Mount Shasta mountaineering tips

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
Week of February 21-28, 1996
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Mount Shasta mountaineering tips

Mount Shasta mountaineering tips
Q: I would like to plan a trip to Mount Shasta in California. When is the best time to go for hiking and backpacking? We have never hiked with crampons and ice axes before and would like to start. Do you recommend that we travel with a guide? Are there special classes we can take? What is the best time of year to schedule this?
Karen Beato
Concord, CA
[email protected]
Mount Shasta's 14,162-foot summit
A: For your first time in crampons, you're best off attempting 14,162-foot Mount Shasta in July and August, when much of the snow below 11,000 feet has melted. Still, because of the glaciers you'll encounter en route to the summit year-round, you should be familiar with technical mountaineering equipment and be willing to negotiate your way between the glaciers on an unmarked trail, or else sign on with a guide service.

To school yourself in the ways of ice axes and ropes, check with your local REI store. They run a whole range of free skill clinics on a regular basis that can help you get a handle on the basics of alpine travel. The Fifth Season in Mount Shasta (916-926-3606) rents and sells ice axes, crampons, and mountaineering boots, and operates a 24-hour weather information line (916-926-5555).

Before you go, pick up your free backcountry permit at the ranger station in Mount Shasta (204 West Alma St., 916-926-4511). While camping is permitted anywhere on the mountain, you'd be wise to check out Horse Camp and Helen Lake, two camping areas that are particularly tent-friendly. Something else to bear in mind: Avoid summer holiday weekends, when the mountain is invaded by hordes of like-minded climbers.

There is one nontechnical route that takes you between the glaciers to the top along an unofficial, but well-worn path. If you opt for this route through Avalanche Gulf, be sure to pick up detailed topo maps at the Forest Service office before setting out. If you decide to sign on with professionals, call Shasta Mountain Guides at 916-926-3117 for more information.

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