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[TR] Mt. Shasta - Casaval Ridge 01/08/2021


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Trip: Mt. Shasta - Casaval Ridge

Trip Date: 01/08/2021

Trip Report:
Casaval Ridge January 8, 2021 - January 9, 2021: 
    Headed out with my buddy Seth from Bunny Flat parking lot at 1:15pm on Friday.  Mt. Shasta had received maybe a little over a foot of snow in the last week and it had snowed a little less than an inch Friday morning.  Depth of snow at the Old Ski Bowl was reportedly 45.5 inches when we started.  Moderate storms within the last (7) days caused some concerns.  Recent snow fall in addition to high winds impressed into our minds that considerable avalanche danger above tree line was possible.  We proceeded with vigilance and kept our ears open for shooting cracks and other disturbing sounds from the snow as we climbed.  We also had concerns that due to the wind, Casaval Ridge on the North-West side of the ridge may not be sufficiently covered for a successful ascent.  Travel with snow shoes, an avalanche beacon, probe, and shovel were a given.  
    The Avalanche Center had identified North, East, and South side aspects of the mountain as potential moderate danger zones for wind slab.  We felt that given the overall aspect of Casaval Ridge, we were in an okay position to suss out the terrain for a possible ascent.  We had planned to sleep at the top of Giddy Giddy Gulch.  
    Weather forecasts made us optimistic.  Our No-Go was 30+ MPH winds or snow fall. At our campsite Friday night, winds were forecast for 30MPH, dropping down to 25MPH after midnight.  We expected to start our ascent early Saturday morning from the bench in 30MPH winds, dropping to 20MPH as we climbed and staying at 20MPH until we returned to base camp.  
    We arrived at upper Giddy Giddy Gulch at 4:15pm (9,800ft).  We made camp just above the first window down into Avalanche Gulch.  Wind speeds were high and gusts felt above 30 MPH.  We spent 1.5 hours building a snow wall and setting camp.  Camp was comfortable and warm in a four season tent.  
    We woke up at 4:00am Saturday morning with the intention of starting our climbing at 4:45am.  We began at 5:15am.  We ascended the slope above Giddy Giddy Gulch and started the first 50 degree crux of Casaval Ridge around 6:00am.  During this portion of the climb, we were between 10,300ft - 10,400ft.  We traversed climbers left of the gendarmes maybe a hundred meters uphill.  There was little snow.  Many rocks were exposed below the gendarmes.  The snow was solid for maybe two inches but the rest of the ice axe shaft would fall into powder.  Snow conditions were not sufficient to make this climb safely.  We aborted the attempt and observed lenticular cloud cover moving over the summit shortly after sunrise. 
Gear Notes:
The four season tent ended up being essential given the exposure along the ridge and the high winds we encountered.

Approach Notes:
After feeling high winds at one of the 50 degree slopes I believe that this route is best completed with wind speeds under 20 MPH. For the next attempt my personal no-go criteria will be changed from 30MPH+ winds to 20MPH+ winds.
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  • 3 months later...

Agreed, the thin snow around the Gendarmes makes for a substantially more difficult climb of Casaval. Obviously the trick is getting the right weather window and snow coverage.

I have climbed it a couple of times and it is safer with deeper but more firm snow along the ridge. One time was in March (overcast, minimal winds) and one time was in May (clear skies, no winds).

This year just never got the right amount of snow in my opinion. I am planning to climb it again maybe next winter. 

Thanks for your report. 



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