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Climbing Advisory

Climbing Advisory

09-11-19 General Conditions & Climbing Information

The Bottom Line

REQUIRED TO CLIMB MT SHASTA: Summit pass ($25 and required above 10,000 feet, even if you don't plan on going to the summit), wilderness permit (free) and human waste pack-out bag. All of these items are available for self-issue at all open trailheads or the Mt Shasta/McCloud Ranger Stations and The Fifth Season store in downtown Mt Shasta. Have your pass handy as rangers will check. Packout your human waste. It is required. Waste receptacles are provided at all trailheads. All trailheads are open with full access. Expect rough roads. Four wheel drive is not necessary, but medium to high clearance recommended.

    Mount Shasta is hosting late season climbing conditions. Observations and updates of this advisory will be less frequent as we enter into the Fall season. Late season conditions means that rock fall is likely, sun cups on any remaining snow are plentiful, and loose, rocky slopes are gaining size as snow melts. Slips and falls on snow can often lead into rocks. This greatly exacerbates a slip/fall consequence. Outfitter guides have ceased trips on the south and west side routes. The Clear Creek route is the best option for late season climbs, but don't take it lightly. Numerous lost climbers, slip and fall accidents and fatalities have occurred on this route in the past. The routes from the Brewer Creek trailhead and Northgate trailhead are still in decent shape. All ridge routes are mostly melted out and involve loose rock scrambling, potentially knocking rocks onto climbers below. Skiing on the mountain is possible, but expect to hike to +/- 11,000 feet as well as navigate large sun cups, icy patches, and rocks.

    Climbing Mount Shasta does not get easier or safer this time of year. Improper footwear/equipment and failure to stay on route have led to a number of rescues over the last few weeks. We can not stress this enough: plan accordingly and carry the proper equipment, i.e. an ice axe, crampons and helmet, proper footwear, navigation tools, etc.  Be on the lookout for afternoon thunderstorms and plan your climb accordingly. 

    Camp cleanliness and overall mountain sanitation are very important to us and other climbers. When traveling in the wilderness, always follow leave no trace principles.  Minimize your impact. Plan ahead and prepare. Travel and camp on durable surfaces. Depose of waste properly (it's required). Leave what you find. Always respect wildlife. Many day hikers have been exploring lower elevation trails on the mountain. As summer trails continue to melt out, please stay on path to limit resource degradation. Camp at least 100 feet away from water sources. Stay off fragile vegetation as best you can. The growing season for this delicate ecosystem is very short, especially this year!

    Check the weather and monitor as you climb. The NWS Rec Forecast is a good place to start as well as the NWS Discussion

    Several incidents have occurred on the mountain this year resulting in injuries from rockfall, lost climbers, and slip and falls in steep terrain. Most accidents can be prevented with proper planning and preparation. Please avoid these common mistakes:

    • Do not climb into a whiteout. Always carry a map and compass and/or GPS device and route plan ahead of time. Carry extra batteries or a charge stick.
    • 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.

    The Bunny Flat trailhead (6,950 feet) is open year-round.  This trailhead accesses all routes on the south and west aspects of the mountain. The Old Ski Bowl weather station at treeline (7,800 feet) is melted out as of 7.22.19.  The gate at Bunny Flat is expected to open August 8th. Currently, it is approximately 1.5 miles of road to Panther Meadows and 3 miles to the Old Ski Bowl/South Gate Meadows trailheads. Panther Meadows campground is closed. it will open August 8th. At Bunny Flat, you can bivvy in the parking lot and parking is free of charge. There are bathrooms, but NO running water or other facilities.  Water is available at Horse Camp or below Panther Meadows campground. For elsewhere on the mountain, don't underestimate the amount of fuel it takes to melt snow for water. The bathrooms are open at Horse Camp, otherwise it's required to packout your human waste. Waste packout bags are free and available at all open trailheads.  

     

    Be Prepared!!

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

    • BE PREPARED
    • DO YOUR RESEARCH 
    • ALWAYS WEAR A HELMET
    • KNOW HOW TO USE YOUR ICE AXE & CRAMPONS.
    • CARRY PROPER NAVIGATION TOOLS AND KNOW HOW TO USE THEM
    • REMEMBER, YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR OWN SAFETY.

    Accidents and Hazards

    Almost all the accidents on Mt. Shasta result from:

    • Slipping and falling with a failure to self arrest
    • Glissading when the snow is too firm
    • Glissading with crampons on
    • Climbing into a whiteout
    • Being struck by early season ice fall or late season rockfall

    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 potential for thunder storm activity during the summer months that can 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.

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

    • Ice and rock fall
    • Altitude
    • Extreme weather
    • Avalanches

    Ice fall and rock fall are possible year round. It's a simple equation: as snow melts, rock fall 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 up slope as you climb. Pay attention to other climbers: rock fall is often caused from 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 a 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 the much more serious, and potentially deadly pulmonary or cerebral edema. Stop and take a break. If 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 it's proximity to Interstate 5 and it's "easy" climbing objective connotation. This is false. One should still expect cold, winter-like conditions any time of year. Have the appropriate gear AND skill level. Mountaineering is dangerous and climbers must be able to constantly evaluate the terrain, weather and many other factors in order to have a safe trip. One should also not expect immediate rescue. Many factors can prolong rescues. Thus, it is absolutely 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 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 white out 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 to 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 a high pressure is over the Mt Shasta area. Take this seriously as 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), and allows plenty of time to descend before dark, and also allows a rescue effort to ensue before dark in the event one gets injured or lost.

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

    Bring extra warm gear (like a down jacket, balaclava and extra gloves) in all seasons as climbers often develop superficial frost bite 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 grouped 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.

    Get avalanche training and know how to use your transceiver, shovel and probe in the winter and spring.

    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 own 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 from late May 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 snow pack 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 more safe and fun on consolidated snow.

    A winter climb of Mt. Shasta is possible, but 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 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 is absolutely necessary. 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. Full winter conditions exist currently and YOU need to come prepared.

    What to Bring

    • MANDATORY: wilderness permit, summit pass, human waste pack-out bags.
    • THE TEN ESSENTIALS: map and compass, sunglasses and sunscreen, extra food and water, extra clothing, head lamp/flashlight, first aid kit, matches/lighter, stove, knife/multi-tool, bivy sack
    • HELMET, ICE-AXE, & CRAMPONS
    • AVALANCHE BEACON, AVALANCHE PROBE, SHOVEL

    Wilderness permits, summit passes, and pack-out bags are currently available at the Mt. Shasta and McCloud Ranger Stations for self issue and inside the buildings (maps available) during business hours. The only trailheads open currently are Bunny Flat and Northgate. The remainder of the trailheads are closed. You may still access the closed trailheads and the bathrooms are open/packout bags available, but you must get your summit pass ($25) and wilderness permit from either ranger station. Annual passes ($30) are only available at the ranger stations and at The Fifth Season in Mt Shasta. The Mt. Shasta and McCloud Ranger Stations are open Monday through Friday from 8 to 4:30pm. 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.

    Horse Camp

    The bathrooms are OPEN at Horse Camp and water is available. The Horse Camp cabin and the surrounding property are owned and managed by the Sierra Club Foundation. The cabin is open year round and all are welcome, however one cannot sleep inside the cabin except in emergencies. Make sure you close the door when you leave. If you plan on camping at Horse Camp, please make sure to pitch your tent on either an existing tent site or on snow. Please DO NOT camp anywhere snow has melted, near tree wells, or where a tent site is not obvious. There is a caretaker on duty currently. A nominal $3 bivy/$5 tent fee is asked if camping at Horse Camp. Lastly, the Sierra Club Foundation manages their property under the Mt. Shasta Wilderness rules - that means dogs are not allowed on their property either. Please respect the rules. Thanks!

    Dogs

    DOGS ARE NOT ALLOWED IN THE MT. SHASTA WILDERNESS OR WITHIN THE SIERRA CLUB PROPERTY BOUNDARIES (HORSE CAMP).