Shasta Spa Day
On our drive back from the Sierra, Logan and I made a few stops. We stopped in Tahoe briefly to see my cousin’s new baby. Our next stop was Mt. Shasta, the iconic southern Cascade volcano.
Mt. Shasta is a popular ski mountain because of its great year-round access and moderate ski lines. Logan and I planned to ski the west face, which is probably the second most popular line after Avalanche Gulch. We also hoped to see the Lemurians, supposed higher beings that live in caves on the upper mountain.
We started from Bunny Flats, which is close to 7000 ft, around sunrise and skinned through somewhat mushy snow. With warm temperatures, we were just hoping for any kind of refreeze.
Around 9200 ft, the snow suddenly refroze and our hopes for good skiing soared. It was a pleasant climb mostly in the shade all the way up Avy Gulch. After nearly two weeks of skiing in the Eastern Sierra, we were well acclimatized and feeling great!
The Red Banks are some beautiful volcanic walls above Avy Gulch. We climbed a snow finger through the red walls onto the upper mountain.
Most of the ski lines begin around 13,000 feet. Since Logan had climbed to the summit many years ago, he decided to go over to the west face to wait while I bagged the summit. I was feeling great at the altitude and cruised over to the true summit, which was somehow empty except for one older gentleman who lived in the town of Mt. Shasta. He had climbed the mountain many dozens of times!
The views from Shasta were outstanding. I expected it would be just a giant volcano with nothing interesting around, but that is certainly not the case. The vast Siskiyou, Marble, and Trinity Alp ranges rise up to 9000 feet. I-5 was 10,000 feet below. The mountains of Northern California are actually quite interesting. The views are mostly definitely better than one particular 14,000 foot volcano in Washington.
The geology of Mt. Shasta is also unique. Shastina and the other sub summits are not relics from when the vent was in a different place; rather they are distinct vents. In fact, Shasta is the only Cascade Volcano with multiple distinct vents. The relatively recent flows, especially on the east, north, and west sides, have created extremely planar surfaces that glaciers have not eroded into steep cirques. Thus, there is great moderate skiing on every aspect with no cliffs like the Willis Wall to mess up ski lines. I was beginning to buy the Shasta hype – it really is a great ski mountain.
Although the upper mountain is rather wind stripped and rocky, I was able to ski mostly continuous snow from just below the summit back to the crater rim where Logan was waiting at the top of the west face. We had been worried about heat, but the snow was still icy at noon at 13,000 feet! So we chilled out and enjoyed the views. I rarely wait for “corn o’ clock”, but this felt like a worthy occasion.
Around 1 PM, we decided it was time to go! The snow softened immediately into good corn and we ripped down the open west face.
This was a classic volcano run – wide, moderate, and pure fun. Spring skiing at its chillest, and finest.
We got 3,000 feet of great corn before we had to do the final traverse back around towards Bunny Flats. The snow here was complete wet-sliding mashed potatoes, but it was easy enough to get back without skinning.
Shasta was the perfect way to close out our ski trip. The skiing was great, views excellent, and vibes superb. We joked it was basically a “spa day” with all the lounging around waiting for corn.
As we continued north, we made a detour up to Crater Lake National Park. Afternoon thunderstorms hovered in the sky but the lake was glassy calm, like a mirror. It was the first time visiting the lake for both of us.
To me, it felt like the Grand Canyon – you might have seen pictures of it hundreds of times, but it still hits differently in person. It feels like you are staring at a green screen, but it is actually real.
We felt content with a full day admiring and experiencing the beauty of Cascadian Volcanology as we drove north into Bend through driving rain to stay with my friend Max for the night. All in all, not a bad day. And a perfect way to end a great trip!