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Mt Shasta-September-Crampons?

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Mt Shasta-September-Crampons?

Postby Hal1 » Wed Sep 11, 2013 2:01 am

Hi,

I'm considering a solo attempt of the Avalanche Gulch route up Shasta probably late this week or next week. I'm looking at this route as I do not have a climbing partner so was looking to avoid glaciated routes (I'd be very keen to do any route with a partner if someone is interested though). Is this the route you would recommend, and if so, would I need crampons this late in the season? (I don't own any; I would have to hire them) Has anyone done it recently and can tell me the conditions. Any insight would be greatly appreciated so I can prepare adequately.
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Re: Mt Shasta-September-Crampons?

Postby mrchad9 » Wed Sep 11, 2013 2:17 am

Welcome to the site! Here is information on current conditions from http://www.shastaavalanche.org

Avalanche Gulch– John Muir Route (Regular Route) via Bunny Flat Trailhead: The avalanche gulch route is hosting poor climbing conditions with deteriorating snow and high rock fall potential. If choosing to climb this route, check the weather, and be prepared. Snow is now patchy from Helen Lake to the Summit Plateau. Be advised that the summer trail to Helen Lake via Horse Camp is fully melted out. At upper 50/50 Flat the trail traverses to the right and ascends moraines to arrive at Helen Lakes right flank. Please use this trail for any summit attempts. There are plenty of existing rock tent platforms as well as snow sites still available at Helen Lake for camping. Don't underestimate the power of wind as you leave your camp to climb. Stake your tent down WELL, and keep gear tidy and tucked away. Animals have been known to tear food sacks apart and make a mess. Rangers often collect abandoned gear and camp trash on the mountain, so please keep a tidy camp! Continuous snow no longer exists climbing right of the Heart. Climbing the normal route requires almost all scree scrambling. Be advised that rockfall on and around this route is increasing, especially as the sun warms the route throughout the day. WEAR A HELMET! This simple tool of noggin protection can prevent a lot of bodily injury and potentially save your life. Further, an ICE AXE and CRAMPONS are recommended for travel on snow, and its up to you to know how to use them. The Redbanks are still passable, though there is no snow remaining through the chutes. Either travel through the notch (top of ridge if on far right side of RB) or go completely climbers left around RB (left of The Heart) but it does get steep (45+ degrees) near the topout at the left side of the RB. The bergschrund at the top of the Konwakition Glacier is open and exposed and travel around the climber's right side of the Redbanks (the thumb route) crossing the top of the glacier is NOT recommended. Misery hill is free of snow and climbers should use the scree trail to ascend. One may descend the same way, but glissading is not possible due to lack of snow. Pay attention to the weather as you climb. Many climbers become lost or disoriented on the upper mountain in the event of incoming weather. Wandering off the wrong side of the mountain has happened to many and is guaranteed to compromise one's safety and time line!


I haven't been to Shasta since mid-August and that was on the north side. From what I have seen though I suspect you can pretty easily find your way up AG without crampons but there may be some areas, maybe 1-2 thousand feet worth at most, where they could be used to bypass the talus.

Another option is Wintun Ridge, which would be snow and crampon free but is more solid and less subject to rockfall. Anything else and you are dealing with rocky ridges, ice (HB ridge) or glaciers I would think.

Sargents Ridge is really not bad in these sorts of conditions, if you don't mind talus, but it is solid class 3, or 4 if you choose, in areas between Shastarama Pt and Thumb Rock.
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Re: Mt Shasta-September-Crampons?

Postby RickF » Wed Sep 11, 2013 6:18 pm

I'm not an expert on Shasta but I've been up Avalanche Gulch and Clear Creek a few times. I'd say it's too late in the season for Avalanche Gulch due to the prevalance of rockfall. In typical years Avalanche Gulch is best in late Spring or Early summer. Call the Ranger's Office in Shasta or the Fifth Season Sporting Goods Store to get the up-to-date, latest report on conditions. Clear Creek or Wintun Ridge are better routes for the late season, probably little or no snow, not technical and much less potential for rockfall. We did Clear Creel last September, we carried crampons/axe but did not need to use them.
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Re: Mt Shasta-September-Crampons?

Postby fogey » Thu Sep 12, 2013 6:17 am

Of the roughly 7200 feet of elevation gain from Bunny Flat to the summit of Shasta, Avalanche Gulch this late in this low snow year will probably involve something like 5000 feet of scree and talus climbing--maybe more, especially if you dodge what snow there is. If you are reasonably comfortable traveling on snow, this is one of the less pleasant times to climb the peak in general, and Avalanche Gulch in particular. Obviously I don't know your constraints or motivation, but if you will have other chances to climb Shasta, you might consider another objective altogether, and if you're set on Shasta, I think RickF's advice to look at Wintun Ridge or Clear Creek is well-taken.
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Re: Mt Shasta-September-Crampons?

Postby mrchad9 » Mon Sep 16, 2013 4:12 am

Just got back from a run up Clear Creek. Crampons and axe would be useless for anyone right now on that route. I actually went about 50 feet out of my way just to be able to have done the entire mountain without stepping a single foot on snow or ice (there is some on the summit plateau, nothing you need gear for).

From what I saw of Avalanche Gulch any gear would be just as useless there. No snow to speak of. However, as folks here have noted it is generally subject to more rockfall. Also Clear Creek has a better scree descent in these conditions.

Based on the summit log it appears about 90% of folks are coming up Clear Creek this time of year, with the rest spread over all other routes (not necessarily AG).
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Re: Mt Shasta-September-Crampons?

Postby Montana Matt » Mon Sep 16, 2013 4:55 pm

How nasty is the scree up Clear Creek? Much danger of rockfall or any large ankle or leg breakers?

Thinking I might want to tag the summit before winter sets in...
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Re: Mt Shasta-September-Crampons?

Postby clmbr » Mon Sep 16, 2013 5:12 pm

Montana Matt wrote:How nasty is the scree up Clear Creek? Much danger of rockfall or any large ankle or leg breakers?

Thinking I might want to tag the summit before winter sets in...

Clear Creek is the easiest (and reasonably the safest) route on Shasta I’ve ever done. I did it a month ago and did not take any snow tools; no need. It’s exactly as Chad describes.

As of rock falls, while descending the steeper part with loose rocks below the top, make sure no one from above would send some rocks down at you. Keep some distance. The rest of the terrain is too flat for any rock falls.
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Re: Mt Shasta-September-Crampons?

Postby Montana Matt » Mon Sep 16, 2013 5:21 pm

Thanks clmbr! I've done the Clear Creek route in June so everything was covered in snow. Wasn't sure how nasty the scree would be under that snow and whether or not there would be extremely loose sections with big boulders. I hate climbing on that kind of stuff, but I'm guessing with as much traffic as the route gets, it's not likely to be too bad. And I do recall that most of the route is fairly mellow, so the risk of rock fall would be minimal. Might have to head down that way soon...
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Re: Mt Shasta-September-Crampons?

Postby mrchad9 » Mon Sep 16, 2013 5:37 pm

I don't think the scree on Clear Creek is nasty at all. Some very nice use trails heading up actually.

Some folks have complained about sliding in deep scree when ascending. I suspect most of these folks got on the wrong use trail heading up and took the descent trail. Not the best one!

The ascent route follows the obvious trails past the springs. Once on the ridge there are lots of rock outcrops as you head up that you pass to their left. As the trail branches about just sort of head right near them but still keep to their left, no traversing way over though. The descent trail is a bit even further to the left. As you pass the last one at about 11500 turn right again at a fork if you see one well below the red rock at 12800 fee. It switchbacks on up. Again the descent route is generally to the left of all this. From the red rock go straight up what appears to be cliffs rather than the trail to the right. It's really just steep class 2.

I don't think the route is subject to enough rockfall to be even a consideration for most folks. Certainly a helmet is not needed there.
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Re: Mt Shasta-September-Crampons?

Postby clmbr » Mon Sep 16, 2013 6:06 pm

mrchad9 wrote:I don't think the route is subject to enough rockfall to be even a consideration for most folks. Certainly a helmet is not needed there.

I’m not sure why people only consider a helmet when there is possibility of "flying" rocks. I wear helmet anytime the head injury is possible due to an unfavorable event. There might have quite a few lives been saved if "those" people wearied helmets for other reasons than "flying" rocks. "But that’s just my opinion."

Not to mention that no one should ever advise anyone on "not wearing a helmet". It should be only the opposite. Helmet is not a tool but the most important piece of protection, especially if other means fail.
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Re: Mt Shasta-September-Crampons?

Postby mrchad9 » Mon Sep 16, 2013 6:14 pm

Of course people can make their own decisions and disregard my opinion. But I would just as easily say that a helmet is not needed when driving your car or walking across the street. If you did wear one anyway then it is possible something might happen and the helmet helps you avoid an injury, but most people choose not to do so nevertheless.

Really... I do not think a helmet is needed on Clear Creek, and I would never even consider bringing one. It and Wintun Ridge may be the only routes on Shasta where I would say this.
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Re: Mt Shasta-September-Crampons?

Postby clmbr » Mon Sep 16, 2013 6:18 pm

mrchad9 wrote:Of course people can make their own decisions and disregard my opinion. But I would just as easily say that a helmet is not needed when driving your car or walking across the street. If you did wear one anyway then it is possible something might happen and the helmet helps you avoid an injury, but most people choose not to do so nevertheless.

Really... I do not think a helmet is needed on Clear Creek, and I would never even consider bringing one. It and Wintun Ridge may be the only routes on Shasta where I would say this.

I've got it but still 'no one should ever advise anyone on "not wearing a helmet". It should be only the opposite.'
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