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Very Large Natural Avalanche in Avalanche Gulch

Location Name: 
Casaval Ridge, Avalanche Gulch
Mt. Shasta
Date and time of avalanche (best estimate if unknown): 
Thu, 02/14/2019 - 1:00am
Observation made by: 
Red Flags:
Recent loading by new snow, wind, or rain
Rapid warming
Obvious avalanche path

Location Map

United States
41° 23' 53.8224" N, 122° 12' 8.6724" W

Avalanche Observations


A very large (R4/D4) natural avalanche occurred off of Casaval Ridge between the afternoon of Wednesday, February 13th and the morning of Thursday, February 14th. The avalanche likely released near 12,000 feet and ran to 7,200 feet in Avalanche Gulch (AG), down AG proper - over 3 miles and approximately 5,000 vertical feet. The tow of the debris pile is 30+ feet high. The widest portion of the slide was 250 feet wide. The deepest portion, 60 feet deep. The main avalanche could have caused a sympathetic release of other avalanche slopes on Casaval Ridge, Trinity Chutes, The Heart and Sargent's Ridge terrain. Some large trees were buried and seen carved by the debris. The bed surface for the slide is unknown. Avalanche occurred during or after a short period of significant snowfall followed by rapid warming.

Avalanche Classification Code: HS-NS-R4-D4-U

Low visibility limited observations of the crown.

Path Description

  • Elevation range start zone: 12,400 - 11,600 feet
  • Elevation range of track: 11,600 - 8,000 feet
  • Elevation range of run out zone: 8,000 - 7,200 feet
  • Vertical fall (top of start zone to lower run out zone) : 5,200 feet
  • Length of path run: 3.10 miles
  • Angle (α) of start zone / runout: 34-36° / 10°

Path Characteristics

  • Exposure to wind/drifting snow: Leeward in northerly wind
  • Exposure to solar: Shaded in morning, afternoon sun
  • Surface roughness: Scattered small cliffs and rocks
  • General terrain shape: Large concave feature
  • Estimated frequency: Infrequent
  • Destructive Potential: D4 = could destroy a railway car, large truck, several buildings, or a substantial amount of forest

  • Map of Avalanche

  • Terminus of Avalanche - 30 ft High"

  • Start Zone

  • Above Treeline Track

View Looking Up from Runout

  • View Up Runout

  • View Down Runout

  • At the Bottom, Shear walls are over 30 feet in places.

  • Along the high walls of the runout



Avalanche Type: 
Trigger type: 
12 400ft.
Above Treeline
Weak Layer: 
Bed Surface: 
Avalanche Width: 
1 500ft.
Avalanche Length: 
5 200ft.

Weather Observations


On Wednesday Febuary 13th Mount Shasta received several feet of fresh snow in less than a 24 hours followed by a rapid warming, rain on snow/mist event on Thursday.  This new snow was plastered onto a complicated snowpack with cold dry surface snow from a storm on the weekend of the Feb 9th and 10th.  Most of the storms in February have been associated with periods of strong northerly wind continually loading the upper Casaval ridge area. The wet, heavy snow from Wednesday the 13th plastered enough snow to cause this large slide that likely stepped down into deeper weak layers, entraining more and more snow as it gouged its way down the nearly 5,000-foot run and depositing 30+ feet of snow in the climber's gully (Avalanche Gulch proper) down to 7,200 feet.  


Cloud Cover: 
75% of the sky covered by clouds
Blowing Snow: 
Accumulation rate: 
Less than 1 in. per hour
Air temperature: 
Below Freezing
Air temperature trend: 
Wind Speed: 
Wind Direction: