Skiing the Cascade Volcanoes
        Amar Andalkar's Ski Mountaineering and Climbing Site
Ski Mountaineering Photos & Trip Reports Equipment & Info Cascade Volcanoes Ring of Fire Site Map

Table of Contents | Introduction | Ratings | WebCams | Bibliography | Highest Volcanoes | Snowfall & Snowdepth | Monthly Chart | Conifers | Compare | Distance | Sun Chart
CALIFORNIA
  Lassen Peak
  Mount Shasta
  Medicine Lake Volcano
OREGON
  Mount McLoughlin
  Pelican Butte
  Crater Lake
  Mount Bailey
  Mount Thielsen
  Diamond Peak
  Newberry Volcano
  Mount Bachelor
  Broken Top
  Three Sisters
  Mount Washington
  Three Fingered Jack
  Mount Jefferson
  Mount Hood
WASHINGTON
  Mount Saint Helens
  Mount Adams
  Goat Rocks
  Mount Rainier
  Glacier Peak
  Mount Baker
BRITISH COLUMBIA
  Mount Garibaldi
  Mount Cayley
  Mount Meager



| Mount Shasta from the north in July, with Shastina to the right
and the Hotlum-Wintun Ridge along the left skyline.
This stunning view is found along Highway 97.
(photo by Amar Andalkar)   <click to enlarge>

Mount Shasta
    14162 ft (4317 m)     Highest volcano in California .
Major Peaks:
Shasta:     14162 ft (4317 m)
Shastina:     12330 ft (3758 m)
Location: Cascade Range, northern California,
60 miles (100 km) N of Redding
Lat / Long: 41.4° N, 122.2° W
Volcanic Type: Stratovolcano complex
Volcanic Status: Active, last eruption 1786
First Ascent: E. D. Pierce, 1854
First Ski Descent: Fletcher Hoyt and party, 1947
Skiable Vertical: over 8500 ft (2600 m); perhaps over 10000 ft (3000 m)
is possible in late winter / early spring
Lift Served Vertical:   1390 ft (420 m) at Shasta Ski Park on adjacent satellite cones;
former ski area on south side in Old Ski Bowl, 1959-1978
Timberline: 8000-8500 ft (2400-2600 m)
Administration: Shasta-Trinity National Forest
Protection Status:   Mount Shasta Wilderness includes most areas above 8000 ft
User Fees: $15 climbing fee (above 10000 ft)

    Mount Shasta is the second highest volcano in the Cascade Range and in the lower 48 United States. The permanently snow-capped cone dominates the skyline of southern Oregon and northern California for hundreds of miles in any direction. Shasta is in fact the most massive stratovolcano in the Cascade chain, rising almost 12000 ft (3600 m) from the surrounding lowlands and easily surpassing in volume the slightly higher Mount Rainier. However, Shasta's southerly location (and slight rain-shadowing from the Coast Range) results in somewhat lower snowfall and less glaciation than the more northerly peaks of the Cascade Range. Nevertheless, Shasta supports eight glaciers including the largest in California, and the deep winter snowpack provides good skiing well into the summer.
    The relative lack of crevasse hazard on most summit routes coupled with generally good springtime weather makes Shasta into THE ideal peak for ski mountaineering. The paved and plowed Everitt Memorial Highway provides quick and easy year-round access from the City of Mount Shasta to the alpine areas on the south and west sides, permitting skiing from late fall through early summer. Avalanche Gulch on the south side is the classic (and much too popular) climbing and skiing route to the summit, offering a continuous crevasse-free ski run of over 7000 vertical feet. The Hotlum-Wintun Ridge on the northeast side is even better, since it is far less crowded but has similar vertical and drops in a magnificently steep, direct line off the true summit. This may be the finest ski descent in the entire Cascade Range, and even in the United States.

Route Ratings Starting
Elevation
Elevation
Gain/Loss
Roundtrip
Distance
Notes
Quality Effort Ascent Descent
Summit Ski Mountaineering Routes:   (in clockwise order starting from the south)
Avalanche Gulch
  (standard route
   via Thumb Rock)


10.5
6900 ft
(2100 m)
7300 ft
(2200 m)
11 miles
(18 km)
This is the standard route for perhaps 90% of those who attempt to climb or ski Shasta, resulting in severe overcrowding on sunny weekends. It provides the shortest year-round route to the summit of Mount Shasta, although the routes from Clear Creek on the southeast side are somewhat easier. There is some steep snow which must be negotiated as the route passes to the right of the Red Banks, and this area often becomes windblown and loses its snow cover early in the spring. An excellent option is to ascend this route, and then ski down via the much steeper bowl located to climber's left of the Heart, a prominent snow-free rock patch in upper Avalanche Gulch. This bowl is just west of the Red Banks and it is possible to drop into it via a number of extremely steep chutes though the westernmost Red Banks chimneys. (See my ski trip report from June 1999.)
Avalanche Gulch
  (Left of Heart variation)
Cascade Gulch
  to summit via upper
   Whitney Glacier


11.0
6900 ft
(2100 m)
7300 ft
(2200 m)
15 miles
(24 km)
This route traverses north from the Sierra Club Cabin, leaving the crowds behind as it heads into the huge bowl of Hidden Valley, between Casaval Ridge and the southeast flank of Shastina. It then climbs to the 11900 ft saddle east of Shastina, from where it is possible to go west to Shastina's summit or climb east to the summit of Shasta via the upper portion of Whitney Glacier. A steeper variation heads directly up the West Face Gully from Hidden Valley, topping out at 13400 ft at the top of Casaval Ridge, and then following the standard route to the summit. During winter or early spring, it is possible to descend the lower portion of Cascade Gulch (below Hidden Valley) all the way down to the Everitt Highway at 5000 ft, with a car shuttle back to Bunny Flat.
West Face Gully
10.5
13 miles
(21 km)
Whitney Glacier
  (from Whitney Creek)


12.5
5500 ft
(1700 m)
8700 ft
(2650 m)
16 miles
(26 km)
The Whitney Glacier is the largest glacier in California, extending over 2 miles (3 km) in length down the northwest trending gap between Shasta and Shastina. The route follows the Whitney Creek drainage directly onto the terminus of the glacier, and follows its entire length to about 13800 ft, just below the summit plateau. The uppermost portion which heads east to the plateau is quite steep, but this may be avoided by continuing southeast and joining the standard route at the base of Misery Hill. The Whitney Glacier is heavily crevassed, with a major icefall above 11000 ft, so it is best skied in early season when the crevasses are covered by a deep snowpack. A variation which avoids the crevasse hazard follows the Whitney-Bolam Ridge, just northeast of the glacier, above 10000 feet. It is also possible to traverse to the ridge to avoid the icefall and then rejoin the glacier above.
Whitney-Bolam Ridge
12.5
15 miles
(24 km)
Bolam Glacier
  (from Bolam Creek)

12.5
5500 ft
(1700 m)
8700 ft
(2650 m)
16 miles
(26 km)
The relatively-uncrevassed Bolam Glacier is the best of Shasta's eight glaciers for skiing. Access from North Gate is short and straightforward, but in early season when that road is snow-covered it may be easier to take the longer approach from Bolam Creek. Several variations are possible on the upper portion, including the very steep Bolam Gully which leads to the upper portion of Hotlum-Bolam Ridge. For a continuous ski descent from the summit, it is best to follow gentler gullies which lead from the upper Bolam Glacier southeast to the summit plateau. The Hotlum-Bolam Ridge itself is the standard north side climbing route, but the uppermost portion becomes windblown and loses its snow cover before summer. Numerous snowfields adjacent to the ridge below 13000 ft remain skiable well into summer, although on the east these merge into the heavily crevassed Hotlum Glacier.
Bolam Glacier
  (from North Gate)

10.5
7000 ft
(2100 m)
7200 ft
(2200 m)
13 miles
(21 km)
Bolam Gully
10.0
12 miles
(19 km)
Hotlum-Bolam Ridge
10.0
12 miles
(19 km)
Hotlum Glacier
  (from Brewer Creek)


10.0
7200 ft
(2200 m)
7000 ft
(2100 m)
11 miles
(18 km)
The Brewer Creek trail provides quick access in late spring and summer to several routes on the northeast and east sides of Shasta. The Hotlum Glacier is the most voluminous in California and makes a fine climbing route, but is diminished in quality as a ski route due to its numerous crevasses and icefalls, along with generally unskiable cliffs at its head. Numerous snowfields nearby offer fine skiing well into summer, including the ones which line the north side of the Hotlum-Wintun Ridge. This is an exceptional ski route, a very natural and direct line with just the right pitch, steep but not too steep. At 12400 ft, the ski route crosses the ridge onto the north edge of the Wintun Glacier, which is relatively crevasse-free. This route is skiable continuously from the true summit down to 8000 ft well into July, even in mediocre snow years. (Detailed route info and trip report from July 2000 coming soon. This was an superb trip, 6200 vertical feet on great snow.) The northern lobe of the Wintun Glacier itself may be descended directly to snowfields south of Hotlum-Wintun Ridge, although this requires a longer traverse to return to the trail.
Hotlum-Wintun Ridge
  to upper Wintun Glacier


10.0
12 miles
(19 km)
Wintun Glacier
  (from Brewer Creek)

10.5
13 miles
(20 km)
Wintun Ridge
  (from Clear Creek)

11.0
6500 ft
(2000 m)
7700 ft
(2300 m)
13 miles
(20 km)
The Clear Creek Route (Southeast Ridge) and the neighboring Wintun Ridge are the least difficult climbing and skiing routes to the summit of Mount Shasta. Access is somewhat long, however, until the road to the trailhead melts out in late spring. Unfortunately, the routes are best skied in early spring, since their southeasterly aspect and somewhat exposed position leads to an early loss of snow cover compared to the north side routes or Avalanche Gulch. When the snowpack is deep enough, these routes offer a variety of broad open slopes and bowls with somewhat less avalanche hazard than the steeper routes above.
Clear Creek Route
  (Southeast Ridge)

11.0
Other Ski Mountaineering Routes:  
Lower Avalanche Gulch
  (below Helen Lake)

5.5
6900 ft
(2100 m)
3500 ft
(1100 m)
7 miles
(11 km)
The lower portions of Avalanche Gulch below Lake Helen (10400 ft) provide moderate ski terrain in a variety of open bowls above Horse Camp. This area has much less avalanche hazard than the steeper slopes above, although massive avalanches from high up in the appropriately named Gulch can still reach this lower elevation terrain during severe avalanche conditions.
Lower Cascade Gulch
  (from Horse Camp
  down to Everitt Highway)

2.0
6900 ft
(2100 m)
1100 ft
(350 m)
-3000 ft
(-900 m)
5 miles
(8 km)
one-way
This is the easiest way to do car-shuttle skiing on Shasta. Follow the normal route to Horse Camp, then traverse north a bit and descend west into the lower part of Cascade Gulch and follow it the way down to the Everitt Highway at 5000 ft, where a car can be left ahead of time or one could hope to hitch-hike back to Bunny Flat. Since so little effort is expended to reach Horse camp, this route could easily be repeated several times in one day.
Old Ski Bowl
6.5

to
6900 ft
(2100 m)
4000+ ft
(1200+ m)
9+ miles
(14+ km)
A variety of ski terrain can be accessed from winter into late spring via the unplowed portion of the Everitt Highway, which leads from Bunny Flat to the site of the former Mount Shasta Ski Bowl. This ski area closed in 1978 following an avalanche which destroyed most of the lifts. The East and West Bowls of the former ski area provide a variety of moderate terrain which steepens considerably as one heads north towards Shastarama point. The new Mount Shasta Ski Park is located 2.5 miles (4 km) to the south, and is an easy downhill ski run from the Ski Bowl. The Sun and Powder Bowls lie just west of the Ski Bowl and Green Butte, and are accessible easily from the road a mile past Bunny Flat.
Sun Bowl / Powder Bowl
3.5
2300 ft
(700 m)
5 miles
(8 km)
Shastina Ski Mountaineering Routes:  
Cascade Gulch
  to Shastina summit

8.0
6900 ft
(2100 m)
5400 ft
(1650 m)
11 miles
(17 km)
This is the standard route to climb Shastina, the prominent satellite cone on the west flank of Mount Shasta. Follow the description above to the Shastina saddle, then head west less than a half-mile to the summit of Shastina, which consists of several small overlapping cinder cones with prominent craters. Lakes can be found in three of these depressions, but these are always snow-covered until mid-summer.
Diller Canyon
  to Shastina summit

8.0
6000 ft
(1800 m)
6300 ft
(1900 m)
7 miles
(11 km)
Diller Canyon is the massive gorge on the west flank of Shastina, the path of numerous pyroclastic flows which inundated the townsite of Weed over 9000 years ago. Snow drifts accumulate in the shelter of the lee (south) side of the canyon, providing a steep and direct ski line from the summit of Shastina into late spring. A maze of old logging roads provide access to above the 5000 ft level, just south of the canyon.


| Topographic map of Mount Shasta
showing ski routes listed in table above
<click map to enlarge, 446 kB file>

| View of the south side of Mount Shasta from Bunny Flat in June;
Avalanche Gulch is the large snow-filled bowl at center
(photo by Amar Andalkar) <click to enlarge>


Useful Web Links:

Shasta-Trinity National Forest
Shasta-Trinity National Forest: Mt. Shasta Climbing Advisory
Mount Shasta SnowCam
Amazing Shasta Cam
Mt. Shasta Board & Ski Park
Shasta Mountain Guides
The Fifth Season: Mt. Shasta's Climbing & Ski Shop
National Weather Service Office: Medford, OR
National Weather Service: Mount Shasta Zone Forecast (alternate link)
National Weather Service: Mount Shasta Recreational Forecast
The Weather Channel: Mount Shasta City, CA, Forecast
Yahoo! Weather: Mount Shasta City, CA, Forecast
USGS Cascades Volcano Observatory: Mount Shasta


List of Guidebooks:  (detailed references on the bibliography page)

The Mt. Shasta Book All routes (detailed climbing and skiing info)
50 Classic Backcountry Ski Summits in CA Several routes(detailed skiing info)
Wild Snow Avalanche Gulch route(skiing info)
Climbing the Cascade Volcanoes All major routes(brief climbing info)
Oregon Descents West Face / Casaval Ridge only (skiing info)


List of Maps:

Map Series Scale Topo? Map Names Year Notes
USGS 7.5-minute 1:24,000 Yes, 40 ft Mount Shasta, McCloud,
Hotlum, City of Mt. Shasta
1986 Wilderness Press map is generally more useful
Wilderness Press 1:24,000 Yes, 40 ft Mount Shasta 1988 Combines portions of 2 USGS maps, shows routes;
  included with "The Mt. Shasta Book", listed above
USFS Wilderness 1:31,680 Yes, 80 ft Mount Shasta & Castle Crags 1990 A beautiful map, very useful for road info and overview
USGS 30' x 60' 1:100,000 Yes, 50 m Mount Shasta 1979 Marginally useful for a regional overview
US Forest Service 1:126,720 No Shasta-Trinity Natl. Forest 1997 Useful for forest road information


More photos, routes, links, references, etc. coming soon...
Please contact me with any suggestions, additions, or corrections.


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Table of Contents | Introduction | Ratings | WebCams | Bibliography | Highest Volcanoes | Snowfall & Snowdepth | Monthly Chart | Conifers | Compare | Distance | Sun Chart
Ski Mountaineering Photos & Trip Reports Equipment & Info Cascade Volcanoes Ring of Fire Site Map

Amar Andalkar   Seattle, WA, USA   <About the Author / Contact Me>
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