Climbing accidents on Mount Shasta are always unfortunate, but the mountain is dangerous, especially the upper reaches where climbers seek the summit. Climbers can fall and they can be hit by falling rocks.
NOTE: This post originally appeared in June, 2010. If you’re looking for current information on Mount Shasta climbing accidents, Facebook and Google are your best bets.
How to Prevent Accidents When You Climb Mount Shasta
Make Sure You Have the Right Information
Your best bets for current climbing conditions on Mount Shasta is to check with Mount Shasta Ranger Station (204 West Alma in Mount Shasta, CA 96067). Phone them at 530-926-4511 for current conditions. Also check with the Mount Shasta Avalanche Center.
My hiking guidebooks 100 Classic Hikes: Northern California, fourth edition, and Day Hiking: Mount Shasta, Lassen & Trinity Alps Regions contain numerous day hikes on Mount Shasta, and 100 Hikes details Avalanche Gulch to the summit, the most popular route for climbers.
But if you are focused primarily on summitting the mountain, then I recommend you get Andy Selters’ and Michael Zanger’s book, which covers all the routes in detail.
Fifth Season in the town of Mount Shasta is also an excellent resource, and they sell a map that includes all the summit routes.
Make Sure You Are Prepared
See the above resources to make sure you have the right equipment and training. Also make sure you are in good physical condition.
Unless you are an experienced climber, you should strongly consider going with a professional guide service, like Mount Shasta Guides.
Peak Climbing Season on Mount Shasta
This varies from year to year, depending on snow pack. But June is almost always one of the best months, and one of the most popular.
Mount Shasta Climbers Injured in Accidents: Details
NOTE: This is from 2010!
Here’s an article on injuries to Mount Shasta climbers last weekend, courtesy of the Shasta-Trinity National Forest.
These are usually prime mountain climbing days on Mt. Shasta. The winter storms have deposited a thick layer of snow and the mountain dominates the horizon in its glistening white mantle. Climbers come from all over to tackle the 14,000-foot summit, and the climbing rangers of the Mt. Shasta Ranger District of the Shasta-Trinity National Forest stand by for the call. The call came several times the weekend of June 5-6.
On Saturday, June 5, while ascending Mt. Shasta in Avalanche Gulch at 12,000 feet, a climber slipped and slid a thousand feet or more. He was unable to arrest his descent with his ice ax, according to lead climbing ranger Eric White, and he ended up near Helen Lake. The climber’s crampons – metal attachments on footwear to aid in traction – likely caught in the ice and contributed to ankle injuries as he fell. His climbing partner called 911 and Siskiyou County asked the climbing rangers for assistance.
Low cloud cover prevented the California Highway Patrol helicopter from reaching the injured climber and White dispatched Dan Towner, Nick Meyers, Jonathon Dove and Forrest Coots via snowmobiles to provide aid.
“They used snowmobiles to get as high as possible,” White said. “Low visibility and soft snow stopped them, and then they proceeded by ski to Helen Lake where they stabilized the climber’s injuries.” The climbing rangers used a toboggan to shuttle the climber to their snowmobiles and then transported him to Bunny Flat where an ambulance waited.
Sunday, June 6, saw another incident in Avalanche Gulch where the climber suffered a back injury. The rangers were able to assist that climber without using machines to evacuate. Another back injury occurred on Sunday during a Marine training group session. The person was evacuated by California Highway Patrol helicopter. Three other climbers took long slides of up to a thousand feet, resulting in road rash and bruises, although they all walked out on their own.
“This time of year, conditions are usually good,” White said, but recent rains atop a snow pack up 40 percent from normal make the conditions less than ideal right now. “We are expecting a good climbing season once we settle into a more typical weather pattern.”
“Conditions and weather contributed to this weekend’s accidents,” White said, although the experience level of the climbers can certainly be a factor, especially in imperfect conditions.
“We try really hard to get information out to the public,” White said. He and his rangers have given talks on mountaineering and climbing at eight outdoor stores so far this season. They also keep the Mount Shasta Avalanche Center website up to date with the most current conditions.
There are also virtual climbs available at the Mt. Shasta Ranger Station, according to White. Visitors can view visual presentations of the various climbing options, affording them the chance to identify landmarks and get a feel for their route before they tackle the mountain.
“These presentations have helped us lower accident numbers over the years,” White said, simply because people are more prepared than they would have been without the presentations.
The climbing rangers on Mt. Shasta know the mountain intimately. They’ve been climbing it for years and are experts at navigating its courses. Still, the mountain is a challenge even for them, and they want to remind climbers to always check the forecast before they leave and to monitor the weather as they go.
“Feel free to come by the Mt. Shasta Ranger Station for more information,” White said. “A ranger or our very helpful front desk people would be happy to help.”
Information on Climbing Mount Shasta Safely
Note:Also visit the Mount Shasta Avalanche Center for advice on climbing the mountain.