Report dated May 6, 2022 and written by the Blackbird mountain guide team
Type 1 fun the season is in full swing here in the corn ski capital of the world – Mount Shasta! After receiving a shower of life-saving storms in mid-April, conditions are starting to look a little more like spring. Corn snow on the west faces between 9,000′ and 13,000′ is breathtaking with the right timing! However, warming spring temperatures are also rapidly melting the lower parts of the mountain in places. The window for type 1 skiing (the type without carrying your skis on your back for miles) closes quickly.
Over the past few days, I had the privilege of guiding an off-piste skier on the majestic West face of Mount Shasta. Our approach to Hidden Valley on the first day was quite easy. We skinned Giddy Giddy Gulch and skied back to our camp. After setting up camp and melting the water, we opted for a few “hippy” cruiser turns under the foot of the Casaval ridge.
The skinning was easy and the corn skiing was unbelievably good! Nothing beats corn skiing at 7 p.m. with a golden sunset under two of the West Coast’s most iconic peaks: Mount Shasta and Shastina!
The second day we opted for a visit and climb of Shastina, Mount Shasta’s iconic sub-peak. After a relaxed start, we found our way up easy volcanic ramps to the base of the Lightning Bolt Couloir. Although the Lightning Bolt isn’t really a real corridor, this proud line descends from the top of Shastina directly into Hidden Valley. It is clearly visible from I-5 far below.
On top of that, the Lightning Bolt Couloir on Shastina offers a near-perfect 30-degree incline as you connect turns on the side of the massive volcanic cone. The rise of our line was in very good condition. We made our way to the top of Shastina, then jumped off to camp far below, cornering in perfect corn snow.
After a night on Shasta, conditions in the lower West Face/Hidden Valley area quickly began to change. On our way out we found the lower approaches above Horse Camp had burned. What had been easy to flay a day earlier was now a convoluted nightmare of rocks and hollow patches of snow.
The window for skiing Shasta’s west and south slopes is starting to close – and fast! Two-plankers, knuckle-draggers, telemarkers and other snow sliders are recommended to make the corn pilgrimage as soon as possible. These approaches aren’t going to get any easier – sue people!
Despite the bad news for Mount Shasta skiers and splitboarders, climbing conditions become quite good! The April snow turned into a firm, predictable early morning climb with the lower approaches melting.
The bottom line for climbing is that there are few or no post holes! Leave your snowshoes at home! Casaval Ridge seemed to be in great shape – on my list of things to do between trips this week. Got a glimpse of the Whitney and Bolam glaciers from the top of Shastina – the snow cover looks very thin and lots of blue ice. The north side would probably be a good time if you have two tools, a rope, a partner and some ice screws to protect you, plus an early start!
I will have further status updates early next week from the corn ski vortex. Until then, well done!
Text and photos by AMGA-trained Blackbird guide Jason Smith. Jason has been running Shasta trips this season, he’s your go-to guy for Shasta condition reports!
Learn more on the Blackbird Mountain Guides website.