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Shasta???

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Shasta???

Postby JoshWood » Wed Nov 02, 2011 11:48 am

I'm looking for some advice again. Two friends and myself are set to climb Mt. Shasta on Nov. 18 - 23. We have some experience, but none regarding the north west this time of year. We have climbed in tough weather before and are currently planning on the Hotlum Bolum route as was suggested to me in an earlier post. The rangers also agreed that this may be a decent route during one of my earlier conversations.

I have been in contact with the climbing rangers and they have been telling me that it is a tough time of year from the start. Tough, but it can be done. Yesterday, I spoke with Don (a ranger) and he said that I will be climbing in the worst conditions of the year. He was trying pretty hard to discourage me from climbing. He was saying that the jet stream has shifted and that there will be high winds when it is clear and when there is a storm. Basically, it is going to be a nightmare all of the time.

I asked Don if maybe we should skip Shasta and drive north to Mt. Baker, Hood, or Adams. Don said that everything is probably going to be a mess this time of year and that I should head south to the southern Sierras for some scrambling. I called the Mt. Baker rangers and the ranger said that it is currently " winter conditions ", so be ready. She said that she was unable to forcast conditions this early, but she didn't make it sound anything like Don did.

I thought that we could camp near 10,000 ft on the Hotlum / Bolum ridge and hope for an opening in the weather. We will have three days to wait for decent weather. Do you guys think this is reasonable?
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Re: Shasta???

Postby Vitaliy M. » Wed Nov 02, 2011 3:20 pm

Who the hell cares what 'we' think. Don told you what it is most likely going to be, and he is 100% accurate. Yes, there may be some window, but it is highly unlikely. You are free to ignore what he says and go there no matter what anyone thinks!
If I was you I would have 4 options in 4 different locations (for example Adams, Shasta, Matterhorn peak and Mt Whitney...or whatever!) around the West (if you want to hike that badly in most likely terrible conditions). Than about 3 days before your scheduled climb you check http://www.wrh.noaa.gov/mfr/ and see where the conditions are best. Than you call the rangers of that area and ask about avy conditions and more info...
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Re: Shasta???

Postby mrchad9 » Wed Nov 02, 2011 3:26 pm

Yeah- its reasonable. Just check the weather forecast and it could happen. I've been on the mountain when I was told it would be shitty and the weather was great. And, for example, today it might work out:

Today: Sunny, with a high near 38. West southwest wind between 10 and 17 mph, with gusts as high as 26 mph.


Sunday more challenging:

Sunday: Snow showers likely. Cloudy, with a high near 11.
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Re: Shasta???

Postby ExcitableBoy » Wed Nov 02, 2011 3:43 pm

JoshWood wrote:I'm looking for some advice again.
I asked Don if maybe we should skip Shasta and drive north to Mt. Baker, Hood, or Adams. Don said that everything is probably going to be a mess this time of year and that I should head south to the southern Sierras for some scrambling. I called the Mt. Baker rangers and the ranger said that it is currently " winter conditions ", so be ready. She said that she was unable to forcast conditions this early, but she didn't make it sound anything like Don did.


This is the 'shoulder season' in the Cascades. Basically winter conditions before the winter solstice. The weather is generally miserable with the occasional sun break. Unless you have the flexibility to make plans based on short term weather forecasts I wouldn't come North. Maybe do something like this: pack up your rig for both a rock climbing and winter alpine climbing trip. Head towards Smith Rock, Oregon. If the weather in the alpine is miserable, hang out at Smith Rock and enjoy one of the most unique crags in the US. If you get a good forecast, sprint to Mt Hood about two hours away and climb alpine routes like Reid Glacier Headwall, Sandy Glacier Headwall, or the North Face IF THE AVALANCHE FORECAST IS LOW.
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Re: Shasta???

Postby JoshWood » Thu Nov 03, 2011 1:49 am

Thanks for the suggestions. I think that we may get info for several peaks like Vitaliy and EB suggested. We'll just head to where the conditions are best.

I read that the Trinity Alps are close by. If everything else sucks, is there any chance that these may be an option?
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Re: Shasta???

Postby Shane Rathbun » Thu Nov 03, 2011 6:03 am

Trinity Alps offer some nice backpacking and peak scrambling but will most definitely be experiencing the same precip that Shasta is getting. Perhaps less wind/cold though because you are protected by valleys and not as high in elevation. The storms that hit Eureka, CA often funnel up the I5 corridor and slam into Mt Shasta's south side. At the same time, Shasta takes the brunt of other storm systems coming in from the north.

Watch NOAA. The further south you go, the better chance you have of more "moderate" weather but as EB said November IS a transition month. Weather windows are possible but you must dictate your trip around the weather.

Often you can check the weather for Eureka, CA and that will give you a heads up on the same precip that Shasta will receive 2-3 days out!
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Re: Shasta???

Postby JoshWood » Thu Nov 03, 2011 10:38 am

Thanks. I'll watch NOAA and keep and eye on Eureka's forcast. The weather on the west coast is very new to me. This is a big help.
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Re: Shasta???

Postby clmbr » Tue Nov 08, 2011 7:26 pm

JoshWood wrote:Thanks. I'll watch NOAA and keep and eye on Eureka's forcast. The weather on the west coast is very new to me. This is a big help.

Well, I wanted to climb Shasta again this year (it would be 11th time) but during the last window opportunity with the reasonable weather (a week ago) my car was in the shop and had no ride. I'm still opting to do it in this calendar year but also have as a backup plan Mt Whitney. I don't think I would go any farther north. Based on my experience (and the statistical amount of rainfall), Mt Baker has the least reliable weather. I also agree that November is usually the worst time to climb the Cascades.

Often the weather itself is not that a big obstacle for me. In fact climbing in bad weather provides more challenge and excitement, as well as experience. Just don't set reaching the summit as a must. However, the transitional weather is what I don't like. The air conditions are very unpleasant, chilly and breezy. But more importantly the new snow may create a difficult and dangerous climbing environment. Also the storms (and whiteouts) may last longer than expected (often a big surprise for people who get in trouble). Remember, each of the Cascades' volcanoes has its own weather zone and weather trap. But if you camp below 10,000 feet you should be able to get out of THIS mountain in (almost) any conditions.

Hotlum/Bolum ridge is not a difficult route, especially for experienced mountaineers. However, if you never done it, it may become very confusing in poor conditions, especially the upper part. So in this case definitely "it is not the route; it's the conditions." But if you summit in unfavorable conditions, it may be a nice achievement. You still have 10 days to watch the weather, but you may be better off climbing Mt Whitney twice than trying Mt Shasta once.

Mt Whitney weather: http://forecast.weather.gov/MapClick.php?lat=36.61&lon=-118.28&site=hnx&smap=1&marine=0&unit=0&lg=en
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Re: Shasta???

Postby JoshWood » Wed Nov 09, 2011 3:36 am

All of the rangers in California and in the northern cascades have not been very positive regarding the weather / conditions. Not only that, but a friend told a story of some strong winds on Rainier which scared the crap out of one of my climbing partners. It would suck to sit in a tent with a helmet on and raging winds roaring outside just waiting for the tent to be blown away. If we camp around or below 10,000ft and it gets windy, how terrible is it likely to be?

At this point, I may be changing my flight to Denver. It's really crappy because I have already been to Colorado (and enjoyed it), but I have trained and prepared for going up Shasta. Denver is the only place that still has some cheap flights available between Nov 18 - 23. I can't easily change my dates due to work.
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Re: Shasta???

Postby dskoon » Wed Nov 09, 2011 5:10 am

JoshWood wrote:All of the rangers in California and in the northern cascades have not been very positive regarding the weather / conditions. Not only that, but a friend told a story of some strong winds on Rainier which scared the crap out of one of my climbing partners. It would suck to sit in a tent with a helmet on and raging winds roaring outside just waiting for the tent to be blown away. If we camp around or below 10,000ft and it gets windy, how terrible is it likely to be?

At this point, I may be changing my flight to Denver. It's really crappy because I have already been to Colorado (and enjoyed it), but I have trained and prepared for going up Shasta. Denver is the only place that still has some cheap flights available between Nov 18 - 23. I can't easily change my dates due to work.


Dude, I think you'll be extremely lucky if you keep those dates, fly out here to climb a Cascades volcanoe, like Shasta, with the weather that looks like it's coming.
In other words, you could just happen to hit a nice 3-5 day window of stable, and/or clear weather window, but as the rangers and others have mentioned, odds are against you. You want Shasta or another of these northern volcanoes? Plan for next May, June or even July. The odds for a "successful" climb(however you might measure that), at this time of year, favors a local who happens to live in the vicinity of these mountains, knows well the intended route, can watch the weather closely, and then goes for it if it looks good and stable, even a couple days prior to the climb. Go south to Whitney, Colorado if you think they'll have better weather or a more "doable" mountain, if you think it will be clear in those places. Could be storming, too. Long ways to fly this time of year for such a "hopeful" climb. How 'bout Arizona or New Mexico? Fly to Salt Lake and head south for some bike riding in Moab, or rock climbing, if you do that?
I think there are other, safer, more doable things for this time of the year.
Best o' luck.
Last edited by dskoon on Wed Nov 09, 2011 6:53 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Shasta???

Postby Vitaliy M. » Wed Nov 09, 2011 6:25 am

JoshWood wrote:All of the rangers in California and in the northern cascades have not been very positive regarding the weather / conditions. Not only that, but a friend told a story of some strong winds on Rainier which scared the crap out of one of my climbing partners. It would suck to sit in a tent with a helmet on and raging winds roaring outside just waiting for the tent to be blown away. If we camp around or below 10,000ft and it gets windy, how terrible is it likely to be?


It will be terrible if it is windy. It will be about 100mph and will most likely throw the tent off the cliff from Avalanche Gulch. It may even blow it over Green Butte ridge, if it is really bad. You have to wear your helmet inside for sure, great idea. One of those Mountain Hardwear Trango tents might survive, but only if one of you knows how to steak it correctly.

Are you really asking how terrible it will be if it gets windy? It is pretty much always windy there, but sometimes it is 15 mph or 35 mph or 75mph or 115 mps, big difference. YOU NEED TO FIND OUT CURRENT WEATHER/AVY FORECAST BEFORE YOU GET ON THE HILL, YOU WILL NOT KNOW IT NOW. BUT it is likely to be shitty and miserable during those proposed dates, so no reason for rangers to cheer you on. You could hit a nice weather window, but I would say maybe your chance is 5-10% at best. It could be calm or windy as if you are in a hurricane. I wouldn't care much about windy at 10,000K though, just walk down. To be honest if you ask questions like these I would suggest to go to Shasta during May/June when the situation on the mountain is more controlled.
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Re: Shasta???

Postby JoshWood » Wed Nov 09, 2011 12:05 pm

Yeah, I was asking how terrible it would be at the camp near 10,000ft. I have a trango tent and know how to stake it, but none of that really matters at this point. I'll make my way to California in the spring, after speaking with some rangers.

Thank you very much for the info. I really appreciate all of you guys chimming (spelling?) in.
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Re: Shasta???

Postby Vitaliy M. » Wed Nov 09, 2011 3:47 pm

In a sarcastic way I was trying to say no one knows how it will be. Weather changes, direction of wind can change several times a day (especially during this period of unstable weather). There could be a north wind of 200mph and you could have a great day camping at 10K on avalanche gulch- a protected from N winds bowl.

For example, on one of my trips last year we had a small weather window with very high north winds predicted. Day before that the peak was in a whiteout, and day after pretty much the same. A 12 hour (or something short like that) window was supposed to open according to forecast (done by that ranger Dan, who is really good at reading weather graphs from NOAA). So we were able to day-hike Green Butte ridge (which was protected from the north winds that were hitting it hard on the other side of the mountain) and got to the summit plateau. On the summit plateau winds were almost knocking us off (since it is not protected from those winds), we were barely able to move, and visibility coming and going. Winds were most likely about 90mph up there with wind chill of about -40. So we go close to the summit pinnacle, turned around and went down. Still a successful trip for us, we wanted to climb the ridge (both of us summited Shasta numerous times before that), and get a good workout. So having fun is still possible, but things change constantly, and weather is unstable. Will be a lot more stable and enjoyable in spring, although IT COULD be nice.
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Re: Shasta???

Postby clmbr » Wed Nov 09, 2011 4:10 pm

A few years ago a group of people from all over the States met in Lone Pine to climb Mt Whitney in winter. I monitored that trip because of their confident goal of summiting and their persistent arrogance about the approuch. They hiked up 4 miles to Whitney Portal (the road was not accessible by cars) and set up the camp. The next day they were already on the way down. The main reason they gave up was the forecasted and expected weather which was easy to handle posting to forums from the chairs but had much greater mental and physical impact once in the field.

I would not mind to experience Shasta with you in such conditions but 1) you have already made your decision (which is smart) and 2) I'm going to Europe for a few weeks (so I would not have temptations like this :) ).

Climbing in spring will not guarantee the summit but at least would let you experience spectacular scenery; however, you would not be alone on the mountain.

But more importantly, never count on luck in the mountains but rather climb safe.
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