Written by Mike Pond

Mountaineering can be quite intimidating. Those mountains are huge! (And that’s kind of the point, right?) But how do you get into this wild activity? Where do you start?

Skiers bootpacking with West Face in background

Mt. Shasta is a perfect training ground to begin on your mountaineering journey. It has all the aspects of the great mountains, but just a little smaller and more easily digestible. Shasta mountaineering involves glacier travel, thousands of feet of ascent, camping, sometimes challenging weather, altitude, navigation – but almost all of these are at an introductory level.

This also makes Shasta a downright terrific ski mountaineering peak.  If you have done some ski touring in your local range, Shasta is a great place to step it up to larger, glacier covered terrain. Similar to climbing, Shasta’s ski terrain is big and challenging, but at an introductory ski mountaineering level. If you come in with solid ski touring skills, you’ll be set for the next step into the mountains by skiing this Northern California gem. You’ll learn how to time the snow conditions on a multi-thousand-foot ascent and descent. Everyone loves skiing thousands of feet of corn, but timing the descent is crucial, and not easy to execute perfectly. And you’ll also learn the critical safety systems and gear that comes with larger mountain ascents and descents. Rope work, glacier travel, all the parts of mountaineering (just with skis on your feet or strapped to your pack). And then the descent. While it’s hopefully happy smiley corn down to camp, you have to be prepared for what the mountains can throw at you.

 

Consider a guide/skills course

Of course, in the mountains, things can go sideways very quickly. When the slope increases in steepness just a bit, and the snow gets firmer, a novice mountaineer might not recognize the drastic increase in fall potential.

Climber peering into crevasse

An expert will put on crampons, grab their ice axe, and maybe take out the rope and do a running belay. It’s all judgement calls – hundreds of them.  “Easy” mountains are often the most deadly, precisely because they’re so accessible. Many novice climbers enter this type of terrain and might miss a cue to increase the safety systems (if they even know their systems in the first place).

If you have dreams of climbing bigger mountains or skiing epic peaks, but you’re not certain that you have the repertoire of skills that are necessary to do that safely and efficiently, consider hiring an Alpenglow Guide. As an AMGA accredited business, we only hire expert-level guides, and those who are AMGA trained and certified to work in the terrain. And we are all fanatics about climbing, ski touring, and getting in the mountains every chance we can. This gives us a depth and breadth of hard-earned knowledge that we can impart on to you when you climb with us. Want to learn how to use crampons, ice axes, and travel on a glacier safely? Need to know how to use ski crampons, boot crampons (Aluminum or Steel?), whippets, ice screws, and all the other ski mountaineering gear? It’s our goal to teach you the skills you will need to climb big mountains with confidence, and Mount Shasta is the perfect training ground to do so.

 

Opportunities with Alpenglow

 

5-Day Mountaineering School

On the northeast side of Shasta is the Hotlum Glacier, the perfect training ground for those wanting to learn the intricacies of mountaineering and glacier travel & crevasse rescue. This 5-day school will teach you the mountaineering skills and knowledge needed to form a solid foundation for the larger, more complex mountains you want to climb, all while summiting the premier mountaineering peak of California!

climber looking town casaval ridge

 

3-Day West Face Climb

Climb Mount Shasta via the secluded West Face while learning important mountaineering skills.

Spending 3 days on the peak is the ideal amount of time to learn basic mountaineering skills and also take a crack at the summit, while basing out of the quiet, beautiful Hidden Valley.

 

3-Day West Face Ski Trip

Summit Mount Shasta and experience 4,000+ feet of incredible skiing on the massive West Face. This 3-day ski mountaineering trip is the perfect opportunity for advanced backcountry skiers to learn the skills they need and gain confidence to ski bigger, more technical lines, while also getting some fantastic views atop this 14,169 ft volcano.

 

2-Day Avalanche Gulch Climb

This direct 2-day route is a rewarding and fast-paced option to summit Mount Shasta, the jewel of Northern California, at 14,179 ft (4322m). This quick ascent of the peak is suitable for those with very good physical fitness and limited time.