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Sidney Pow
(sidpow) - F
How to summit Shasta on 04/25/2013 13:28:00 MDT Print View

Hey all,

I will be in the bay area from June-Aug. and would like to summit shasta during.

I know some people who have summited shasta and might go up with them in the end of June.

If this doesnt work out, I would still like to summit the mountain sometime. The question is, would I need a guide (I have zero mountaineering experience but am comfortable backpacking and doing JMT in Aug) and if I would need a guide, what would a good company be?

Also, is anyone here interesting in letting me (and possibly a buddy) tag along? We are both young and very fit.

Any advice is much appreciated, our money is a little tight

Art ...
(asandh) - F
Re: How to summit Shasta on 04/25/2013 13:34:41 MDT Print View

well you know the general rule ... if you have to ask if you need a guide you probably do.

that said, a lot of people go up Shasta every year who are not mountaineers.
The Avalanche Gulch route, I'm pretty sure is the standard non climber route. you may find it a bit exposed up high if you lack experience but I don't think its any more than 3rd class at most.
most seem to take 2 days, but 1 day is feasible if you know what you're doing and where you're going.

this route may or may not require ice axe and crampons depending on the time of year you go and how much snow fell the previous winter.

Edited by asandh on 04/25/2013 13:37:59 MDT.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: How to summit Shasta on 04/25/2013 14:08:48 MDT Print View

I went to Shasta for 26 years, once per year, and I got 22 summit successes. Overall, the folks who went with me had about a 75% success rate. On a typical year, the time to go was Memorial Day Weekend, but that assumes light mountaineering skis or snowshoes for the bottom half of the mountain. Once in a while the lower parts of the mountain were firm enough snow that it could be done with just boots, but you could not really count on that. When the snow gets soft, postholing down the lower slopes gets quite painful.

The standard trip was planned as three days. The first day is moving from Bunny Flat to Helen Lake camp. The second day is going to the summit with ice axe and crampons, and back to camp. The third day was planned as the exit. However, in all of those many years, we always cleared the mountain by the end of the second day.

Once you get your gear figured out, it shouldn't be too difficult to find a guide. Start with ice axe, crampons, winter tent, and stove. Then find some industrial grade sunscreen, otherwise, you will burn to a crisp.

On one year, I wore a 7000 meter down parka, and it probably saved my life.

--B.G.--

Danny Milks
(dannymilks) - MLife

Locale: Sierras
Climb Shasta on 04/25/2013 16:04:42 MDT Print View

[Full Disclosure - I guided for Shasta Mountain Guides for several years]

This year is light on the snow and so a late June trip would be pushing it for avalanche gulch. YOu might be able to do it, but it depends on the weather between now and then.

Try to get up there as early in June as you can. Memorial Day weekend is a zoo. The people are the greatest danger, so avoid that weekend if possible.

As AG becomes bad (too much rockfall, for example) most people consider it an end to the climbing season there. Guide companies, however, move to the West Face and then eventually the north side in August. Technically more difficult and much less popular.

There is a lot more to mountaineering than just the technical stuff. Dealing with altitude, camping on snow, melting water, extreme variations in weather, extreme weather, monitoring speed and health, risk assessment, and so on. I'm not trying to dissuade you from attempting this. I just want to be clear. It's an amazing mountain and a great climb. Some people might argue that you won't learn until you try.

If you don't hire a company to guide you, at least consider taking a 1 or 2 day intro to mountaineering course to go over ice ax and crampon technique and snow camping basics. Guide companies, university outdoor ed programs, probably even REI offer these. And it doesn't have to be on Shasta. Learn the skills first, then come apply them on Shasta.

Only three guide companies have permits for Shasta:
Shasta Mountain Guides (SMG)
Sierra Wilderness Seminars (SWS)
Alpine Skills International (ASI)

I'd estimate that Shasta Mountain Guides handles more than 90% of the climbers, with SWS and ASI doing the remainder, occasional trips.

All other companies sub-contract through one of the above three. REI and California Alpine Guides go through SMG. As do fundraising groups like: Big City Mountaineers, Summit for Someone, Breast Cancer Foundation, American Liver Foundation, Climb to Fight Breast Cancer (Hutchinson Center), and so on.

There is a lot of good info about your climb, on line and in the town of Mount Shasta. Stop by the Fifth Season to rent gear and get up to date info. There is a ranger camp at Helen Lake (around 10,000'), where most private groups camp.

Good luck.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: How to summit Shasta on 04/25/2013 16:14:06 MDT Print View

If you go too early in the season, you will be facing big winter storms. That will really screw things up. If you go too late in the season, there will be a lot of rockfall danger, and that can really screw things up as well. The trick is in hitting the season just right so that you can use X-C skis or snowshoes on the bottom half and then ice axe and crampons for the top half.

The guide companies probably have a good deal of liability insurance, because the risks are certainly there. I watched some interesting injury accidents happen, although I never had any reportable injuries within my groups.

--B.G.--

Sidney Pow
(sidpow) - F
thanks on 04/26/2013 16:41:41 MDT Print View

Thanks everyone for the insight and advice. I feel like I dont know enough about the mountain or mountaineering to tackle this without training. I will wait until I get a stable job an put some money into a guided trip/training.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: thanks on 04/26/2013 16:53:04 MDT Print View

It depends somewhat on your location. In some major cities, there are serious outdoor clubs (Sierra Club, Mountaineers, Mazamas, etc.). Typically there will be some semi-serious trips on Shasta or some comparable mountain, and typically there are qualified leaders. Since most are not commercial trips, they are cheaper than commercially-guided trips, and maybe you can pick up some on-the-job training.

Back in the old days, I used to schedule my Shasta trip for Memorial Day Weekend, and the participants had a month to get prepared before we went. For a long time, I told everybody that they had to be able to run without stopping for thirty minutes at sea level, and if they had no X-C ski gear, they needed to bring snowshoes. When we got to Helen Lake for the mid-mountain camp, another fellow and I would conduct beginner ice axe training. That was just enough that they could get up to the summit and back down without breaking their neck. In all those years, I never had any reportable injuries, although there were lots of sunburns and some road rash from taking a spill over lava rock.

The problem with going over Memorial Day is that the mountain is terribly busy with people. The advantage is that you won't get lost. There were so many foot tracks that you saw where to go, and there were lots of strangers even if you got separated from the group. You didn't feel like you were going to instantly die.

--B.G.--

Craig Savage
(tremelo) - F

Locale: San Jacinto Mountains
Re: Climb Shasta on 06/11/2013 21:32:41 MDT Print View

"[Full Disclosure - I guided for Shasta Mountain Guides for several years]

This year is light on the snow and so a late June trip would be pushing it for avalanche gulch. YOu might be able to do it, but it depends on the weather between now and then.

Try to get up there as early in June as you can. Memorial Day weekend is a zoo. The people are the greatest danger, so avoid that weekend if possible.

As AG becomes bad (too much rockfall, for example) most people consider it an end to the climbing season there. Guide companies, however, move to the West Face and then eventually the north side in August. Technically more difficult and much less popular.

There is a lot more to mountaineering than just the technical stuff. Dealing with altitude, camping on snow, melting water, extreme variations in weather, extreme weather, monitoring speed and health, risk assessment, and so on. I'm not trying to dissuade you from attempting this. I just want to be clear. It's an amazing mountain and a great climb. Some people might argue that you won't learn until you try.

If you don't hire a company to guide you, at least consider taking a 1 or 2 day intro to mountaineering course to go over ice ax and crampon technique and snow camping basics. Guide companies, university outdoor ed programs, probably even REI offer these. And it doesn't have to be on Shasta. Learn the skills first, then come apply them on Shasta.

Only three guide companies have permits for Shasta:
Shasta Mountain Guides (SMG)
Sierra Wilderness Seminars (SWS)
Alpine Skills International (ASI)

I'd estimate that Shasta Mountain Guides handles more than 90% of the climbers, with SWS and ASI doing the remainder, occasional trips.

All other companies sub-contract through one of the above three. REI and California Alpine Guides go through SMG. As do fundraising groups like: Big City Mountaineers, Summit for Someone, Breast Cancer Foundation, American Liver Foundation, Climb to Fight Breast Cancer (Hutchinson Center), and so on.

There is a lot of good info about your climb, on line and in the town of Mount Shasta. Stop by the Fifth Season to rent gear and get up to date info. There is a ranger camp at Helen Lake (around 10,000'), where most private groups camp.

Good luck.


That guy that you scored a frame from & couldn't even be bothered to give a single red penny to? Ya, he had a stroke & is just now welding again... you're the epitome of hippy dirtbag consumed by selfish intent. Accountability is a *itch...

BTW, that same guy made one of the 1st winter ascents on Shasta

Edited by rcaffin on 06/11/2013 22:14:59 MDT.

Thomas Davenport
(tdaveniiI@gmail.com) - F - M
Shasta on 01/23/2014 18:31:06 MST Print View

I attempted Shasta for the first time last May, with Shasta Mountain Guides. It was an awesome, awesome experience. I can't say enough about how much I enjoyed it. It was also very physically demanding -- packing a heavy pack at 11,000 or 12,000 feet during the summer isn't really even comparable to the physical demands of mountaineering, so really make sure your fitness is squared away.

I'd been told by a business associate that I could probably just show up at Shasta, following others heading up Avalanche Gulch, and that I was stupid to spend the money on SMG. However, as I was on the trip, all I could think about was how incredibly wrong he was. Attempting that trip, with no prior mountaineering experience, and no prior instruction or experienced company would be very foolhardy.

Sadly, our group was turned around by winds at the summit plateau, approximately 400' vertically from the summit.

However, I returned three weeks later and summitted it solo. Without the education I received from SMG, I could never have felt comfortable doing so. SMG was just a first class operation. FYI, I don't work for SMG, don't get any kickbacks or anything like that. I was just mightily impressed with how organized things were, how bright and articulate the guides were, and how hard they worked -- it's a different breed than the flyfishing guides I've used over the years. You still carry your own pack and divvy up group gear (tents, stoves, fuel), so it is not a cushy experience by any stretch.

Later last summer I did a long Rainier trip that included glacier travel and rescue instruction with International Mountain Guides. Also a fantastic outfit and an incredible, spectacular trip.

If we get some snow, I'll be doing Shasta in late April with a group of friends. We'll definitely be pushing the envelope that early in the year, but part of that date selection is an effort to minimize crowds.

My fiancee and I have a deal: While she has zero interest in doing this stuff and thinks I'm crazy for wanting to, she fully supports me pursuing this so long as I do so with guides or other experienced climbers. For her peace of mind, it is a small price to pay. As an added bonus the guides on both the Shasta and Rainier trips were fantastic, and I really enjoyed the groups with which I did the trips.

Best of luck!!