Trip Report: Lassen Peak, CA – Devastated Area to East Ridge

Clay Malott | BackcountryBackcountry | Trip ReportTrip Report
Clay Malott making his way towards the summit. Photo credit: Austin Jewett

Report from May 23, 2021.

My buddy Austin and I have had our sights on Lassen Peak for several weeks now. Standing at 10,463′, Lassen typically holds snow well into the summer, and despite the low snowfall this season, this year was no different. Lassen had continuous, skiable snow all the way down to about 8,000 feet, and we decided to give it a go this weekend.

We departed from our hotel in Redding, CA at about 3:50am. The name of the game for today was to summit early so that we didn’t miss the corn window. After arriving at the Devastated Area parking lot at about 5am, we got going around 5:20. Despite the darkness, we could still see Lassen looming in the distance.

The gargantuan northeast face of Mt. Lassen from the parking lot. Photo credit: Clay Malott

The first part of the climb was on foot in hiking shoes, as the trailhead starting elevation was at about 6,400′, so there wasn’t any climbable snow. The trees down low were extremely tight and made the first part of the climb very slow going. Eventually, we started to break out above the treeline, where we were greeted by a spectacular sunrise.

Sunrise. Photo credit: Clay Malott

Above us, Mt. Lassen was cast in a dreamy orange glow through the fog.

Lassen’s northeast face, with the summit obscured by dense fog. Photo credit: Clay Malott

Eventually, we hit the snow and put on our boots, skis, and skins. We ascended up towards the center, main gully of the northeast face.

Austin climbing towards the summit, which was finally now in view. Photo credit: Clay Malott

We decided to change plans. Looking up at the face, we realized that the center gully would deposit us directly into the caldera of the volcano, which sits right beneath the summit. We wanted to have as much fun as possible, so we decided to climb the most westerly facing slope up to the east ridge, then continue to ascend that to the summit.

Once the slope got steep enough, we took off our skis, put on our crampons, and began ascending to the ridge.

Beginning the bootpack with Mt. Shasta in the background. Photo credit: Clay Malott

On the way up, the snow was interesting. Most areas had fresh snow that was about 8″ deep, which was very surprising. In other places, it was hardpack bulletproof rime. The deep new snow made breaking trail very difficult.

Austin nearing the top of the face near the ridge. Photo credit: Clay Malott
Me climbing up to the ridge. Photo credit: Austin Jewett

We climbed up through a small notch sandwiched between two rock pinnacles, which deposited us onto Lassen’s east ridge at about 9,800′. 

Austin climbing up toward the ridge. Photo credit: Clay Malott

We began ascending the ridge towards the summit with our crampons still on. The ridge wasn’t too narrow, and we cruised up it at a pretty solid pace.

Climbing up the east ridge. Photo credit: Austin Jewett
Breaking trail through the deep snow was hard work! Photo credit: Clay Malott

On the ridge, we realized that the summit pinnacle was simply rock and rime. We decided not to take that risk, considering we didn’t bring rope gear, so we identified a few slopes that wrapped around the south side and into the caldera.

Looking up the east arête towards the summit. Photo credit: Clay Malott

On the ridge, we had a spectacular view of our planned descent, which ran straight down the center gully that we initially planned to ascend.

Our planned descent down the northeast face. Photo credit: Clay Malott

Once we reached the base of the summit pinnacle, we began skirting around it to the south via the faces that we had previously identified. The deep snow slowed down our pace, but we continued to chug up towards the summit.

Clay Malott making his way towards the summit. Photo credit: Austin Jewett
Austin wrapping around the summit. Photo credit: Clay Malott

We crested over the final ridge and into the caldera of the volcano. We dumped our stuff in the caldera and made the short trek up to the summit.

Lassen’s caldera. Photo credit: Clay Malott
Up to the summit! Photo credit: Clay Malott

From the summit, our views were somewhat limited by low clouds, but the view was still superb. We had a particularly good view of our descent.

Looking down the northeast face, which we planned to ski. Photo credit: Clay Malott

We descended from the summit back to our gear and transitioned from crampons to skis. We made our way over to the northeast side of the caldera to scout our descent.

Gearing up for our descent. Photo credit: Austin Jewett
Tentatively stepping through a rock band over to our descent. Yikes! Photo credit: Clay Malott

Our ski descent started from about 10,400′. The top part was a bit weird, but the skiing was phenomenal after a few turns. Perfect hot pow!

Austin begins his descent. Photo credit: Clay Malott
Skiing down from the summit through some weird rime snow. Photo credit: Austin Jewett
Hot pow slashing. Photo credit: Clay Malott
Clay descending the lower section. Photo credit: Austin Jewett.
Art. Photo credit: Austin Jewett

Towards the bottom, the snow got hot and sticky as we skied the drainage back to our shoes. We picked up our shoes and skied down with them in our hands.

Slushy powder 8s at the bottom of our descent. Photo credit: Clay Malott

We put our skis and boots back on our packs, and with our shoes back on our feet, we walked back down through the trees to the car.

Tight treed bushwhacking – a staple of springtime skiing! Photo credit: Clay Malott

Overall, we enjoyed a great day in the mountains with some solid ski mountaineering and a superb descent! Looking forward to continuing to milking the final few turns that California has to offer this season :).


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3 thoughts on “Trip Report: Lassen Peak, CA – Devastated Area to East Ridge

  1. Hey Clay, how was the coverage up there? U think the north face is holding enough to get some.turns in in coming weeks?

    1. Hey Kyle. Just by looking at satellite imagery, it looks like you could certainly get some patch skiing in. There’s not much left on the face anymore to get continuous skiing. You could ski from patch to patch, just depends on how committed you are!

      1. Thanks for the update Clay, what satellite tool/or site do you use? Google Satellite/Earth shows quite a bit of snow up there so i know its dated. Planning to head up tomorrow, hopefully their is something waiting for me.

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