Trip Report    

Mount Shasta/Avalanche Gulch

Basic snow climb in mid-season conditions

  • Tue, Jun 16, 2020 — Fri, Jun 19, 2020
  • Mount Shasta/Avalanche Gulch
  • Climbing
  • Successful
  • Road suitable for all vehicles
  • Route is good, snow starts at 9500'. Approach shoes and/or lighter mountaineering boots recommended. Rockfall risk is high from Helen Lake to Redbanks, travel early and quickly to mitigate. Sun exposure is substantial, use high SPF sunscreen, sun hoody, lightweight buff/gloves etc. Snow was a mostly neve with some  ice patches and loose powder. Route currently goes to the right of the Heart to Thumb Rock saddle, stay climbers right on the gulch to minimize rockfall hazard from Red Banks.


    Current snow coverage looking towards the Heart. Skier lower middle for scale.

Our party left Seattle at 600 am on 6/16/20 for Mt. Shasta City, arriving at 5pm. In response to CoVid-19 we all wore masks in the vehicle and travelled with a large bottle of hand sanitizer and bleach wipes to mitigate transmission risk. After some stretching and a food run we returned to our hotel to rest up, arriving at Bunny Flats TH the next morning at 730 am. The TH was quite crowded for a midweek morning with 75% of the 100+ spaces taken. We filled out permits, paid for our summit passes, and started out for Horse Camp at 800 am.

We made Horse Camp in an hour, and after a short break pushed on to Helen Lake, arriving at 1130am. Weather was hot and bright, temps in the mid 70s. Approach was snow-free until 50/50 Flats at 9,500'. The push up Standstill Hill was a bit icy but manageable without spikes/crampons. The team made camp, rested and re-hydrated in anticipation of the summit push the following day. Teams continued to arrive, and by sundown, there were 30-40 people camped out for the climb.

Heading up Standstill Hill to Helen Lake

Heading up Standstill Hill to Helen Lake, 9500'.

Making camp at Helen Lake

Making camp at Helen Lake. The Heart and Red Banks visible upper right.

The original plan was to begin the push at 300am, but the 40+mph wind forecast at the summit convinced the group to change the start to 500am, which would decrease wind exposure to 10mph. While the weather component played out perfectly for us, the tradeoff was rockfall. At least two dozen baseball to grapefruit size rocks came hurtling down the chute early as the result of some off-route climbers above us, any one of which could have ended the attempt then and there. In retrospect, high winds would have been a more manageable safety issue, given the moderate angles of the upper exposed slopes. With the number of climbers on this route it's important to move through it as quickly as possible and as early as possible. Currently the route is to climbers right of the rock formation known as the Heart, towards the saddle of Thumb Rock and Short Hill.


Looking across at Redbanks

Looking down from and across at Red Banks, 13,000'

We cleared Avalanche Gulch by 715am, took a short break, and began the push up Short Hill. Snow conditions were good, with a mix of neve and small patches of unconsolidated powder making for quick travel with good purchase. We reached the summit plateau at 915am, took a quick break to make layer adjustments, and approached the pinnacle. The last 250' or so was icy with a few Class 3 moves, nothing crazy, and we finally made the top at 1020am, a little over 5 hours after departure.

Thumb Rock Saddle.

Thumb Rock Saddle. Konwakiton Glacier to the right, Short Hill ahead.


Summit pinnacle.

Summit Pinnacle final push.

Final Push.

Summit of Mt. Shasta with 5 climbers celebrating on top


After taking pics, signing the register, and enjoying the amazing views, we began the push back at 11am, arriving at 1pm. By this time, snow had softened to the point that glissading was an option, and we were able to make it from the Red Banks to Helen Lake on our butts in less than 10 minutes. We made new chutes rather than use the existing ones, after a few test slides proved much faster than we liked--the extra friction made a more controllable decent. We packed up, waited for the group to re-consolidate, and headed out around 230pm, and leaving the TH around 5pm. After a celebratory dinner at the Black Bear Diner, we grabbed hotel rooms in Weed, crashed out, and drove back the next day, arriving in Seattle around 7pm.