This report is from June 5th, 2023, and was written by Blackbird Mountain Guides
The bottom line is that the ski season on Mt Shasta still has some life left, and the climbing conditions are pretty good. This weekend we skied and climbed the West Face and Avalanche Gulch. We found consolidated snow and excellent corn conditions on both routes, but the snow quality has deteriorated significantly with heavy weekend traffic over the last couple of weekends. Last week’s minor precipitation on the mountain smoothed the surfaces out a bit, and there was some excellent skiing to be had if you were willing to hunt for it.
- Related: Lassen Peak, CA, Report: Excellent Skinning Conditions After Hail and Thunder at the Trailhead
There is still lots of snow at Bunny Flat. We found the snow firm and well-frozen this weekend, especially on Saturday. Snow was firm from the parking lot on Saturday and supportable to boots on Sunday but soft even in the early morning hours below 9,500’. On Saturday, you could have started in crampons from the trailhead and been happy. On Sunday, the surface was soft enough that each step sunk in a few inches. The surface for skinning was excellent both days, and some people skinned to the Thumb on Saturday (kids, don’t try this at home). On Sunday’s climbing trip (no skis), we opted to begin without crampons until the snowpack was consistently frozen and supportive to boots at 9700’ or so. It’s easy to skin up to at least Helen Lake.
Check the freezing levels on the NWS recreational weather forecast to ensure you get a good freeze (you can find them on our Mt Shasta skiing and climbing conditions page). If it’s not looking like a great freeze, start early! On Saturday, the snowpack held out and was supportable to boots even in the mid-afternoon, but on Sunday, by 1 pm, the snow became much softer, and walking outside of well-trodden terrain was a chore below 10,500’. Even the glissading was tough in sections as the snow was too soft in some sections to support climbers.
There are now many well-established glissade tracks. While this is great news for climbers as it makes glissading a bit easier, it also makes the surface rougher for skiers. Overall, Avalanche Gulch looks pretty beat up by ski tracks, post holes from climbers, glissade tracks, and a couple of large avalanche debris flows.
Another thing to note is the rockfall hazard. While the hazard hasn’t been alarming, a significant rockfall event on Sunday required a helicopter rescue. Rock, ice, and objects from climbers and skiers (such as Nalgenes, ice axes, etc.) are always a concern on this and other routes on Shasta, and climbers should be vigilant as they ascend. Yelling “ROCK!” to alert climbers below of falling rocks or other objects is critical to alerting them and helping them to dodge the object. Also, remember to climb cautiously near any loose rocks on the Red Banks or the top of the West Face!
THE WEST FACE
Skiers have hit this route hard in the last couple of days. This weekend saw massive crowds similar to Memorial Day, and skiers were the biggest user group on the mountain.
The West Face is getting bony near the top, and the entrance will be melted out within the next few days. This will mean skis off to enter the route but it won’t mean it will be done for the year. The skiing there was EPIC on Saturday, and we scored a few thousand feet of pristine corn before the hordes overtook the various options on the face. The skiing was still good, where there were tracks, and people seemed to be having a great time on all the gullies the West Face offers.
Getting out of the West Face is hit or miss. On Saturday, with a good freeze the prior evening, the traverse back to Bunny Flat was supportable with good glide. On Sunday, the freeze down low was not as hard, and the traverse was deep mank and a bit more of a struggle. Timing is everything, and some days it’s tough to get the timing right on both the West Face and the descent back to the trailhead.
THE HOTLUM WINTUN
The Hotlum-Wintun Route is looking thin in the mid-elevations. We didn’t ski it (still snow on the road ten miles before the trailhead), but looking down, it looks like excellent snow quality, but much thinner in the mind elevations than I would have suspected. The rock ridges separating the various drainages are very melted out in many places.
We didn’t ski Clear Creek either, but the road is clear to within 3.5 miles of the trailhead, and it sounds like great skiing. Check out a quick Insta trip report here.
Check out our Mt Shasta skiing and climbing conditions page for all the details. It’s got condition reports, weather information, webcams, and details on permits for climbing and skiing Mt Shasta. If you’re keen on climbing or skiing Mt Shasta, give us a shout!