You are here

Avalanche Gulch Route Conditions

Climbing Route(s): Avalanche Gulch
Trailhead(s): Bunny Flat
Region: 
Mt. Shasta
Date/Time of Observation: 
Monday, June 6, 2022 - 3:45pm
Position: 
Climbing Ranger

General Conditions

The weekend of June 4-5 brought wet and windy conditions to the mountain. 4-6" of new, wet snow and rime ice accumulated on the upper mountain. This smoothed out the snow surface and covered previous tracks and sun cups. As the storm blew out, temperatures decreased and surface conditions became hard and icy. This created more challenging and dangerous climbing conditions in upper Avalanche Gulch by Monday morning, June 6th. No teams made it above the Red Banks on Monday. Reports were that there was deep, drifted snow near the Red Banks as well as slick water ice. Conditions above the Red Banks are unknown at this time. 

Warm and sunny conditions during the day Monday softened and wetted the snow significantly and by afternoon boot penetration was ankle to knee deep up to at least 11,000 feet. Some small loose wet avalanches were observed in the Trinity Chutes and off of the south side of Casaval Ridge. A warming trend will take place this week, but the snow surface is still smooth and can potentially be icy, which can make the route more difficult and dangerous. 

Avalanche Gulch is a relatively easy snow climb in good conditions. But slick, firm snow surface conditions increase the difficulty of the ascent and the likelihood and consequences of a slip and fall. It is important to constantly assess the surface conditions of the route as you climb and descend. Snow conditions change based on numerous factors, including new snow, ambient air temperatures, wind-chill, solar radiation, and elevation. Conditions will change as you climb and descend the mountain. Risk management decisions should be based on the observed conditions and anticipated change in conditions. If conditions are hard and icy, the most prudent choice might be turning around.

Given the weather forecast for the next few days, it is likely that snow conditions will soften up earlier in the day and won't freeze as hard overnight. But mountain conditions are dynamic, and it is up to your team to assess the hazards and act accordingly in order to avoid accidents. 

Another hazard to be aware of over the next few days is falling ice. The weekend storm plastered rime and water ice on the Red Banks. As temperatures warm this week, the ice will shed and fall down the route. Icefall increases as the air temperature warms and solar radiation melts the bonds between the ice and rock. Wear a helmet, climb early, stay out of the fall line, and watch out. Rockfall will also become more of an issue as snow melts off the route over the next few days and weeks. 

A note on glissading: Glissading can be a safe, fun, and efficient way to descend some of the lower elevation, lower-angled slopes of Mount Shasta. But this is a skill that requires training and practice. Glissading is a common cause of accidents. Recognize when it is safer to walk down. Glissading in firm, icy conditions is dangerous. It is generally too steep to glissade right below the Red Banks. Do not glissade through the Red Banks! And never glissade with crampons on. Make sure you can control your speed and that your ice axe is ready for self-arrest. 

Photographs

  • Near 50/50 looking up toward Helen Lake, Avalanche Gulch. 6.6.22
  • Upper Avalanche Gulch. 6.6.22
  • Snow surface conditions in Avalanche Gulch near 11,000 feet Monday afternoon. Note the large ice chunk that had fallen from higher on the mountain. 6.6.22
  • Looking down at Helen Lake from near 11,500 feet. 6.6.22
  • Looking up just below The Heart, Avalanche Gulch. 6.6.22
  • Looking up Avalanche Gulch from near 50/50. 6.6.22
  • Helen Lake camp. 6.6.22