After all the stoke from my first 14,000+ ft. summit last year, I was really excited when Cailen, Louie and I decided to head south to ski Mount Shasta for Memorial Day weekend. To avoid crowds, we opted for the north side of the mountain. Access had just opened following extensive snow melt.
After a forever-long 10 hour drive with a small nap pit stop by the turn-off to Crater Lake, we found ourselves at the Northgate trailhead. We packed up and hiked in to about 9.5k, setting up camp on a nice rocky ledge. The ski carry dirt walking combo was short — and by short I mean, it lasted all about 7 minutes and it felt incredible. After setting up camp it was time to snooze hard and catch up on sleep, even if it did mean missing the sunset.
The next morning the alarm woke us at 4 am and we were skinning by 4:30. It was cold and breezy; the snow was frozen and slippery; and the sun was just starting to rise.
We started scoping our ascent route via the Bolam Glacier, spotting headlamps high up on the steep ridge. The entire route is exposed to rockfall, wearing a helmet is a must. During the transition from skins to crampons, a few large rocks came flying down right at us, reaffirming the helmet wearing decision. The boot pack on the steep but grippable snow on Bolam Glacier was quite intimidating and seemingly endless.
Nearing the top, our ascent route became a bit less apparent; ahead was a steep, rocky gully. With a closer look at our options, it was decided to traverse to the looker’s right ridge, over a steep, loose section. Once on the ridge, we found snow to keep ascending up towards the summit, with more stable footing. Looking back at our ascent, we decided it would have made more sense to gain the ridge much lower to avoid the steep and rocky traverse.
Forgetting that 14k can really take it out of you, I was definitely on the struggle bus and took a little nap about 100 feet away from the top, as the crowds from Bunny Flats walked past me.
By 1:30 pm we finally made it to the summit. After a snack and photo party, it was time to scope our descent line. We really wanted to ski right off the top, but weren’t quite sure what looked best. Louie spotted two snowboarders booting up the Hotlum Wintun Ridge, one of the most classic Shasta ski descents. The start of the route looked steep and intimidating with firm and icy snow. We waited patiently for them to make the summit to get beta on descending their ascent route.
As the snowboarders reached the top, they assured us that the run would be fabulous and they expected for it to get soft and corny about 500 feet in.
They were wrong. Corn harvest started maybe 2000 feet below the top. The skiing sure was sporty but still fun. Recouping at the lower part, we decided that we would most definitely have to come back one day to ski the route in better conditions.
We skied down the west side of the mountain, but camped on the north, so traversing back to our campsite proved to be a bit of an adventure. A helpful note for next time: camping at Brewer Creek instead of Northgate offers more direct access to the route.
Feeling the big day, we linked as much skiing as possible while navigating glaciated terrain down low, until transitioning to skins. A short hike and our tent was back in view. Since the conditions didn’t end up being as warm and soft as expected, our hopes of skiing NW facing Shastina the next day weren’t too optimistic. After a quick chat we opted to hike out that day.
Skiing most of the way down from camp back to the car felt incredible, even if it was in some extra creamy slush. Back at the trailhead we feasted on left-over food and quickly jumped into our tent before being eaten by a swarm of mosquitoes. As I placed my head on the pillow, I realized it was only 7:30 pm. I slept hard for the next 12 hours.
The drive back was long, packed with traffic and slow Oregon speed limits but I was on a high from our unforgettable adventure. Can’t wait to go back and get on top of that gorgeous peak in the future!
WildSnow Girl, Julia Dubinina, is a weekend warrior chasing snow in winter and sun in summer. A lover of long tours and steep skin tracks, she explores the Pacific Northwest and beyond. When she is not out adventuring, she is working away at her corporate desk job for a software company to make her next adventure happen.