Mt. Shasta – May 2016

Mt Shasta Trip Details
May 12-15, 2016


Mt Shasta on May 12-15 + Optional trip to Bend, Oregon May 16-17/18

  • May 12 (Thurs):  Meet in SLC at 6am to carpool. Depart 6:30-7am. Estimated arrival in Mt Shasta City: 6pm. Dinner. Hotel/VRBO.
  • May 13 (Fri):       Breakfast in Mt Shasta city, drive to Bunny Flat trailhead. Hike to base camp at Helen Lake.
  • May 14 (Sat):       Early alpine start. Climb Avalanche Gulch or Casaval Ridge to Summit. Return to camp for the night.
  • May 15 (Sun):      Sleep in, pack up, hike back to cars. Lunch in Shasta City. Group 1: Return to UT. Group 2: Drive to Bend, OR (hang out at VRBO, dinner and booze in Bend).
  • May 16 (Mon):    Day 1 in Bend. Hang around VRBO/walk the town/rock climb/mountain bike.
  • May 17 (Tue):      Day 2 in Bend. Half the group will probably be heading back Tue Morning. Some may want to stay one more day (Alvords would like to).
  • May 18 (Wed):    Last group returns home Wed morning/afternoon.


There are no readily available data on average temperatures at Helen Lake and the Mt Shasta Summit throughout the year. However, we can estimate it. At the Mt Shasta KMHS weather station at 3533 ft, the temperatures on May 14 and 15 over the last 5 years were an average high of 73° F and an average low of 41° F. The Forest Service gives an estimated lapse rate (temperature drop) of 3° for every 1000 feet of elevation gain on Mt Shasta. From this, we can estimate the temp at Helen Lake base camp (10,450 ft) as having a high of 52°F and a low of 21°F. However, these are just averages. On the coldest of the last 5 years Helen Lake would have had a low of 12°F, and on the warmest year a low of 26°F. Using the 5 year average, the summit (14,180 ft) is estimated to have a high of 42°F and a low of 9°F.

We can also estimate temperatures at the Bunny Flat trailhead (6,935 ft) as having a nightly low of 31°F and a high of 63°F. Since we’ll be ascending to base camp (with a high of 52°F), plan for day one hiking temperatures to be in the 40’s and low 50’s. For day two, from base camp to summit, plan for temps to be in the 20’s and 30’s, warming to the 40’s and low 50’s on descent. For more weather info as our trip approaches, see the Mt Shasta Avalanche Center.

Gear Checklist

Download a print-ready checklist here

We’ll be spending two nights on the mountain, so pack accordingly!


  • Base layers (upper and lower): wool or synthetic (e.g. polyester). Temps won’t go below zero, so get lightweight or mid-weight (expedition weight would be too hot).
  • Insulating mid-layer upper (optional): fleece (recommended) or synthetic fill jacket (e.g. Marmot Isotherm) to be worn above base layer
  • Softshell pants (optional): Recommended that you have a light, flexible, breathable pant for the hike in, e.g. Marmot Tarn.
  • Softshell jacket (optional): It’s nice to have a lightweight shell that’s wind and water resistant, but comfortable to wear and breathable (as opposed to most hardshells). The Marmot ROM is a great choice.
  • Hardshell pants (required): waterproof pants in case of emergency/storm, or simply worn as your outer layer (with or without softshell pants)
  • Hardshell jacket (required): waterproof jacket in case of emergency/storm, or simply worn as your outer layer (with or without a softshell jacket)
  • Down parka/belay/survival jacket (required): You want a heavy down jacket. Used when standing around and getting cold or in emergencies. A good value is the Marmot Ama Dablam.
  • Waterproof gloves: Outdoor Research gloves are recommended because they have lifetime warranty and can be replaced for free for literally any reason
  • Tall gaiters: Outdoor Research gaiters are recommended because they have lifetime warranty and can be replaced for free for literally any reason
  • Socks, plus at least 1 spare pair: Synthetics ok, but wool recommended. NO cotton. Good socks are Darn Tough Mountaineering Full Cushion and Smartwoold PhD Mountaineering.
  • Face mask/neck gaiter/balaclava (optional, but sure nice if there’s a cold wind)
  • Beanie (should fit under your helmet)
  • Sunglasses or ski goggles (required): Get some Julbo mountaineering sunglasses or at the very least, sunglasses that have thick side frames (e.g. these at STP)
  • Hat (optional)
  • Camp booties (optional)
  • Street clothes for Mt Shasta City,  Bend, OR and the drive home


  • Sleeping bag (recommended 0-15 degree rating)
  • Sleeping pad with good insulation r-value that’s also light and packable. Best currently available is probably the Neoair X-Therm.
  • Closed cell foam pad to go under your air pad. Serves as additional insulation and as an emergency pad if your air pad leaks. Most popular is the foldable Z Lite Sol. Travis has a few regular Z Lites he got for less than $20 if you need one. Let him know ASAP.
  • Pillow (optional). Exped has some nice really lightweight air pillows. Otherwise your down jacket can make a pillow.
  • Ear plugs (required due to snoring in our group; nice to have anyway when it’s windy or tent mates are moving around)
  • Breathe Right strips (optional): reduces snoring and increases air flow for better oxygenation
  • Sleep aid (optional): a nice combo is melatonin plus a sedating antihistamine like Unisom or benadryl.
  • Pee bottle (recommended for late night bathroom calls). Buy a 1 qt gatorade, drink it day 1, and use it at night as needed.


  • 4 liters (recommended). You probably won’t need that much on day 1, but you will on summit day. If you don’t sweat much and know you don’t drink a lot, you might be OK with 3 liters, but your water is essential. Do not skimp on this.
    • Camelbaks are not recommended for snow/winter camping due to freezing, regardless of insulation sleeves. If you bring one, make sure you have backup water in other forms in case your tube is frozen all afternoon on summit day.
    • Wide-mouth Nalgenes are great. They’re indestructible, easy to open when cold, resist freezing, and can easily be purified, poured into, and flavored. You can bring all your water in these, but they weigh a lot (relatively), so you might want to bring 2-3, with the remainder of your water in lighter containers that are kept safe from puncture in your pack.
    • Bottled water is a great lightweight way to transport some water. Dasani bottles are the lightest, but Smartwater plastic is a little more durable. Plastic bottles like the Platy Bottle and Nalegene Canteen are also lightweight and collapsible, as well as reusable. However, they’re also prone to puncture and best kept in your pack.
  • An OR bottle parka is nice to have, even if it’s just to keep one Nalgene from freezing early in the morning.  I think we’ll probably have warm enough temps on summit morning that non-insulated Nalgenes won’t freeze, but it’ll probably be close.
  • Powdered drink mix (optional): sweetened, flavored water increases consumption and improves hydration, especially if your water tastes like old, dirty snow. Check out Cytosport (sugar-based drink like gatorade) and Nuun (electrolytes and flavor only). Tip: bring plastic baggies with pre-measured powder you can just dump in a Nalgene that’s full of water.
  • Gas stove: We will be getting all of our water at Helen Lake by melting snow. Melting snow takes FOREVER. Everyone should have their own stove. Some good choices are the JetBoil Sumo and MSR Reactor 1.7L or 2.5L (the MSR Reactor is the fastest stove currently available).
    • Gas canisters: (8oz total per person recommended): you need enough gas to melt snow for all your water needs for two days/nights on the mountain.
    • Fire: lighter, matches, flint, or piezo (warning: piezos are unreliable at altitude)
    • If you’re not bringing an integrated unit like the jet-boil, don’t forget the pots/pan
  • Water purifier: We will be camping in the highly-trafficked Helen Lake area, so you’ll want to purify your snow melt. Although you can boil it, that would burn through a ton of fuel and take forever. Much better to melt it and then purify with a pump, iodine, UV light, etc. The most convenient option is probably UV with either a Steripen or CamelBak All Clear.


  • Lunch x 2: Ready-to-eat food that doesn’t need a stove. On Friday on the hike in, lunch can be something fresh from Mt Shasta city. We’ll probably stop at Subway on the way to the trailhead if you want to get a sandwich. Saturday (on the way to the summit) lunch should also be ready-to-eat. Bring PB&J’s or other food that’ll keep.
  • Dinner x 2: One for Friday night after hiking to base camp and one for Saturday night after summiting. These will both be in camp (stove water available). Freeze dried meals such as Mountain House are great.
  • Breakfast x 2: One for Saturday morning, summit day, and one for Sunday morning, before hiking back down to the cars. Mountain House has some great breakfasts, including convenient cold cereals.
  • Snacks: Recommended 12+ snacks per person, to eat every hour or so while hiking. E.g. Honey Stinger, gels, chews, powerbars, nuts, chips, candy, trail mix, fruit, smoked sausage, cheese, bread, crackers, etc.

Technical Equipment (required)

  • Climbing Helmet: If you need one, this helmet at STP is good.
  • Mountaineering boots: Stiff-soled with at least one welt for a crampon lock
  • Crampons: The Grivel Air-Tech Crampon (not the “light” version) are a great crampon for mixed climbing (snow, ice and rock).
  • Mountaineering Ice Axe: 70 cm is recommended for general mountaineering use, 65cm is OK. Any shorter and the ice axe will be difficult to use in cane position, which is one of its primarily uses. Travis has a few Omega Pacific axes (70 and 75cm) he got for $35 if you need one. Let him know ASAP.
  • Trekking poles: Collapsible recommended. These and these are great pairs.
  • Harness: Any climbing harness will do. Since you’re not going to be hanging in it, you can go with an ultralight like the BD Couloir.
  • Snowshoes: recommended to use shoes that have a crampon-style frame, rather than a tube, which is more secure on traverses and steep slopes. It’s convenient if the straps untie and lie flat, for easy stacking of the shoes. For late-season consolidated snow 25in is probably the ideal length for a mid-weight guy with a heavy pack on. A great choice is the MSR Revo Ascent.
  • Avalanche Shovel (required, but can be shared between 2 or 3 people): Used to prep the camp site, secure the tent, chop snow for water, and dig your buddies out of avalanches. A nice choice is the BD Deploy 7.
  • Headlamp: plus change of batteries or, if rechargeable, then fully charged. Our favorite: the BD Revolt rechargeable.
  • Backpack: a 40 liter volume is about as small as you’d want to go, and it would be very tight. 60-80 liters are recommended. The Osprey Xenith 75 and Aether 70 are great. To find out what size Osprey pack fits you, stop by REI.
  • Backpack rain cover (optional): Osprey makes one. Mountain Hardwer makes an even lighter one.

Personal Gear

  • Sunscreen (required): Do NOT forget this and do not forget to apply it! Stick sunscreen is super convenient to use.
  • Toilet paper (required): small rolls like this are convenient. You’ll get some double bags to pack out your crap when we get there. You must use these!
  • Blister gear (highly recommended): Moleskin (w/ small scissors), climbing tape or duct tape to prevent blisters in the first place. For open blisters: Spenco 2nd skin, Band-Aid Advanced Healing Blister Cushions, and Band-Aid Activ-Flex bandages (soothing next to skin)
  • Painkillers (highly recommended): bring both acetaminophen (Tylenol) for pain-killing and an anti-inflammatory such as ibuprofen (Advil) or naproxen (Aleve).
  • Pocket knife multi-tool (optional, but recommended): keep it lightweight
  • Altitude meds (optional, see your doctor): acetazolamide (can be used as a prophylactic against acute mountain sickness) and/or dexamethasone (for emergency high-altitude swelling of the brain or lungs, which is rare, but has happened on Shasta)
  • Duct tape (recommended for small repairs): small rolls like this are convenient to pack
  • Trash compactor bag (recommended): for an emergency backpack rain cover on the way in and a camp trash bag to carry out
  • Summit pack (optional): light-weight pack that folds up small in your main pack, for use on summit day. A good choce is the Marmot Kompressor Plus weighing in at less than a pound. Travis has a few of these he got for $30 if you need one. Let him know ASAP.
  • First aid kit (optional)
  • Toiletry Kit (optional)
    • Cleansing Wipes: Nice for cleaning up spills, wiping off a sweaty face before bed, etc. I like both Ban and Nutrogena.
    • Deodorant: Travel size keeps it lightweight
    • Toothpaste or chewing gum
  • Watch and/or heart rate monitor (optional)
  • Cell phone (optional)
  • Camera / GoPro (optional)
  • Battery pack to recharge electronics (optional)
  • Camping chair (optional)
  • Satellite GPS/communicator/emergency signaler (optional): Spot or DeLorme Inreach
  • Lightweight portable speaker & music player (optional)


  • Tent, 4-season (for those bringing the tents). Note that 3-season tents have been known to rip apart on Shasta during high winds (common at Helen lake) so be careful.
  • Snow anchors for your tent (required due to high winds on Shasta).  See the “note on wind” here. The best are probably packable fabric anchors from MH, MSR or Amazon. Another option is snow/sand stakes from MSR or Amazon.  Paracord as needed for tying anchors to the tent.
  • Tent footprint (optional; probably not needed for snow camping)

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