03-15-24 General Conditions & Climbing Information (2024)

Bottom Line:

Except for Bunny Flat, all Mount Shasta Wilderness trailheads are CLOSED for the season. Summit Passes and Wilderness Permits must be obtained at the Ranger Station.The Everitt Memorial Highway (EMH) above Bunny Flat to Old Ski Bowl (3 miles) is closed for winter.The EMH remains open to Bunny Flat year round, except during major storms.

The Mount Shasta Avalanche Center is up and running as of December 1st. Our daily avalanche forecasts are your most up-to-date resource for mountain weather information, avalanche danger,and conditions on the mountain.

General Message:

Be Prepared!!

Our goal is to ensure you have a positive wilderness experience and come home in one piece! So,


Accidents and Hazards

Many incidentsoccuron the mountain everyseason. The most common accidents includerockfall injuries, lost climbers, and slips and falls in steep terrain. Most accidents can be prevented with proper planning and preparation.

  • Do not climb into a whiteout.Always carry a map and compass and/or GPS device and route plan ahead of time.
  • Keep your group together.If you split up, have a solid plan and make sure everyone has proper equipment and knows the way.
  • Do not glissade with crampons on.If you choose to glissade, take OFF your crampons and make sure the snow is soft.
  • Know how to self-arrest properly with your ice axe. A slip and fall on the upper mountain can be fatal.
  • Wear a helmet and watch out for rockfall.Climbers get hit every year.

With the right knowledge, skill, equipment, and decision-making, these accidents can be easily prevented. Please, wear a helmet, and know how to use your ice axe and crampons any time of the year.

There is always the potential for thunderstorms during the summer months to shroud the mountain in clouds, limiting visibility. Climbers becoming disoriented on the upper mountain in whiteout conditions and subsequently descending the wrong route is not uncommon. These kinds of scenarios have resulted in many searches over the years. It should go without saying, but we will say it as a solid reminder: Check the weather before you go, and continue tomonitor the weather as you climb. DO NOT CLIMB INTO A WHITEOUT! Being caught on the mountain in any type of weather can compromise life and limb.

Understand that if something goes wrong or a member of your climbing party gets injured, you need to be prepared to self-rescue. If you have an emergency on the mountain, call 911. Be prepared to provide your location and the nature of the injury.

Many hazards exist in mountain terrain. Some of these include:

  • Ice and rockfall
  • Altitude
  • Extreme weather
  • Avalanches

Icefall and rockfall are possible year-round. It's a simple equation: as snow melts, rockfall increases. If rime ice is plastered to exposed rocks above, it will eventually flake off and fall onto climbers.Wear a helmet and keep your eyes upslope as you climb. Pay attention to other climbers: rockfall is often caused by climbers resting in melted out areas and accidentally dislodging rocks onto slopes and climbers below. Be careful not to kick rocks down onto others.

At the height of 14,179 feet, Mount Shasta is a high altitude peak. It is common for climbers to experience acute mountain sickness (AMS) with signs and symptoms of nausea, headache, and lightheadedness. Despite being a common condition, AMS should not be taken lightly. It can quickly develop into a much more serious and potentially deadly pulmonary or cerebral edema. Rest and hydration are vital to alleviating AMS symptoms. If these symptoms do not improve, your only choice is to descend!

Mt Shasta is a 14, 179-foot volcano with steep slopes, avalanches, glaciers, rockfall, altitude, and extreme weather. Some may feel like Mt Shasta is "safe" due to its proximity to Interstate 5 and its "easy" climbing objective connotation. This is false. One should still expect cold, winter-like conditions at any time of year. Have the appropriate gear AND skill level. Mountaineering is dangerous, and climbers must constantly evaluate the terrain, weather, and many other factors to have a safe trip. One should also not expect immediate rescue. Many factors can prolong rescues. Thus, it is necessary, no matter what mountain of the world, that you be prepared.

Mountain Weather

Check the WEATHER FORECAST before coming up onto Mt. Shasta! Our site's main menu hosts numerous resources on the weather. Researching the mountain weather should be an important part of your trip planning.

Clouds and Precipitation: While you may encounter fair weather at lower elevations, cloud caps can form up high. Never climb into a whiteout, as many climbers have become lost or died in similar conditions. Many routes from all aspects of Mt. Shasta converge on the upper mountain (>12,500 feet). During limited visibility conditions, climbers have descended the wrong side of the mountain. Keep an eye on the sky as you climb, turning around if clouds begin to build on or near the mountain.

Lightning: Mt. Shasta is a 14,000-foot lightning rod and is frequently hit by lightning (usually in summer and fall months), so don't push your luck with building thunderheads.

Wind: Winds can reach over 100 mph at tree line (8,000 ft) and much higher in the alpine region. Winds of 40 mph can knock you off balance. Winds of 60-70 mph can force you to crawl. Hurricane strength winds (>74 mph) can make it nearly impossible to stand and will destroy well-anchored tents. The strongest winds occur with big pressure and temperature gradients in the atmosphere and tend to occur in front of and behind storms. The lowest winds occur when the center of high pressure is over the Mt Shasta area. Take this seriously as the wind has resulted in searches, injuries, and fatalities.

Tips & Notes

Climb early and descend early. This limits exposure to inclement weather (afternoon buildup of clouds is common), allows plenty of time to descend before dark and allows a rescue effort to ensue before dark if one gets injured or lost.

Get an alpine start (2-5 am) and have a turnaround time of 12 to 1 pm. Proper equipment, clothing, and training are a must. Helmets are always recommended and expect rock and ice to fall at any time.

Bring extra warm gear (like a down jacket, balaclava, and extra gloves) in all seasons as climbers often develop superficial frostbite during strong winds. The wind chill temperature near the summit in winter and spring can be well below zero.

Anchor your tent well wherever you camp. Tents can and do blow away frequently. Do not plan to camp above treeline if you do not have anchor lines for your tent.

Solo climbing is not recommended. Traveling with an experienced group is a good idea, and remember - do not split up the group!

The routes on the north and east sides are not recommended for unguided novices; glacier travel and route finding skills are prerequisites.

Mountain Rescue

Do not expect to be rescued. Rather, prevent rescues from happening in the first place, and be prepared to handle rescues within your climbing party should something happen. Nature sets its own terms, and YOU must judge how much risk you are willing to accept.

When to Climb

The BEST time to climb Mt. Shasta is usually fromMay to mid-July on the south and west sides of the mountain when summer days are longer and the weather is generally stable. However, in dry years, the thin snowpack creates the best climbing conditions in April, May and early June. When the snow melts, you are left with 7,000 feet of scree, talus, and boulders. In heavy snow years, the climbing season extends to August or September. There is NO trail to the summit. Climbing is much safer and more fun on consolidated snow.

A winter climb of Mt. Shasta is possible. Still, it is more difficult and dangerous: extreme weather, short days, avalanches, falling ice and potential post-holing increase the difficulty and danger on all routes. If you choose to travel in the backcountry during the winter and spring, you need to have the proper equipment and training to stay safe. An avalanche beacon, shovel, probe, with the ability to identify avalanche terrain and snow instability, is essential. A climb of Shasta should not be taken lightly.

Every year, many climbers become lost, injured, or killed while attempting Mt. Shasta. Many of these accidents could have been prevented with a bit of pre-planning and training.YOU need to come prepared.

What to Bring

  • MANDATORY: wilderness permit, summit pass, human waste pack-out bags. Available for self-issue at all open trailheads.
  • THE TEN ESSENTIALS: map and compass, sunglasses and sunscreen, extra food and water, extra clothing, headlamp/flashlight, first aid kit, matches/lighter, stove, knife/multi-tool, bivouac sack.

Wilderness permits, summit passes, and pack-out bags are currently available at Bunn Flat, the Mt. Shasta and McCloud Ranger Stations and The Fifth Season outdoor store in Mount Shasta City.The Mount Shasta and McCloud Ranger Stations are typically open Monday through Friday from 8 to 4:30 PM.Check our climbing regulations for more details.

Using common sense and carrying the TEN essentials keeps you and your party out of search and rescue statistics. Wear a helmet, and know how to use your ice axe and crampons. Be prepared and pay attention. The mountain has extreme weather changes.

Winter and Spring months usually see periods of heightened avalanche danger, though this danger could exist in the summer months under the right circ*mstances. Research the weather and avalanche danger while planning your trip. Have your climbing party bring avalanche beacons, probes, and shovels armed with proficient skills in their use. Know how to identify avalanche terrain and evaluate snowpack stability.

Shasta Alpine Hut

The stone cabin at treeline on the Avalanche Gulch climbing route is open year-round and all are welcome. However, one cannot sleep inside the cabin, except in emergencies. The composting toilet is CLOSEDfor the season. Drinking water is NOT available at the spring. Caretakers are present five days a week for the climbing/hiking season. If you plan on camping, there are two dozen dispersed sites on the property, anominal $3/bivy and $5/tent fee is asked. There is a fee deposit tube inside the cabin. This fragile area gets a lotof use. Please practice Leave-No-Trace principles. Lastly, the property owner, the Sierra Club Foundation, manages its property under the Mt. Shasta Wilderness rules–dogs, horses, and other domestic animals are not allowed. No drones. Thanks!



Winter Message:

While a winter climb of Mount Shasta is possible, understand that it significantly raises the stakes. Extreme weather, short days, avalanches, falling ice, and potential post-holing increase the difficulty and danger on all routes.

Bring the proper equipment with the knowledge to use it effectively. This includes:

  • Avalanche beacon
  • Shovel
  • Probe

The ability to use these tools in a rescue, while being able to identify avalanche terrain and snow instability, is absolutely necessary.

Also remember to bring standard winter mountaineering equipment:

  • Warm winter clothing
  • A robust tent
  • Proper navigation tools (electronics fail quickly in cold weather)
  • An ice axe and crampons.

DO NOT attempt to climb Mount Shasta without proper training, preparation and research. Despite being 15 minutes off the interstate, Mount Shasta is a real mountain with real consequences.

The road to Bunny Flat Trailhead (6,950 feet) is plowed and open in the winter. The gate to the Old Ski Bowl is usually closed for the season after November 1st. There are bathrooms, but NO running water or other facilities. Access to other trailheads is dependent on snow cover. All other wilderness trailheads are winterized and closed for the season. You may still access them, but your summit pass, wilderness permit, and human waste pack-out bag must be attained at the ranger station in Mount Shasta or McCloud.

REQUIRED TO CLIMB MT SHASTA: Summit pass ($25 and required above 10,000 feet, even if you don't plan on going to the summit), wilderness permit (free) and human waste pack-out bag. All of these items are available for self-issue at all OPEN trailheadsor the Mount Shasta/McCloud Ranger Stations and The Fifth Season store in downtown Mount Shasta. Annual passes are available from The Fifth Season, 300 N. Mount Shasta Blvd as well as the Mount Shasta/McCloud Ranger Stations.

Conditions Update:

Climbing season is approaching fast. For those willing and prepared, climbing is possible through this current high pressure. That being said, Mount Shasta is still experiencing winter conditions, and must not be underestimated. Climbing Mount Shasta in March holds little similarities to conditions in July. Aspiring climbers need to consider the avalanche danger, extra cold temperatures, unpredictable weather patterns, ice/rock fall, variable snow surface conditions, and lack of other climbers. Keep in mind, if an accident happens up there, winter conditions will slow the time on any rescue process.

As of March 15, Mount Shasta is holding phenomenal snow coverage for all routes on the south side. Above treeline, climbers and riders will encounter a mixture of conditions. The recent wind has created many firm and dense surfaces.In some spots surfaces are scoured down to ice. Softer snow exists inmore protected areas likegullies and depressions. Rock outcroppings are adorned with a large amount of rime ice. Be prepared for changing conditions andhazards. Climbing has been limited this winter, don't be surprised if you see less than a dozen other climbers up there. Lake Helen is in great shape for camping. Be sure to take your trash and waste down with you. We have a long climbing season ahead, and want to take care of the mountain we all love.

Recreate responsibly, my friends. This means to plan and prepare properly. Be honest with your own and your group'sskills and abilities. Be kind to others. Respect the mountains and Mother Nature. Learn and practice the 7 Principles of Leave No Trace.

Climber safety and mountain sanitation are two of our top management priorities. Please do your part to keep the mountain clean and pack out all waste. It isREQUIRED to pack out your human waste on Mt. Shasta. If rangers catch you pooping without a wag bag, you may receive a citation.FREE wag bags are available at all open trailheads.

Please help keep Bunny Flat clean. Itis one of the busiest places in the Forest. We permit camping in the parking lot or just below in the dispersed camping area. It is primitive camping, no water/other services provided, except for bathrooms. The camping stay limit is 7 consecutive days, and not to exceed30 days total in the calendar year.

Please read all the information below to educate yourself on general information about what it takes to climb Mount Shasta safely. If you have further questions, don't hesitate to give us a call. We are not always in the office, but will respond as soon as we can:530-926-9614 or email nicklaus.meyers@usda.gov.

03-15-24 General Conditions & Climbing Information (2024)
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