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Casaval Climb, Summit Block Bivy, West Face Gully Ski

Climbing Route(s): Avalanche Gulch, Casaval Ridge, West Face
Trailhead(s): Bunny Flat
Mt. Shasta
Date/Time of Observation: 
Wednesday, May 17, 2023 - 6:30am

General Conditions

Plan was to climb Casaval Ridge, summit and ski West Face Gully back to car in one day. Packed as if I wouldn't and that proved necessary. Overall, incredibly fun and enjoyable route up (until intermittent whiteishout cloudiness began on upper mountain late afternoon/evening), uncomfortable (bc of poorly forecast level-correcting mitigation measures), but doable base summit block bivy w verfied forecast and phenomenal (despite increasingly obnoxious stickiness) summit (rim) ski back to car via Misery audible and West Face Gully complete.

Departed TH at 0630. Chose to ascend to ridge via far side (GiddyGiddy?) gully w help of ski crampons bc of early sunhit for direct ascent to ridge above Horse Camp. Snow was soft for most of the climb but w prior compressed tracks and reasonably early in the day, very reasonable. Was able to stay on snow (and keep aluminum boot crampons off rock) until a 12.4'ish ridgewhack section (albeit diverged from tracks to do so which may have added time/effort). Fellow climber who caught up to me right after the first crux snow climb said he had heard catwalk was no longer doable and that we might have to cross to left side meltout. We opted to investigate and were well-rewarded (albeit crux catwalk itself was super sketch and I was very happy to continually self anchor w my axe shaft in snow upside of thin exposed shelf in case of sudden collapse). Def see pics though for conditions prior to more warm days...

Fellow climber dropped in WFG about 1830. Having located a good bivy spot for the forecasted weather near the ridgetop, I decided to recon remaining route up. Snow coverage was not great on Misery Hill, but sufficient for slightly meandering snow-only ascent. Took longer than forecast and found reasonable bivy spot at just under 14K' so decided to do so - again given my emergency gear and weather (esp wind) forecast.

After minimal sleep thanks to poor bivy location choice (poorly predicted inability to mitigate unlevel spot) and morning gear maintenance work, summited around 9am (shortly after 1st summiter of the day who was undoubtedly proud to beat one who slept 200' from the summit).

Started ski descent from far side of summit block rim around 11:30. Carefully skied/jumpturned on mostly uneven/rockstrewn surface to far side of fumarole (few days too late for direct back bc of too much meltout) and then out via skiers leftside of Misery Hill to reconnect w climbers trail above red banks, brief bootpack to WFG, more softening-waiting as wind had picked up and then drop-in about 1pm Top was still firmish but fun, middle VERY fun and lower portion fun but tiring. Final bit through Hidden Valley very sticky, ski traverse exit back to horsecamp very tiring and soft (and unstable...fellow skier saw a team of two ahead of us trigger a small point release that grew very big in one of the gully crossings) and exit to TH at 2pm obnoxiously sticky and slow, even in recent tracks (but mostly didnt have to push so more a relative complaint for the ending). On the whole though, great routes up and down in great conditions!



  • Old Avalanches in Avalanche Gully
  • Early sunhit on direct ascent to Casaval Ridge
  • Avys outnumbering Helen Lake campers
  • Ridge preview
  • 11am looking back along route
  • 11am looking forward along bootpack track
  • Looking back af first crux climb (brief but 50ish and exposed)
  • Breaking through thick crust to moist base: 2pm final significant snow climb
  • Location of last breakthrough/moist snow pic
  • Moving to climber’s rightside of ridge for final pitches/crux
  • Looking forward to crux catwalk
  • Looking back at crux catwalk (def made use of ice tool in left hand jic)
  • Not over yet in this big snow/wind-loading year…
  • Approaching Casaval Ridge finish
  • “Reconning” next section (standard route connector) prior to bivy
  • Misery Hill spotty coverage (not great for skiing direct, but prob doable wo removing skis had I wanted to use same track back)
  • With intermittent whiteoutishness, no summit Day 1
  • With lateness of day and workable bivy spot/weather forecast, no return to ridge neither
  • 1st summiter of day later later told me he wished he hadn’t gone this way
  • This way was better up, and far end doable (barely and w jump turns on rock strewn un-even surface (and short hike out of fumarole)
  • 1pm dropin to perfect conditions WGF entrance
  • Bottom 3rd of ski line became heavy/harder, exit to Horse Camp was beyond soft (and unstable), exit to TH absolutely terrible even in recent tracks