This past weekend I had the fortune of remembering why the Mt. Shasta area is arguably one of the highest quality spring skiing centers known to skiers and riders. With a solid crew of splitboarders, our group set out for two memorable days shredding some of the best snow one can ask for in the month of May.

We started with a late afternoon cruise north from Tahoe, and caught a nice evening glow in the Lassen area with Mt. Shasta showcasing its prominence seen in the above photo. We pulled into the Bunny Flat trailhead parking area, which gives great access to Shastina, the west and south aspects of Mt. Shasta, and after some gear sorting were quickly asleep in preparation for our 4 a.m. start.

It’s never all that easy to get going after a long drive and a few hours of sleep, but as we slowly ascended Shastina it was clear we were ┬áin for a treat. This shot may not look all that interesting at first glance, but upon closer inspection it shows the transition that’s prone to happening in this area when a completely frozen mountain slowly grows a fresh layer of perfect corn snow.

Our objective for day one was to check out the north side of Shastina, and then either head up to a south or west aspect on Shasta, or ride the south side of Shastina back to the car. Here Seth and Allison start booting up the north crater rim of Shastina.

After scoping our descent as best as we could no one really expected the utter brilliance we were about to receive for a few thousand vertical feet-the elusive and often tough to nail porn descent. The north aspect we skied was consistent all the way to the Whitney Glacier comprised of that beautiful blend of not quite corn, not quite powder, but most accurately described as porn snow. Here’s a rad shot by Dave Campbell showing Allison in her essence.

Seth had just as much fun as his lady,

and the panel I ended up skiing was one of the nicer surprises I’ve had all season.

By the time we collected and skinned our way up and out from the Whitney Glacier the clock was ticking so we jumped on the south side of Shastina and were treated to the definition of perfect corn skiing. It was so good that I felt like I had just skied a full on blower powder run, only it was just a truly perfect corn run. Here’s Allison effortlessly gliding down the south side of Shastina.

One of the cool things about staging at the Bunny Flat trailhead is you can post up in the parking lot after your hard earned efforts and totally relax for the remainder of the day (photo by Dave Campbell).

For day two we set our sites back to Shasta proper knowing the classic West Face or Trinity Chutes would provide.

Here’s Seth and Allison heading up Avalanche Gulch as early morning light greets the Trinity Chutes.

If you’re heading up to Mt. Shasta via Bunny Flat looking to ski, although you should hit the summit at some point, more often than not, you’ll find the best skiing doesn’t start until you get to the top of the West Face or the Trinity Chutes. Since Dave had yet to stand on Shasta’s summit we decided to head up there along with a good grip of other skiers, riders, and climbers on the mountain that day.

A look down from the summit towards the north shares a glimpse of how worthy some of the other routes on Shasta currently look,

and here’s a shot of Dave enjoying himself on the summit.

Although skiing Misery Hill above the Red Banks is usually nothing but a way to gain some experience making turns on variable high elevation ski mountaineering terrain, the turns were actually not that bad. However, it was no surprise that the turns in the Trinity Chutes were the real gem (photo by Dave Campbell),

as were the multiple panels of perfectly smooth corn and fun mini chutes that were linked up over to Casaval Ridge on our way back to the car.

If you want to check out some more rad Shasta/Shastina photos check out this piece on the Powder website, but all you really need to know for now is as of last weekend Mt. Shasta and Shastina were both firing on all cylinders, 100%. Never mind the blissful porn skiing on north aspects, the corn was absolutely going off! This past week there’s been some weather instabilities in the region with scattered snow showers high on the mountain, and some rain showers and thunderstorms at the lower elevations. However, the weather forecast is looking good for the weekend before a chance of snow returns to the area on Monday so my best guesstimate is there could be some very smooth snow surfaces to ski and ride this weekend. Keep a watchful eye out for rapid warming where any new snow has fallen over this past week, but if you have an inclination to go have one of the best spring runs you’ve ever had, and this area serves up anything like what was experienced last weekend, you can be sure that you won’t be paying much attention to all the banter about what a lackluster ski season was had this year. All you’ll be doing is shaking your head in disbelief, wondering how spring skiing in May on a Northern California volcano be that good.

 

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15 Comments

  1. Yes!!!!!!!!!! says:

    Heading up this weekend and looking to score!

    Reply
  2. rightON says:

    Bet the BPS eats up that snow!

    Reply
  3. Zeb Blais says:

    Yeah Seth and Allison! Looks sweet! Wayta go! Cool pics Brennan, need to make it up to Shastina one of these days, skiing looks perfect.

    Reply
  4. Thanks for this says:

    A great info filled post!

    Reply
  5. Rad says:

    skied that north face of shastina as well years ago, super fun, steep shot over there. we hit it from the northgate TH tho. way to get after it!

    Reply
  6. Local Mounter says:

    How difficult/long of a hike is it from your staging camp to the summit? (obviously have never done it but am considering it!!)

    Reply
    • legit question says:

      was wondering the same thing. Distance/Time? I understand everyone hikes at different paces.

      Reply
      • Brennan Lagasse says:

        The easiest way to get to the summit is via the Bunny Flat trailhead where you start at about 7k feet. You approach from the south via Avalanche Gulch, head to the Red Banks, up Misery Hill, and then on to the summit. It’s roughly 7200 feet of elevation gain to the top so you need to factor in your fitness at elevation, especially if you are doing the day push. Some parties break this up into a 2 or even 3 day outing, while many prefer the one day mission. I’d call this a strenuous hike for sure, but if you are in decent shape and leave early (2-5a.m. depending on your pace) you should be cool (6-9 hrs depending). The other thing to consider is if you’re just there to ski, while the summit is a must at some point, you can skip Misery Hill and the rest of the walk to the summit as the good skiing via the Trinity Chutes and West Face is accessed from the base of Misery Hill. Hope that helps.

        Reply
    • I was up there this last weekend and it is impossible to exaggerate just how perfect the conditions were. The Avalanche Gulch route is totally doable, even for relative noobs like myself. It is not technical, and I encourage you to make it happen. Just carry along an ice-axe/whippet and crampons and be familiar with how to self-arrest, in case you fall. We are not hardcore and like to go at an all-day kind of pace and do Shasta in two days. One day is definitely possible, but would be pretty tiring. Plus, it’s just fun to camp out at Helen Lake. Brennan is totally right that you could cut out Misery Hill and the summit to save maybe 2 hours total, but it is totally worth it to allow yourself the time to summit and fully enjoy the experience.

      We left from Bunny Flat (base camp/trailhead) on skins, and it took us exactly 4 hours to get to Helen Lake (high camp). We set up camp, lounged around in the sun, built a snow castle, drank whiskey, and went to bed. Most of the climbers get a super early alpine start, but we decided to sleep in in order to let the corn get a head start on buttering up in order to time our descent after 12pm. We departed Helen Lake after 7am with boots and crampons and reached the summit plateau some time before noon. Again, this was at an all-day kind of pace, with a couple of leisurely 20 minute breaks every 1.5 hours.

      With incredible weather, all sun and zero wind, we took the opportunity to explore around the summit to peek at the north and eastern faces and eat lunch on the summit plateau. We encountered a guided party that had ascended Casaval Ridge and was getting ready to descend. One guy was putting his splitboard together when one of the halves took off, sliding down the gradual descent of the summit plateau. We all watched as the events proceeded in slow motion, the board gradually picking up speed towards Misery Hill. There was one lone climber on the far side of the plateau. The guide shouted and waved his arms, trying to get his attention and stop the runaway board. As it passed, the climber made a lunge with a pole and jabbed it, flipping it on its side. The owner of the splitboard turned around, relieved at his apparent good fortune. But all I could do was stare and mutter, “uh…. it’s still going…”. The board managed to maintain its momentum, righted itself, took a hard left turn, and sailed off the edge down the Konwakiton glacier. Oops. Goodbye splitboard. I felt seriously bummed for the guy. Don’t let that happen to you.

      Anyway, by that time, we had started to get a little light-headed from the altitude on the summit and decided it was time to ski the Trinity Chutes. Some of the upper portions of the snow on Misery Hill were still bullet-proof rime, but there was great chalky snow on the upper Konwonkiton, before cutting across with a short walk to the top of the Trinity Chutes. The line was absolutely pristine, perfect, incredible, unforgettable. Skiing in the shadow of massive rime covered red rocks down 45 degree chutes in velvety corn is something I could do every day for the rest of my life.

      To sum it up, at our leisurely pace:

      Skin from Bunny Flat (trailhead) to Helen Lake (high camp): 4 hours
      Boot from Helen Lake to Shasta summit: 4-5 hours
      Ski >7000′ from Shasta summit to Bunny Flat: Timeless.

      Reply
  7. Dunfee says:

    Hey Brennan,

    Now enticed to stop through on way back to Tahoe from OR. Have my touring gear my alpine boots so not looking to skin more than two-three hours. Any good routes from Bunny Flat to get some good corn? Thanks.

    Reply
    • Brennan Lagasse says:

      I’d say if you’re looking for a 2-3 hr mission Lassen might be the better call. Haven’t hit it yet this season but have heard similar quality reports from some friends who have. The road might open all the way through the park this weekend as well, and that’s one of the best easy hikes for maximum skiing when the shuttle is available (2k up the S for 4400 down the N). On Shasta, the only quicky that’s pretty good would be to head up to Horse Camp, then over to Casaval Ridge. There’s a bench at the top before the ridge goes to rocky and that’s about a 3k shot back to Bunny Flat. Hope you get some!

      Also glad other people above are fired up!

      Reply
  8. Dunfee says:

    Thanks Brennan for the advice. The Lassen road is open to the devastated area on the north and Sulphur Works on the south. Thinking I’ll drive to the base of the devastated and hike from there… think that’d be better than the southern option? thanks again for the advice.

    Reply
  9. Scott says:

    Great trip report… if you’ve been up there be sure to claim Shastina and Shasta on peakery and add your summit photos:
    http://peakery.com/shastina/
    http://peakery.com/mount-shasta-california/

    Reply
  10. Skittle says:

    Brennan- Best poster on UN by FAR! Thank you

    Reply
  11. Rico says:

    Great report!! Haven’t been up there for a couple of years, but i’m licking my chops to hit it again.
    Not sure if it’s the time of year, but it sure is nice to have all positive posts!! It just gets outta hand during the “official” season.
    Carry on!

    Reply

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