 9000 ft to 11000 ft
      Saturday Saturday Night Sunday
    Weather Increasing clouds Mostly cloudy Increasing clouds
    Temperature (°F) 32 23 31
    Wind (mi/hr) West/Southwest 5-15 mph, increasing and with gusts higher Southwest 0 Northwest/West 20-30 mph with gusts higher
    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.