Backcountry Conditions Report: Mt Shasta

Sunset on Mount Shasta's Casaval Ridge

Backcountry Conditions Report: Mt Shasta

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Backcountry Conditions Report: Mt Shasta

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Sunset on Mount Shasta's Casaval Ridge

Looking directly up Casaval Ridge as the last rays of sun illuminate Mount Shasta's West Face on Saturday.

Mount Shasta is primed and ready for an awesome corn cycle.  Above 10,ooo’ the mountain is smooth and flat everywhere and just waiting for a nice melt.

Usually this time of year is when Tahoe skiers migrate south to take advantage of spring conditions in the Eastern Sierra and ski lines they’ve had their eyes on all year.  But this years meager snows have left Eastside mountain sides devoid of the white stuff we love.  Sure, lots of lines are still in, but it’s not the all-you-can-eat style buffet it usually is.  Long approaches and completely bare faces leave one feeling like they were last in line.

My solution: head north and ski where the snow is, the Cascade range.  The first stop was Mount Shasta.  With a weather forecast of 80 degrees Fahrenheit in town and light southeast winds we knew we’d need to get an early start and avoid sunny faces.  As we left the parking lot at 4:30 am the wind was light and warm.  Already the snow was soft and we were skinning in base layers.  We decided to climb Casaval Ridge but to avoid post holing we would skin up Avvy Gulch until we reached firmer snow at higher elevations.

Heading up Avalanche Gulch toward the second window on Casaval Ridge.

Heading up Avalanche Gulch toward the second window on Casaval Ridge.

 

Our plan worked perfectly, and climbing conditions were amazing as we gained Casaval through the Second Window.  As we climbed higher the winds increased, but Casaval’s rocky spine kept us protected.

Shasta Mountain Guides owner Chris Carr ascends a steep bulge on Casaval.

Shasta Mountain Guides owner Chris Carr ascends a steep bulge on Casaval.

 

A few heavily rimed patches were the only areas that made climbing a pain.  These were few and far between and the warm temps over the last few days have really consolidated the snowpack and made for great climbing conditions.  The skiing would have been amazing as well, if the winds hadn’t kept the upper elevations frozen.

Contouring above the flat, smooth Trinity Chutes heading into Avvy Gulch.

Contouring above the flat, smooth Trinity Chutes heading into Avvy Gulch.

 

As we climbed higher we realized the snow wasn’t going to corn up as we’d hoped.  But great climbing conditions and a fat route made for a fast and fun ascent.  The catwalk, which can be a bit hairy with less snow, was a breeze.

Chris climbing a steep section of "The Catwalk" on Casaval Ridge.

Chris climbing a steep section of "The Catwalk" near the top of Casaval Ridge.

 

Looking into the Trinity Chutes, the snow was smooth and hard.  This will make for perfect corn unless this week’s storms deposit a lot of new snow up here.  Either way, it’s soon to be great skiing.

Chris ascending the last section of Casaval above the Trinities.

Chris ascending the last section of Casaval with the Trinities in the background.

 

Below the Trinity Chutes, the snow was pretty runneled.  We opted to ski the West Face for a more consistent, smooth surface.

Matt Paul tops out on the Catwalk.  The apron of Avvy Gulch fans out below the Trinity Chutes.

Matt Paul tops out on the Catwalk. Avvy Gulch fans out below the Trinity Chutes.

 

The snow was firm everywhere above 10,000′ and the West Face provided a long, smooth run.  It wasn’t corn and the snow was loud, but it was fun!  Ski mountaineering turns at their best.

Chris Carr drops in on the West Face.

Chris Carr drops in on the West Face.

 

Matt Paul shredding some frozen corn.

Matt Paul shredding some frozen corn near 11,000' on the West Face.

 

The runnels became more prevalent as we descended below 10,000′, but the snow also started to corn up.  We ended up with 1,500′ of fun corn.  Being a little picky with your line could earn you a dozen perfect corn turns and these patches made the skiing a fun and interesting.

Chris carving some runnels below 10,000'.

Chris carving some runnels below 10,000'.

 

The bottom line is Mount Shasta is fat right now, and this week’s storms are only making it fatter.  If we have a good streak of high pressure this is the place to head for a ski mountaineering adventure.

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