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06-08-23 General Conditions & Climbing Information

Bottom Line

Greetings CLIMBERS! Congrats... You have landed at the best place on the internet for Mount Shasta adventure information. We want to help plan safe and enjoyable adventures. 

Showers, thunderstorms and rockfall has been at the top of the watch out list. Spring climb and ski season has made the transition to early summer conditions.  A bountiful winter has brought excellent snow coverage to the lower half of the mountain, but it is getting thin on the upper mountain. Early summer conditions means a little bit of everything. Windless, perfect blue skies can be followed by clouds, thunder and lightning, and strong wind in the same day. Whiteout conditions can wrap the mountain very quickly. Don't get caught above Redbanks in a whiteout. Every year, climbers become lost on the upper mountain. Furthermore, being on a 14,000-foot peak in electrical activity is flipping frightening. Climb early and set yourself a turnaround time of about noon or earlier. Check the weather and keep an eye to the sky! Carry navigation tools. 

Snow surfaces are variable with small sun cups and old boot, ski and loose wet avalanche tracks. Smooth, buttery turns are still happening in select areas on select days. Sniff it out. 

Rockfall. Keep your head up and wear a helmet, properly. With thin conditions in the Redbanks area, climbers accidentally knocking rocks down onto fellow climbers below is a highly likely occurrence on busy weekends. Stay on snow as best you can and be very mindful of feet placement in steep, rocky areas.

Check out our recent trailhead access update from June 3. Bunny Flat is the only accessible trailhead at this time. Do not park in the middle of the lot. Motorized use is still possible in the Old Ski Bowl.

As we roll into June, Mount Shasta is measuring ~90 inches of snow near treeline at Horse Camp. Snow still exists all the way down to Bunny Flat, but it's melting quickly. Water and bathrooms are available at Horse Camp, but everywhere else, melt snow for water. Do not forget your wag bags. It's required to pack out your poopie in the MS Wilderness. Free wag bags are provided at all trailheads.

A decent bootpack exists on many routes and most have been leaving snowshoes behind. Thin snow in rocky terrain can be a post hole nightmare, with many hollow pockets. Misery Hill is melted out. Plan to leave your skis secured here if continuing on to the summit. Ridge routes are thin and/or melted out. You can still climb them, but expect loose rock scrambling or dropping low along the ridge to maintain snow travel. Inevitably, loose scree slopes will have to be navigated in select areas.

REDBANKS: Through the right side chutes is no longer the best route due to lack of consistent snow coverage. Abundant loose rock exists above the chutes. See this observation for most up-to-date climbing recommendations. Redbanks, 12,500 feet, is not "almost the top". Use Redbanks as a good check in: How am I feeling, how is the group feeling, what time is it and what is the weather doing?". Do not glissade through Redbanks. The majority of accidents on the Avalanche Gulch route occur between Helen Lake and Redbanks. A healthy dose of mountaineering mindfulness will get you through this zone safely. This is the steepest portion of the climb.

Glissading Safety TIps: 1) Check surface conditions and make sure the snow is SOFT 2) Remove your crampons 3) Start slow, stay in control, and if it's your first time glissading, check out this video for proper technique.

Sun exposure has been for real lately. Mount Shasta is a giant solar oven. Snow blindness is a thing. Keep your skin covered and apply sunscreen liberally and often to any exposed skin. Wear DARK sunglasses and a hat. There is no tanning on Shasta, just burning.

Wind on the mountain can be legit. Anchor your tent well. Check the weather before you climb. If camping at Helen Lake, remember to pee and/or use your wag bag on the far east side of the Helen Lake moraine. A small privacy pit exists to use your wag bag. Collect snow for water uphill, to the north of camp. Thousands of climbers camp here; keep it pro by keeping it clean! Wag bags are mandatory on Mount Shasta (and free at the trailhead). If we catch you leaving human waste behind, you will receive a federal citation. A wilderness permit and summit pass (above 10,000 feet) are also required.  All items available for self-issue at the trailhead. Before heading down the mountain, walk through your camp and collect any micro trash left behind. We all must strive to leave our beloved areas better than we found it.

To climb Mount Shasta safely and efficiently, you need to have an ice axe, 12-point crampons (NOT micro-spikes) and helmet. In addition, always carry a means of navigation. Expect the unexpected. Increase your chances of survival in the event of an emergency by carrying a bivy bag, extra food, water, and layers. Always check the weather before you climb and monitor along the way. One of the best skills you can have in the mountains is to be flexible. Check summit fever at the door. Be humble, respect the mountains. Your margin for error becomes less as you push the envelope.

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

Many incidents occur on the mountain every season. The most common accidents include rockfall injuries, lost climbers, and slips and falls in steep terrain. Most accidents can be prevented with proper planning and preparation.

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

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 the potential for thunderstorm activity during the summer months to 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.

Understand that if something goes wrong or a member of your climbing party gets injured, you need to be prepared to self-rescue. If you have an emergency on the mountain, call 911. Be prepared to provide your location and the nature of the injury. 

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

  • Ice and rockfall
  • Altitude
  • Extreme weather
  • Avalanches

Icefall and rockfall are possible year-round. It's a simple equation: as snow melts, rockfall 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 upslope as you climb. Pay attention to other climbers: rockfall is often caused by 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 the 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 a much more serious and potentially deadly pulmonary or cerebral edema. Rest and hydration are vital to alleviating AMS symptoms. If these 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 its proximity to Interstate 5 and its "easy" climbing objective connotation. This is false. One should still expect cold, winter-like conditions at any time of year. Have the appropriate gear AND skill level. Mountaineering is dangerous, and climbers must constantly evaluate the terrain, weather, and many other factors to have a safe trip. One should also not expect immediate rescue. Many factors can prolong rescues. Thus, it is 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 the 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 whiteout, 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 on 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 high pressure is over the Mt Shasta area. Take this seriously as the 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), allows plenty of time to descend before dark and allows a rescue effort to ensue before dark if one gets injured or lost.

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

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

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 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 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 snowpack 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 safer and more fun on consolidated snow.

A winter climb of Mt. Shasta is possible. Still, 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 to 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 are essential. 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. YOU need to come prepared.

What to Bring

  • MANDATORY: wilderness permit, summit pass, human waste pack-out bags. Available for self-issue at all open trailheads.
  • THE TEN ESSENTIALS: map and compass, sunglasses and sunscreen, extra food and water, extra clothing, headlamp/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 all trailheads, the Mt. Shasta and McCloud Ranger Stations and The Fifth Season outdoor store in Mount Shasta City. All trailheads are currently open. Annual passes ($30) are available at The Fifth Season store as well as the Mount Shasta/McCloud Ranger Stations. The Mount Shasta and McCloud Ranger Stations are usually open Monday through Friday from 8 to 4:30 PM. 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.

Shasta Alpine Hut

The stone cabin at treeline on the Avalanche Gulch climbing route is open year-round and all are welcome. However, one cannot sleep inside the cabin, except in emergencies.  The composting toilet is open for the season and drinking water is available at the spring.  Caretakers are present five days a week for the climbing/hiking season.  If you plan on camping, there are two dozen dispersed sites on the property, a nominal $3/bivy and $5/tent fee is asked. There is a fee deposit tube inside the cabin.  This fragile area gets a lot of use. Please practice Leave-No-Trace principles.  Lastly, the property owner, the Sierra Club Foundation, manages its property under the Mt. Shasta Wilderness rules – dogs, horses, and other domestic animals are not allowed.  No drones.  Thanks!

Dogs

DOGS, AND OTHER DOMESTIC ANIMALS, ARE NOT ALLOWED IN THE MT. SHASTA WILDERNESS OR WITHIN THE SIERRA CLUB FOUNDATION PROPERTY BOUNDARIES (Shasta Alpine Hut).