Wes Irish's Mt. Shasta Page
Mt. Shasta as seen from the northwest from a small plane on June 20, 2002 (left)
- this gives you a good idea of typical snow cover near the end of June.
You can see Lake Helen and Red Banks towards the right of the picture (click on the picture for a magnified view).
Mt. Shasta from a distance (middle).
Mt. Shasta as seen from the parking lot at Bunny Flat in June 1993 (right).
This is where you begin the climb. Bunny Flat, Climber's Gully,
Lake Helen, Avalanche gulch, Red Banks, and Thumb Rock are all
on the main route and are visible in this picture.
Overview of Location and Geology
is located on the east side of I-5 in the northern part of California
about 40 miles south of the Oregon border.
(See maps for more detail.)
is part of the
volcanically active Cascade Range
and is one of the
many volcanos in California -
Lassen Peak (Mt. Lassen) and
Long Valley Caldera (Mammoth Mt.) being the other
most notable peaks.
Shasta stands 14,162 feet high and is the home to 5 glaciers.
For more information on volcanos in general try
The USGS Mount Shasta Links Page
The Electronic Volcano.
A few years back (around 1992) I decided that I wanted to do something challenging
and exciting in the great outdoors. After reading various articles, books, and
maps I decided that climbing Mt. Shasta was just the ticket. The area is beautiful,
the mountain is impressive, and it's far from the main population areas of the state.
My first chance to attempt the mountain was in 1993 when a group of folks from Cisco
asked if I'd like to join them on a climb that summer. I have been back to the
mountain every year since and I have also taken the time to explore other wonders
in the greater Shasta area, such as: Lake Shasta, Shasta Dam, Shasta Caverns,
The Blue Goose steam train in Yreka, etc. I would recommend the entire area to
anyone who loves the great outdoors.
This page is an attempt to provide useful and interesting information to anyone
interested in hiking or climbing Mt Shasta. I am neither a seasoned outdoors person
nor am I affiliated with any outfitter, supplier, or the like.
My hope is that
others may find this information useful and that they may benefit from my limited
experience. Good luck, be safe, and have fun...
Route and Approach
There are a number of different routes up Mt Shasta but there is basically one
main route called the Avalanche Gulch Route.
The other routes are for more experienced climbers and
account for only a small percentage of those going to the mountain.
My experience and information is limited to the Avalanche Gulch Route, which
is on the south side and starts from Bunny Flat.
The key waypoints along the Avalanche Gulch Route are:
- Bunny Flat (6,800')
- Horse Camp, aka Sierra Club Hut (7,800')
- Climber's Gully / Middle Moraines
- Lake Helen (10,500')
- Red Banks / Thumb Rock (12,800')
- Misery Hill
- Summit Plateau
- Summit! (14,162')
There seem to be two different basic approaches via this route:
either do the entire trip in one day or
do it in two or three days staying overnight at
Horse Camp, Lake Helen, or both.
One day trip
The one-day approach makes for a long day
and packs a lot of elevation change with little time to acclimate.
But, on the positive side, there is less gear to rent and haul up
the mountain than if you were to stay overnight.
You will also avoid the less than optimal campsite conditions at Lake Helen.
Two or three day approach
The two or three approach gives you more time overall to make it up
and back down the mountain.
But, you must carry more gear with you than the one-day approach.
In particular, you need to add a tent, sleeping bag, bedding pad, extra food, extra
water, extra clothes, etc. This all adds up to quite a few pounds. There
is also the issue of setting up camp at Horse Camp or Lake Helen and
trying to actually get some
sleep so that you are ready for the big climb the next morning.
Your success probably depends
on your experience setting up a tent in the snow and on how soundly you sleep.
No matter which approach you choose you will most likely stay overnight somewhere
in the Mount Shasta area so that you can be on the trailhead early in the morning.
Some people choose to stay overnight at Bunny Flat, either in a motorhome/camper or
in a tent pitched in one of the areas nearby. Others may choose to stay in
in Mount Shasta City. I have stayed at the Mountain Air Lodge and found
it resonable with a polite staff. I'm sure other places in the local area are
also reasonable. If you plan to
stay in a room you should make reservations ahead of time.
If you stay in town you should allow about 45 minutes to drive to Bunny Flat and find a
NB: Once you leave downtown and head up the hill
there are no more services - make sure you have everything,
including equipment, food, water, and gas!
You must fill out a backcountry permit before climbing the mountain.
You can self-register at the trailhead (if there are forms left,
and don't forget a pen) or, better yet,
you can register at the ranger station in in Mount Shasta City
(204 West Alma Street,
530-926-4511) before heading "up the hill". Camping is allowed anywhere on
the mountain but the two most common areas to camp are Horse Camp
and Lake Helen. Some people camp in the Bunny Flat area before heading
out on the climb.
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