Mount Shasta is one of the largest Cascade volcanoes by volume, but think of it as a gentle giant. This 14,163-foot (4,317-meter) volcano that towers over northern California is a veritable utopia for mountaineers: It’s gifted with spectacular vertical relief, relatively mild terrain, and reliably sunny weather that makes for prime climbing conditions. “There are few places in the world where you have that much vertical without the objective hazards,” says Chris Carr, director of Shasta Mountain Guides.
From a base camp above 8,000 feet (2,438 meters), the outfitter offers three-day courses that teach novices the basics of ski or snowboard mountaineering, such as how to use ski crampons, climb with skins, and self-arrest. Day three is when they put it all together for a summit bid: Students rise at 2 or 3 a.m. and zigzag 5,000 vertical feet (1,524 meters) up to the peak, a jumble of boulders big enough for multiple people to scramble on top to take in the views, which stretch as far as 125 miles (200 kilometers). The reward is one of the longest continuous ski descents in the Lower 48: Through some of the nation’s best corn snow, you’ll turn 7,000 vertical feet (2,134 meters) down a consistent 35- or 45-degree slope all the way to the trailhead.
Need to Know: Join Shasta Mountain Guides (www.shastaguides.com) on a prescheduled trip, starting at $595, from May through June.
- Nat Geo Expeditions