After last week’s stellar mission to the spring skiing capital of the lower 48, it was an easy call to head right back to Mt. Shasta this past weekend. For day one of this adventure I was lucky to link up with my Chugach backcountry partner Jeff Dostie, and Squaw Valley legend Dr. Robb Gaffney. Initially we had plans of trying to link up two full laps on different aspects of the mountain, or some similar type mission, but due to a strong wind and variable snow conditions on our climb we adapted to make the most of the day. As you can see from the lead photo of Robb I think I can safely say we did just that.
We started from the Northgate Trailhead that is now fully open. Our ascent took the aesthetic Bolam-Hotlum Ridge and wound right up through the Bolam and Hotlum Glaciers.
It was a great climb on the north side of the mountain, accentuated by the relatively easy to pass glacial sections (with proper route finding and safe glacier travel), but as you can see here by the flapping straps on Robbs pack, and both Jeff and Robbs clothing and body postures, the wind was having its way with snow conditions on the north.
We continued on to the summit, and after discussing our options decided to ski back down the east facing Hotlum-Wintun Ridge that splits the Hotlum and Wintun Glaciers down towards the Brewer Creek Trailhead (currently closed with 7 miles of snow covered road to the trailhead). The plan was to ski the top half of the route, which boasts the highest quality pitch, and then cut back across the Hotlum Glacier to the north and our original starting point. We weren’t disappointed.
Although we skied a nice mixture of snow throughout the descent these photos showcase the highlight turns of our day. It wasn’t quite as full-on as these shots might suggest, but who can complain with powder turns at around 14k feet? Clearly Jeff,
and Robb were having a helluva good time.
Our traverse back to the north went well. I would highly recommend this linkup so long as you have a very good grasp of these routes, safe glacier travel, and negotiating this massive mountain in general.
Perfect corn turns back to the car were the icing on the cake.
For day two the three of us linked up with nine friends for a Shastafarian party on the classic West Face. We weren’t the only ones on the mountain this past Saturday with more skiers and riders on the standard Avalanche Gulch route than I’ve ever seen before. People were stoked to get after it!
The climb was smooth and steady up to the Red Banks,
and eventually we all made it to the summit to take a few moments and collect ourselves for the descent. The previous day Robb had signed the summit register and I had totally spaced on it, but when Jeff and I went back to sign it on day two we saw the raddest sight of the weekend by far.
Completely fired up we collectively set off for our descent of the West Face, but just like Shasta can do, all of a sudden we were in an almost complete whiteout. Taking our time we picked our way down the always questionable turns from the summit plateau and Misery Hill before our vantage opened a bit and we were treated to several thousand feet of great ski conditions. The top half of the West Face was not quite porn, but very much a mixture of new snow from earlier in the week like what Robb, Jeff and I had skied on the Hotlum-Wintun the day before, while the further down we skied the more setup the corn got. Here our sole tele skier Justin,
and splitboarder Mark tear into it.
After back-to-back Shasta summit days the call was made to move on to a Sunday ski of Lassen where more great spring turns were had with the added bonus of taking in the solar eclipse. Good times were had by all, and it’s good to know that even in a low snow year like this one California always provides to those willing to search out the goods.
Looking ahead the Shasta forecast is for cold rain and snow through the week with heavy winds at the higher elevations. Here’s the NOAA visual for the next week at approximately 12k feet.
Although it might not be the best call to head to Shasta right now, Monday is forecasted to be sunny, and when this system does dissipate and clears you can bet there’ll continue to be some incredible skiing on all aspects of the mountain. It was really cool to get to climb a north and south aspect this past weekend, while skiing a west and east shot. The possibilities are many for the skier and rider venturing to the Mt. Shasta area this spring, just make sure you keep a close eye on the weather before making the trip, and always check in with the Mt. Shasta Avalanche Center for all the details you’ll need to have a safe, fun, memorable trip to what many feel is one of the raddest ski mountaineering peaks on the planet.