Skiing The Trinity Chutes In Avalanche Gulch On Mount Shasta In California’s Cascade Range
Location: Trinity Chutes, Avalanche Gulch, Mount Shasta, California
Starting Point: Bunny Flats – 6950′
Distance: 10.5 miles
Time: 8-12 hours
Top Elevation: Mount Shasta – 14,162′
USGS Maps: Mount Shasta, McCloud
Guidebook: The Mt. Shasta Book by Andy Selters & Michael Zanger
Heading north from the Eastern Sierra, we decided to stop in and ski Mount Shasta. Sitting in Northern California, this 14,162′ stratovolcano is part of the Cascade Range. Avalanche Gulch on the mountain’s south face was named one of the 50 Classic Ski Descents of North America. People flock to this straightforward ski mountaineering route to take advantage of ski descents of over 7000′. It’s unreal.
Towering over its surrounding landscape, Mount Shasta sits just east of I-5. We pulled into town and grabbed a bite to eat at the Black Bear Diner. Then we cruised up the Everitt Memorial Highway and drove to the end of the road aka Bunny Flat at 6950′. Bunny Flat was definitely hopping too. There were people and cars everywhere. We were lucky to even get a parking spot.
Once we parked, we scoped out the area, used the bathroom facilities, and signed up for our $25 climbing fee for going above 10,000′, filled out our wilderness permit, and grabbed a poop bag. Then we packed light with the intend of doing a single day ski mission on a California 14er.
The Bunny Flat parking area was buzzing all night long. People were coming and going, partying, and gearing up. We slipped on ski boots around 5 am and started skinning straight from the car. There were headlamps illuminating the snow all over the mountain. From other people going for a single day mission to people tagging the peak in multiple days, it was amazing to see so many people on the mountain.
We set a slow and steady, all-day pace. Trying not to walk faster than we could breathe, we made decent time up the drainage and over the rolling moraines. We stopped a few times for snacks and water and to slip on the ski crampons as the sun rose over the mountain.
Finally we reached Helen Lake at 10,433′. The wind was whipping and most people were booting straight up the face of Shasta. We continued to skin as far as possible – finally transitioning to boot crampons when the slope got too steep. Our route continued up Left of Heart, below the Red Banks to the base of Misery Hill at 13,384′.
We rallied up Misery Hill despite the strong winds and rime conditions. As we crossed the summit plateau the wind almost knocked us off our feet more than once. Approaching the final summit blast we found a calm spot and ditched our skis around 13,900′. With knock-you-off-your-feet winds and crazy wind we didn’t think we’d be able to ski from the summit proper. Then we went fast and light through the wild rime to the summit of Mount Shasta at 14,162′.
At the top, the world drops out below and the views were outstanding. But with the whipping wind, we didn’t stay long. We down climbed through the rime and carefully transitioned to ski mode. We crossed the summit plateau, skied the rime on Misery Hill despite the gusts and reached the top of Left Of Heart.
Lots of people were still climbing this route so we decided to ski the Trinity Chutes – a series of steep, rime covered chutes near the top of Casaval Ridge that drop roughly 3000′ back down to Lake Helen and Avalanche Gulch. The wind had deposited a nice layer of fresh snow. After a few tight turns the terrain opened up into smooth powder in a cathedral of rime. It was amazing.
After the rime ended, we navigated through a field of sastrugi wind formations down toward Helen Lake. We kept passing people heading uphill. As we approached Helen Lake, countless people were setting up tents for an alpine start in the morning. We continued to ski perfect corn along the moraines while avoiding the swarms of people climbing Shasta on a bluebird Saturday. We followed the snow all the way out the drainage all the way back to the car.
Even though it’s a madhouse of mountain enthusiasts, Mount Shasta is a must ski. It’s a straightforward climb and ski without too many tricky elements if you stick to the Avalanche Gulch route. Timing is key. Super glad we skied this one in one day.
We climbed and skied Mount Shasta in 9.5 hours. We covered 7450′ in 10.5 miles.
See our route for skiing the Trinity Chutes on Mount Shasta:
Here are additional photos from skiing the Trinity Chutes on Mount Shasta:
This trip report from skiing the Trinity Chutes In Avalanche Gulch on Mount Shasta is from April 29, 2017.