How to Make the Most of Your Grand Teton Expedition

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Mt. Grand Teton

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Mt. Grand Teton 43.741000, -110.802400

How to Make the Most of Your Grand Teton Expedition

The captivating mystique-Grand Teton has a unique allure to many mountaineering enthusiasts. It is located in Northwest Wyoming within the Grand Teton National Park.

The Grand Teton is part of the Teton Range which is a series of the Rocky Mountains found in North America. The Rocky Mountains stretch from southern Alaska to northern New Mexico.  This central massif comprises of other principal summits like Mount Owen, Mount Wister, Teewinot, Middle Teton, South Teton, Buck Mountain and Static Peak.

 

The Grand Teton forms the highest point in the Teton Range and is Wyoming’s second highest peak standing at 4,199m after the Gannett Peak.

Hedrick Pond Overlook (Grand Teton National Park)
Grand Teton National Park Photo by Ken Lane

Geology and formation

The Grand Teton is a fault block mountain. About 9million years ago, the Teton fault was formed with the thinning and stretching of the earth’s crust. The fault’s west block rose to form the Teton Range while the east block along the fault line slid downwards to form the valley known as the Jackson Hole.

Mountains tend to appear ageless but similar to humankind, they go through the natural processes of aging. The stages of birth, youthfulness, maturity and old age are common with all mountains. They eventually disappear with time as destructive processes act on them. These processes may appear slow to us, and may even go unnoticed but they have definitely been operating over eons of years.

The Grand Teton being at the youthful stage is constantly exposed to these destructive processes that carry debris away and continually sculpture its rugged features.

Grand Teton Climate

The Grand Teton experiences a semi-arid type of climate. From November through to January, snow dominates making them the wettest months. On higher altitudes, snow thickness averages 450 inches annually while in the valleys, snow averages 191 inches annually.

The highest recorded temperature is 34 °C while the lowest recorded temperature is −54 °C.

Since temperatures fluctuate frequently at higher altitudes depending on the weather patterns, you should be prepared to expect the temperatures to plummet with at least 10°C to 15 °C at any given time.

January is the coldest month with an average of −3 °C and July is the warmest month with an average of 27 °C.

Precipitation averages slightly over 21 inches annually with January having the highest amount of rain and July the lowest.

Climbing Grand Teton

For many rock climbers and mountaineering enthusiasts, the Grand Teton is a popular destination because most routes are accessible by road. The well-marked trails and established summit routes are additionally magnetic.

Most climbers are essentially left to determine their own skill level while being keen on not exposing themselves to unnecessary risks.

For beginners and those less familiar with the routes, I suggest you contact guide services who provide climbing escorts and instructions to the summit. Exum Mountain Guides is known to be the best service provider when it comes to mountaineering in the U. S.Jackson Hole Mountain Guides is equally among the finest. These two companies have a concession in the park.

Few things to note before you summit:

  • Check weather conditions for the route you intend to use. The Jenny Lake Climbing Rangers has an online site that is constantly updated during the climbing season with condition reports. This will help you pare down the right equipment.

You can reach the rangers on (307) 739-3343 for summer conditions, and for winter conditions (307) 739-3309.

  • Inform a friend or relative on your return date such that they can alert the necessary people in case you are overdue. Remember to carry a cell phone with you as much as this is highly dependent on whether reception will be available.
  • All routes lie in the alpine environment so expect temperatures to change from normal to sub-freezing with storms, snow and dangers of rock fall.
  • The two classic routes to the summit of the Grand Teton are the Exum Ridge and the Owen Spalding. So pack your equipment according to the route you choose.
  • Make sure you are well hydrated before and during the climb to help acclimatize better.
  • Start your hike early to the Lower Saddle regardless of whether you intend to pull an overnight stay or not.
  • Keep monitoring the weather and be prepared to abort the mission if the weather seems to take a turn for the worst. Lightning strikes have killed several climbers.
  • Also plan to be done with the summit by noon to avoid thunderstorms.
  • You will need two 60m ropes, trekking poles, helmet, rock shoes, mountaineering boots, crampons, water, ice-ax, tent and sleeping bags for an overnight stay and extra clothing.

 

How long does it take to climb Grand Teton?

The Grand Teton summit is roughly 2 miles but it climbs 2700 ft. For experienced climbers and those in peak physical condition, the mountain can be summited in a day, about 6-8 hours round-trip.

However, if you want to spend more time with this peak and enjoy it to the maximum, you can space out your climbing time to 2 or 3 days.

 

When is the best time to climber and Teton?

The summer season begins in June till early September which is also the climbing season. July is the most popular month as it is the driest and warmest month, however, it is prone to afternoon thunderstorms. So plan an early start and be off the summit before 1 pm latest.

Any permits, passes or reservations needed?

You will not require any permit to climb the Grand Teton but you will be required to acquire one only if you will staying overnight. The permit is acquired at the Jenny Lake Ranger Station.

Many campgrounds have a first come-first served approach, however, they may require reservations for group camping.

Since the Grand Teton is within the Grand Teton National Park, you will be charged an entrance fee of $35 for a private vehicle, $30 for a motorcycle and $20 for a hiker or biker. All permits are valid for 7 days.

Boating and floating permits can be acquired at Colter Bay visitors center or Moose Jenny Lake.

 

Accommodation on Grand Teton

Camping on Grand Teton

sunrise at Jenny Lake
Sunrise at Jenny Lake Photo by Diana Robinson

The Grand Teton National Park offers 5 campgrounds with no need for a reservation unless you are planning a group camp. Jenny Lake has a campground with 49 sites which fills up very fast as it is only meant for tents.

Other campgrounds include Flagg Ranch with 175 sites, Signal Mountain with 86 sites, Gros Ventre with 360 sites, Colter Bay with 350 sites and Lizard Creek with 60 sites. If you want a full RV hookup, Flagg Ranch and Colter Bay got you covered with over 100 sites.

One of the best camping options before your climb would be the American Alpine Club Climbers’ Ranch. You don’t have to be a member to stay here. It offers rustic accommodation at a fee of only $20 per night. Just bring along your bedding and mattress. Showers and cooking areas are provided.

You can reach them at (307) 733-7271 or email: gtcr@americanalpineclub.org

 

Mountain climbing routes

The Lupine Meadow trailhead is the starting point for most mountain routes. This will lead you the Garnet Canyon and after 1.7miles or so, the trail will come to a fork. Stay on your right for another 1.5 miles which will bring you to another fork. If you choose to use the Exum Ridge or Owen Spalding routes, turn left and proceed for about 1.1 miles. At this juncture, you will find the Platforms campsites at 8,960ft.

As you continue upwards to Meadows, you will come across the Upper Morraine campsites and the Lower Saddle headwall will appear above it. From the Lower Saddle, there are at least 38 routes to the Grand Teton summit. Most climbers prefer the Exum Ridge and Owen Spalding routes.

If you choose the Owen-Spalding route, while descending the upper portion trend towards your right till you reach a slab, then proceed left to the rappel station. Hike back to Lower Saddle after rappelling to the gully.

If you decide to you use the North Face routes or to climb via the East Ridge, your trailhead approach will still be from the Lupine Meadow only that you will turn right at the second fork where the Amphitheatre Lake lies.

Grand Teton Hiking Trails

  • Lake Solitude-this is a tough hike but it offers the best and most scenic views of wildlife, lakes, the park’s largest waterfall, and the mountain slope.
  • String Lake Loop-I recommend this trail if you want something less physically straining or demanding. This route offers scenic views which include a reflection of Grand Teton in the Spring Lake. Have an early morning start for you to enjoy this beautiful glimpse.
  • Cascade Canyon-it is one of the most popular trails in the Grand Teton. Moreover, you will be treated to a view of the Teewinot Mountain that is near the canyon’s mouth. The Canyon trail is also known for its wildflowers and if you are lucky you can spot some wildlife.
  • Static Peak Divide-this is an extremely challenging hike trail but it offers epic scenic views.
  • Amphitheatre Lake-this is the best trail to a mountain lake in the park. While standing on the eastern shores of this subalpine lake, you will be treated to the views of the Grand Teton, Teewinot Mountain, Disappointment Peak, Mt. Owen and the Middle Teton.
  • Taggart Lake-this is considered the easiest trail and consequently one of the most popular in the park. Spectacular views of Grand Teton can be fully enjoyed from this trail.
  • Garnet Canyon-it is also among the easiest trails in the park. You will enjoy viewing the Grand Teton with its majestic nature and Middle Teton’s molten dike that you will definitely find fascinating.

 

Emergency/Information Center

  • In case of an emergency call 911
  • Grand Teton National Park: 307-739-3300
  • Grand Teton Nation Park (for those with impaired hearing):307-739-3400
  • Emergency Management Teton Wyoming: 307-733-9572
  • John’s Medical Centre: 307-733-3636
  • John’s Medical Centre(ER): 307-733-7250
  • Teton County Sherrif:307-733-2331

 

Flora on Grand Teton

Grand Teton and its environs are home to over 1000 plant species. Soil conditions, slope, elevation, and moisture are a key determinant to where certain plants grow.

On the Jackson Hole valley that has loose rocky soil, the silvery-green sagebrush is quite diverse.

Grasses, willows, wildflowers, cottonwood, and sedges grow along the Snake River because of their moisture-loving characteristics.

Lichens, longleaf phlox, and mosses grow in the alpine zones.

 

Fauna on Grand Teton

There are over 61 species of mammals found in the Grand Teton National Park including the gray wolf. Carnivores like the Grizzlies with the American Black Bear being quite common, coyote, marten, river otters and Canadian lynx have also been spotted roaming the great lands too.

Chipmunk at Grand Teton
Chipmunk at Grand Teton photo by Amy the Nurse

Rodent species include muskrat, chipmunks, squirrels, snowshoe hare, porcupines, beavers, and bats.

Over 300 bird species have been recorded including the trumpeter swans, American wigeon, harlequin duck, blue-winged teal, eagles and calliope hummingbird and Other birds also prey include red-tailed hawk; osprey,  and American kestrel and peregrine falcon have been spotted there too.

Four reptile species have been spotted as well including the garter snake and rubber boa. One lizard species-the sagebrush lizard has been recorded.

Hiking with Kids

There are numerous hiking trails with beautiful sceneries to explore with your children around the Grand Teton.  Most of the things have been incorporated in the next section.

 

Things to do

  1. Rock Climbing

This can be a fun climbing activity for yourself and your children too. Exum Mountain Guides are well known for their popular program for families. They can also customize the day’s activities as per your wishes. It normally takes place at the Hidden Falls. One of the prerequisites for signing up is that a family must have a kid under the age of 14 years.

You can reach them on 307-733-2297 for prices and bookings.

  1. Whitewater rafting

Be prepared to get soaked with your children at the Snake River rapids in Jackson Hole and Whitewater rafting is also a sure thrill. I suggest you arrange your trip with one of the guiding outfits in the area like Sands Whitewater. Consequently, the cost ranges between$80 and $100 for adults while the kids rate is slightly reduced. Please note that children under the age of 6 years cannot participate in this activity.

  1. Visit the Granite Hot Springs

This rustic pool is a 112-degree natural hot spring located in Jackson Hole. In fact, why not allow your kids to splash and swim here while you relax your sore muscles after a tough climb?

The cost is $8 for adults and $5 for children.

  1. Wild, Wild West Rodeo!

Yaay! Go and feel more Western at the Jackson Hole Rodeo by participating in bull riding, calf roping, bronc riding and also barrel racing too. Sounds fun, right? It is normally open from 8 pm on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Rodeo shows are normally presented throughout July and August on Friday evenings and the cost is about $35 and $5  only less for children.

  1. Take a horseback trail ride

Want to have a feel of the tradition and texture of the West? Get on the back of a horse and also enjoy a ride on one of the very well-mannered and trained horses at Jackson Hole. Ignite the cowboy/girl within!

  1. Ride a boat across Jenny Lake

How cool is this! Jenny Lake sits as a pearl necklace shining and lacing the base of the Grand Teton. At a small fee, the short boat ride will give you a different perspective of the Teton and you also can choose to hike to Inspiration Point where you are treated to a gorgeous view of Jenny Lake and Jackson Hole from atop!

  1. Float or fish in the Snake River

Snake-river at Grand Teton
Snake River at Grand Teton photo by Ken Lane

The calm and mild section of the Snake River comes with amazing things to offer.  In fact, just like lazily floating on a raft with a goofy guide cracking jokes and you may most likely be paired with another family. Moreover, you and the kids can make a friend or two on-shore and can also choose to fly-fish instead, no?

 

  1. The Moose Visitor Centre

Basically, this visitor center offers great human and climbing history, the geology of the region and an awesome display of wildlife. The kids are free to touch and pick the antlers and horns displayed which can be quite fascinating as well.

  1. Go bike riding

Moreover, the Grand Teton National Park has paved bike paths so it shouldn’t be difficult for you to enjoy some good exercise while communing with nature. The paths normally come to an end at the parking lot of the stunning Jenny Lake. Though, you can rent a bike in the small town of Moose or better still, from Jackson town at a small fee. And while at it, drop by Dornan’s-the locals’ favorite pizza joint and grab a slice for me!

Climbing Mt. Baker: Here’s What You Need to Know

Mount Baker
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Mt. Baker

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Mt. Baker 48.776700, -121.814400

Climbing Mt. Baker: Here’s What You Need to Know

Mt. Baker or Kulshan has an elevation of3,286m and is among the five major stratovolcanoes known to have erupted more than 200 times over the last 12,000 years.

It is found in the east of Bellingham, Whatcom County, Washington. The residents of Seattle are often tantalized by Mt. Baker on a clear day and the view from the San Juan Islands is simply breathtaking.

 

Although heavily glaciated, the cone is the youngest in the Mt. Baker volcanic field with no more than 80,000 years.

It is hosted by Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest and is known to offer great outdoor recreation opportunities like skiing, mountaineering, hiking, and snowboarding.

Skiing & Snow boarding at Mount Baker
Skiing & Snow boarding at Mount Baker

Geology and Eruption

Mt. Baker was formed as a result of volcanic activity over many years and is a mixture volcanic debris and lava ash. Black Buttes, an older volcano where Mt. Baker now sits atop was active about 300,000 years ago. Much geological evidence has since been eroded when thick ice sheets surrounded the volcano and filled the valleys during the last ice age.

Mt. Baker has two craters; Carmelo Crater and Sherman Crater. The Carmelo Crater is mostly ice-filled under the summit and is home to the mountain’s highest point-Grant Peak on the southeast side. Sherman Crater is the younger one located on the southern side of the summit. It has numerous fumaroles that vent poisonous gases like hydrogen sulphide and carbon dioxide.

Mt. Baker has not had explosive eruptions like the other nearby mountains and the frequency has been quite minimal. However, it has the potential of being highly explosive. The mountain has a steep terrain with fractures and underground water which makes it prone to landslides, debris avalanches, and lahars. These are the major destructive events that occur on Mt. Baker. There have been four periods when fresh lava erupted (magmatic activity). The last major eruption happened 6000 years ago, although a small explosion was witnessed in 1973  where ash was spread in the nearby region.

 

Mt. Baker Ski Area

Mt. Baker is the second-most glaciated peak after Mt. Rainier in the Cascade Range. The snow and ice on this mountain have a volume of 1.79 kmhence why it is famous for being among the snowiest places on earth. Mt. Baker Ski Area in the northeast set a world record in 1999 with the highest recorded snowfall of 1140 inches in one season.

Mt. Baker Ski Resort
Mt. Baker Ski Resort Photo By Abhinaba Basu

Mt. Baker Ski area is a Ski Resort found on the North Cascades in Washington. It offers 1000 acres of skiable land. This area experiences the highest annual snowfall. It is serviced by 38 runs and 8 lifts covering an elevation gain of 455m. It will cost you an average $40 for a ticket as an adult for a day and $660 for a seasonal pass.

 

As much as its snow quantity is unbeatable, the quality of the snow tends to be low. Its fresh snow has high water content and it keeps deteriorating.

Many snow riders love this spot because the bountiful backcountry is easily accessible and the terrains are extremely inbound (expert terrain). There is a free handle tow for beginners with reasonable progressions, so you don’t have to fret. Since it is all about the chutes, trees, hits, powder, steeps and cliffs, the mountain is an expert area not advisable for grooming skiers.

I suggest that you adhere to the weather forecast warnings and don’t forget to gear up!

Inside scoop: if you don’t want to ski on tracked snow or to encounter crowds, avoid the weekends, wake up early to grab first lifts, and then go straight to chairs number 5and 6.

 

Facilities at the Ski Resort

The resort may not be heavily commercialized but it has several amenities like day lodges that offer great fare. It has no spas or sleigh rides.

A quick summary of the Pros and Cons

Pros

  • It is rarely crowded unless it is a weekend.
  • Plenty of snow volume and many powder days.
  • Quite adventurous for experts because of the inbound terrain and backcountry.
  • During midweek it is delightfully inexpensive and the lodgings will be worth your dime.

Cons

  • The chair lifts are a bit slow.
  • It has a small ski inbound area
  • Don’t expect smiley weather. There is a reason why there are too much snowfall-rare blue skies.
  • There is no accommodation on the mountain, limited internet access and cell phone service and few shops.

 

Mount Baker Climate

Precipitation ranges between 70 and 140inches in the higher altitudes and 30-50 inches in the lower levels annually.

The average annual temperature in Mt. Baker is 43.3°F. The highest annual temperature is 55.8°F, and the lowest annual temperature is 30.8°F

The highest recorded snowfall level is 641 inches.

 

Climbing Mt. Baker

Can anyone climb Mt. Baker?

This climb is ideally open to anyone with a passion for hiking or mountaineering. It offers excellent mountaineering with its tremendous snowcapped peaks, to beginners and veterans alike.

Crevasses at Coleman Glacier at Mt. Baker
Crevasses at Coleman Glacier at Mt. Baker Photo by G310ScottS

Low visibility and exposure are the main challenges due to its variable changing weather. I suggest you confirm snow and avalanche conditions before attempting the climb. Crevasses are also a danger though they provide amazing camera opportunities.

It is important that you have basic training on using crampons and ice-axes, crevasse rescue, glacier travel, self-arrest, and rope techniques. You will also need to have experience in carrying 30-50 pounds of weight on your back and will need to be in a top physical condition in terms of endurance, strength and cardiovascular.  A tracker should prepare for about 3-6 months prior to climbing Mt. Baker.

You will additionally be required to equip yourself with gaiters, trekking poles, technical clothing, climbing harness, hiking socks, mountaineering boots, sun hat, ski goggles,a headlamp and a helmet.

How long does it take to climb Mt. Baker?

It will take you 2-3 days to successfully summit Mt. Baker. The Easton Glacier route is normally done in 3 days while the Northside Coleman/Deming Glacier is done in 2 or 3 days.

When is the best time to climb Mt. Baker?

Any time of the year can be ideal to attempt a climb as long as you keep yourself updated on the mountain conditions and heed to the warnings. However, the most popular time is during summer in the months of May through to August.

Any permits, passes or reservations needed?

The Forest Service will not require you to have a permit to climb Mt. Baker. However, I highly recommend that you fill out the Voluntary Climbing Register.

Campfires and leaving traces behind are prohibited.

You should use the mountain toilets provided or pack out your human waste in blue bags that can be acquired from your ranger station and will require a valid recreation pass to access and park at the trailheads and the parking lot of the Artist Point. After that, you can get this from any ranger station or call +1 800-270-7504 where a day Pass will cost you $5 and an Annual Pass costs $30.

The party size is limited to 12 people.

 

Accommodation on Mt. Baker

Camping on Mt.Baker

Once you acquire the regional pass, camping on the mountain is free of charge. But feel free to contact Mt. BakerRanger District for information on pay campsites that are situated within the park.

The Easton Glacier route has few options with regards to camping. You can camp along the Railroad Grade or immediately before the Easton Glacier (can be overcrowded sometimes). The trailhead has a restroom and a very descent meadow.

The Mt. Baker Lodge offers an awesome alternative to camping especially if you’ll be using the north side routes.

The Inn at Mt. Baker is another fine Bed and Breakfast establishment that offers great views of the majestic mountain.

Other hotels include Fairhaven Village Inn, Coachman Inn, Comfort Inn Bellingham, Chrysalis Inn and Spa, Moon Dance Bed & Breakfast et al.

Mountain climbing routes

The classic climbing routes to the summit are Boulder-Park Cleaver, North Ridge, Squak Glacier, Easton Glacier, Coleman Headwall, Colman Ski Descent and Coleman/ Deming Glacier. The North Ridge is the most difficult route because of complex glaciers and steep walls.

The Coleman/Deming Route

It is the most used by climbers among all the other routes. It is considered a moderate route for general mountaineers and can be done in 2-3 days. The approach is from Heliotrope Ridge Trail. Proceed south while ascending towards the edge of Black Buttes. You can choose to camp here or continue with the ascent. Skirt around Black Buttes while keeping ample distance to avoid rockfall or avalanches, then you will get to the saddle at the base of Roman Wall. Proceed past this wall to the summit plateau. Descend via the same route. You can also opt to descend while skiing.

The Easton Glacier Route

This is one of the easiest routes though a bit irritating due to the high use of snowmobiles as it lies in the mountain’s recreational area. The trail starts at Schreiber’s Meadows. You will hike through water streams, timber, and forested slopes. From high camp, you will proceed northeast to the base of Sherman Peak. Go past the Roman Wall to the summit. Descend via the same route. You can choose to do a hike out afterward to conclude the adventure by grabbing a bite at “Bobs” in Sedro-Woolley.

Emergency/Information Center

  • In case of an emergency call 911
  • For mountain conditions call the Sedro Woolley Office: 360-856-2714
  • Whatcom County Sheriff: 360-676-6650
  • Baker Ranger District –Glacier PublicServive Centre: (360) 599-2714

 

Flora and Fauna on Mount Baker

Devils club Berry
Devil’s club Berry Photo By USDA Forest Service Alaska Region

Animals in Mt. Baker considerably vary. Chipmunks, the grizzly bear, mountain goats, marmots, the elk, black-tailed deer, butterfly, and bird species are a huge part of this ecosystem.

Along the river banks, you will spot the skunk cabbage, devil’s club, salmonberry and beautiful ferns that brighten up the landscape.

A vegetative cover includes douglas fir, subalpine fir, western and mountain hemlock, western redcedar and at higher altitudes, you find the alpine meadows.

 

Hiking with Kids

It is very possible to summit Baker with your children. As long as they are well equipped and trained. Give encouragement as you go along and have several Nutella breaks, cool?

Good news is that there’s a 6-Day Glacier Mountaineering Course that is offered at Mt. Baker for children between 14-17 years. However, younger children can also be trained.

Things to do

Apart from summiting Mt. Baker, there are so many other interesting things to do and see.

Hiking

Mt. Baker has numerous hiking trails from beginner stretches to “experts only” trails. You can opt for guided hikes and be sure to make friends with other cool hikers like you!

Snowboarding and Skiing

These can be experienced at the Mt. Baker Ski Area because of its accumulated snowfall. It is normally open from November 1 through to May 2.

There are other wintertime activities to explore like snowshoeing and cross-country skiing, or you can go eagle-watching in the lower rivers.

Water Rafting

The Nooksack River is a great spot for water rafting. I promise you it will be an experience to remember! You can also choose to visit the shuttering Nooksack Falls.

Swimming

Many lodges and hotels have provisions for swimming. Large swimming pools are almost a necessity in the Baker region. Plus what a better way to cool off in the fine hot weather. But if you’re cut from a different cloth, you can go make an authentic, wild splash at Silver Lake Park!

Fishing

In the Nooksack River, there are five salmon species which can be fished. The Silver Lake also offers great trout-fishing opportunities. But be warned, fishing requires lots and lots of patience! So be ready to be emotionally and mentally stretched before your first catch, no?

Nooksack River
Nooksack River Photo by Patrick McNally

Dining

Oh! The sound of this! Whatcom County is blessed with amazing wining and dining facilities. Moreover, the cool evening breeze and glowing soft lights will make you feel so much at home, even when you are miles away from home-get the drift?

Live music with its entire splendor, piercing the air with saxophones, trumpets, and violins at the Britannia Hotel Aberdeen will make all your senses come alive.

Other dining spots include the Wake and Bakery, Graham’s Restaurant, Milano’s Italian Bistro and the Craven’ Burgers and Brew.

Additional things to do

  • Berry picking and hunting during fall.
  • The cottonwoods and maple leaves are at their peak color at the North Folk Valley between September and October. So it is the perfect time to enjoy a drive.
  • During summer, moonrises color the skies and the beauty are just one to behold. You can enjoy an evening of peace and reflection at such moments.
  • Outdoor barbecues are a great way to meet people and learn about their culture.
  • Horse-riding, mountain biking, and backpacking are additional ways to spice up your summer days here.

 

 

The Ultimate Guide to Climbing Mount Fuji

Mount Fuji
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Mt. Fuji

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Mt. Fuji 35.363200, 138.730000

The Ultimate Guide to Climbing Mount Fuji

One look at Mt. Fuji and you’re hooked! It is the perfect definition of cone-symmetry and beauty combined. It has a wide base and a slope that smoothens as it narrows to the peak. Located in Honshū near the Pacific Coast and barely 100km from Tokyo, Mt. Fuji stands at 3,776m and known for Japan’s tallest mountain.

It is a stratovolcano with layers of ash, rock, and lava formed by violent eruptions.

It is considered to be an active volcano because it squarely lies where three tectonic plates overlap, known as the “Tripple Junction”.These three plates are the North American Plate, The Eurasian Plane, and the Filipino Plate. The last eruption occurred in 1707, and the ash fell on Tokyo. Unbelievable! But since there is no proven direct way to measure the pressure of magma, there are no clear indications that eruption is imminent.

Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park
Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park Photo by SteFou

Mt. Fuji is surrounded by four small cities namely Fujiyoshida, Fuji, Gotemba, and Fujinomiya. Five lakes also add to the magnificence of this mountain; Lake Sai, Lake Shoji, Lake Motosu, Lake Yamanaka and Lake Kawaguchi. The mountain is part of Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park.

Sacred Fuji

Mt. Fuji is Japan’s main symbol. It is considered a sacred mountain hence the many shrines at the base of it. Its graceful shape is known to have inspired great works of art. It has remained popular throughout the centuries. Especially after it was declared a World Heritage Site in June 2013 by UNESCO, it has become quite iconic.

The fact that Mt. Fuji lies between the Shizuoka and Yamanashi Prefectures, on clear days, it can be seen from Yokohama and Tokyo. However, clouds often hinder the visibility of the mountain. Visibility is much better during cold seasons as compared to summer periods. Also, early mornings and early evenings would be ideal.

 

Mount Fuji Climate

Mount Fuji experiences a Tundra climate, especially at the summit. This climate is characterized by scanty rainfall, extreme cold, and heavy winds. The cone is normally snowcapped for several months in a year due to the low temperatures in higher altitudes.

 

Climbing Mt. Fuji

Mount Fuji is visited by thousands every year, both locals and foreign tourists. Many with a goal to climb to the summit, others to just enjoy the view. It does not require any technical expertise to ascend it. However, due to its rapidly changing weather(unexpected thunderstorms, hailstorms, heavy downpours), steep inclines and rocky terrain, it is important to be well prepared with the right clothing and equipment. As you gain altitude, the air will inevitably get thinner so I would recommend that you pace yourself during the climb to allow for acclimatization. This will help decrease your chances of altitude sickness.

Even though there is no snow in the months from June to October, temperatures at the summit are likely to drop way below zero. And in this case, I highly suggest that only experienced hikers should consider undertaking the ascent.

A side note though; there are no restrictions regarding off season (July/August) climbing. There are signposts indicating that the trails are closed to minimize climbing accidents.

Appropriate mountaineering gear and equipment is essential if snow is present on the mountain.

Proper hiking boots, layered clothing, a headlamp, ski poles, some cash, and snacks would be ideal to carry along if you want to enjoy climbing Mt. Fuji.

As I mentioned earlier, Mt. Fuji is a sacred mountain, so learning the culture will be an additional advantage. A tip from me would be that you observe good manners. This entails not picking plants, no carrying stones back home, no setting up fires even camping on the mountain.

Is there a fee? Yes, a small fee of 1000 yen is required per person and is collected at the stations. It goes towards maintaining the environment and improvement of safety for climbers.

 

Best time to climb

There is an official climbing season on Mt. Fuji. This season refers to when the mountain facilities and the trails are in operation.

The peak season is normally during school break which is from early July to mid-September. The other peek is during the Obon week which happens in mid-August. The crowds are quite large during this period.

However, if you don’t want to encounter huge crowds, I recommend climbing Mt. Fuji on a weekday especially on the first weeks of July before schools close. Though the weather in early July can be a bit harsh.

The weather on the mountain is relatively calm towards the end of July till early September and the summit free of snow. It is a good time to tackle the mountain if you don’t have hiking experience.

Climbing the mountain from October to June is highly dangerous and I would advise you to steer clear due to a high risk of ice avalanches and gusty winds.

For you to witness the breathtaking sunrise from the summit, climb during the early morning hours as the mountain is likely to be free of clouds. How can you achieve this? You ask.

I recommend climbing to the 7th or 8th station on the first day. Get your sleep and rest on one of the mountain huts. Then proceed to the summit very early the next morning. See, no rocket science!

The sunrise in summer takes place between 4:30 am and 5:00 am.

You may also choose to start the climb late evening from the designated 5th station through to the summit during the night. This option is greatly discouraged because of increased chances of altitude sickness and fatigue.

It is also possible to ascend and descend the mountain during daytime in a single day, but I would not recommend it for similar reasons as above.

 

Accommodation on Mt. Fuji

To say the least, while being modest, accommodation here borders on primitive. The probable reason would be that the huts are more of a cultural experience than comfort-focused.

Mountain huts at Mt. Fuji
Mountain Huts at Mt. Fuji, Japan

Don’t expect hotel conditions. The huts are like large dormitories, so you better get used to the idea of sharing space in close quarters. All the huts are more or less similar. Sleeping bags and mattresses are provided. Some even provide heaters to keep you warm and toasty.

Some huts offer paid toilet services at a cost of about 100 yen, and other huts provide rest space for climbers who don’t intend to stay the night. This will dent your pocket by 1000-2000 yen.

 

Most huts provide water, food, canned oxygen, hiking sticks and other items that you may deem necessary. Of course, at a cost.

Pssst! Here’s a tip. If you’re on a budget, buy your water and food items at one of the 5th stations because the items increase in price as you go higher up the mountain.

 

Mountain climbing routes

This mountain has 10 stations in total. The first station begins at the base of the mountain while the 10th one is on the summit. Most people begin their ascent from the four 5th stations because the roads are paved up to this point and are accessible by buses or rental cars.

From the 5th stations, there are four major routes on different sides of the mountain.

  1. The Fuji Subaru Line 5th Station or Kawaguchiko 5th Station is the base for the Yoshida Route.

It is the most popular among the four 5th stations and easiest to access and most developed which offers a good spot for sightseeing even during off climbing seasons, especially the Fuji Five Lakes and is accessible all year round. It has many restaurants and shops, parking lots and locker coins. You can get here by bus or rental cars via the Subaru Line which begins at Kawaguchiko Station.

Lake Kawaguchiko
Lake Kawaguchiko Photo by Guilhem Vellut

The Yoshida route is equally the most popular however high human traffic may be encountered especially on the 8th station. There are numerous huts and this trail provides a scenic view of the sunrise for those who don’t get to the summit in good time. It also has separate ascent and descent trails. You will ascend in 5-7 hours and descend in 3-5hours.

  1. The Subashiri 5th Station is the base for the Subashiri Route.

This station is less developed than the Fuji Subaru Line 5th station. It only has a parking lot, toilets and few restaurants.

The Subashiri route is not as crowded as other routes until the 8th station where it joins the Yoshida route. You will ascend in 5-8 hours and descend in 3-5hours.

  1. Gotemba 5th station is the base for the Gotemba Route.

The ascent to the summit is longer because it is the lowest of the four stations. It is the least developed with only a shop, toilets and parking lots. The terrain is full of lava rocks and has a few huts. You will ascend in7-10 hours and descend in 3-5hours. During the descent, you could easily run from the 7th station to the 5th station in about 30minutes because the path is covered in loose ashy gravel.

  1. The Fujinomiya 5th Station is the base for the Fujinomiya Route.

The station is the closest to the mountain summit. It is easily accessible by public transport from the western side of Japan. It is slightly more developed than Subashiri and Gotemba 5th stations.

The Fujinomiya trail is the shortest to the summit and it will take you 4-7 hours to ascend. The descent on the same track can take 2-6 hours. However, congestion is likely during peak season.

 

Fauna on Mount Fuji

Approximately 100 species of birds have been spotted on Mt. Fuji. There are also frogs and a few species of other reptiles.  The Kano River has a type of fish called “Ayu” which means sweetfish.

Marmots, black bears, squirrels foxes and insect species are also present on the mountain.

 

Flora on Mount Fuji

From the base of the mountain, you will find forest vegetation consisting of bamboo grasses, cypress, beech, maples and Nikko firs. As you get to the top, plant life is minimal due to the harsh weather conditions. You can spot mosses and lichens though.

 

Hiking with Kids

For the adventurous family, Mt. Fuji would be an ideal hiking project to undertake. Children at 7 years and above can comfortably climb the mountain, but I would not recommend them trekking to the summit because of the unpredictable weather conditions at high altitudes.

 

Things to do

Mt. Fuji being in Japan’s Capital City-Tokyo, means that you will not run out of things to explore and experience apart from hiking the mountain itself.

Visit Lake Kawaguchiko

It is the second largest of the Fuji Five Lakes. It offers quite a view of the locals fishing. You will find yourself naturally relaxing as you take in this beauty. There are many hiking routes which you could explore just for fun. There are also coffee shops around so you can sip away your troubles.

The Fuji 5th Station

This is a perfect spot for getting the best view of the mountain itself, without having to climb it!

Eat at HoutouFudou

This restaurant is famous for its hot noodles, a local dish. The masterful combination of mushroom, tofu, white cabbage, pumpkin and udon will make your taste buds summersault!

You got to try it!

Aokigahara Forest

Aokigahara forest
Aokigahara Forest photo by Guilhem Vellut

Well, it’s known to be world’s second suicide spot, but it’s a beautiful forest worth your time. You will get to see the Narukawa IceCave that makes ice seem adventurous.

Lake Yamanakako Cruiser

Enjoy an elegant cruise on the swan-shaped ship as you enjoy scenic views from the base of the mountain. The Ship is modernly furnished to suit your taste.

Shibazakura Festival

With Mt. Fuji forming a great background for the pink flowers, it is a scenery to behold. These flowers (moss phlox)are like Mt. Fuji’s royal carpet. Go experience the pink affair that is only witnessed in springtime.

The Fuji Sengen Shrine

If you’re a cultural enthusiast, this is a must-visit spot. The architecture and history behind it are simply mind-blowing!

The Yoshida Fire Festival

It is celebrated at the Fuji Sengen Shrine as a way of bringing to a close Mt. Fuji’s climbing season. A torch is lit in front of every house in Fujiyoshida and the city is on fire. Not literally though.

Celebrate thePaul Rusch Festival

Dr. Paul Rusch is celebrated for dedicating his life to build the Kiyosato highlands. There are numerous rows of tents bearing fruits, vegetables, and artworks.

Shiraito Falls

Shirato Falls
Shirato falls photo by Reginald Pentinio

As a matter of fact that these flush falls are in the middle of lush green vegetation and you can , feel free to pass by though it isn’t a must-visit as there is nothing much to do here.

Running Events

If you love keeping fit, there are many running races held throughout the year. And a run through the beautiful scenery of Yamanashi and grape fields and the views of Mt. Fuji would be quite a painless and memorable workout!

Grape festival

Here’s one for the wine lovers similarly, the free wine and grape samples are available to celebrate during the harvest season and you could practice your wine-tasting skills here my friend!

At the end, one last thing don’t forget your camera and You will definitely want to document your Mt. Fuji experience for yourself and others. Get a shot of the breathtaking sunrise while at it!

 

 

Mount Rainier: Mountaineering, Hiking and Things to do

Mount Rainier
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Mt. Rainier

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Mt. Rainier 46.852300, -121.760300

Mount Rainier: Mountaineering, Hiking, and Things to do

Mt. Rainier is Cascade Range’s highest mountain and the highest peak in Washington, the U.S. It is an active volcano which sits southeast of Seattle and is within the Mt. Rainier National Park. It is quite prominent topographically and it rises to an elevation of 4,392m.

Mt. Rainier forms part of the notorious five in the Ring of Fire or Cascade Volcanic Arc. It is one of the world’s most dangerous volcanoes and even appears on the Decade Volcano listing.It is also the most heavily glaciated peak in the region with the ability to produce massive lahars that may pose a grave danger to the southern section of Seattle.

Mt. Rainier summit is home to 26 major glaciers and two craters about 300 m in diameter. The craters are free of snow and ice due to the geothermal heat generated below. A small crater lake occupies the west crater to the south.

NW side of Mt Rainier
NW side of Mt Rainier Photo byPeter Stevens

Geology and eruption

The summit of Mt. Rainier is quite unique when compared to other mountains. It has 3 separate summits; Columbia Crest is the highest, the second highest at 4315m is Point Success and Liberty Cap at 4,301m is the smallest.

Mt. Rainier is heavily eroded and it may have stood at an even higher elevation before the major debris avalanche that occurred 5,000 years ago.

The mountain is recorded to have last erupted between 1820 and 1854. Although there have been reports that eruptive activity had continued up to 1894.

Mt. Rainier is now dormant but very much alive. Considering it is almost twice the size of Mount St. Helens, if Mt. Rainier was to have an explosive eruption, the damage would be much greater when compared to the former. Typically, about 5 earthquakes are recorded near the summit monthly.

Mt. Rainier Climate

Mt. Rainier experiences a warm and temperate climate which is majorly influenced by its elevation, latitude and the Pacific Ocean.

It is generally cool but mostly rainy even in July and August when it is the warmest and sunniest.

August is the hottest month with an average temperature of 19°C.

The average annual precipitation is 703mm with November being the wettest month with an average of 119.3mm

Snow remains at an elevation of between 5,000ft and 8,000ft till mid-July.

The average annual temperature is 13.0 °C. December is the coldest month with an average of 5 °C

April is the windiest month with an average speed of 10 km/hour.

Climbing Mt. Rainier

Mt. Rainieraspirants should be mentally and physically prepared to face a number of challenges which include but are not limited to; bad weather (frigid temperatures, high winds, lightning, blizzards), altitude sickness on higher altitudes due to low atmospheric pressure, crevasse falls, ice/rock falls and avalanches.

You are advised to be well informed on current weather and mountain conditions.

At least two deaths occur annually on Mt. Rainier due to severe weather, rock and ice falls and avalanches. The worst recorded mountaineering accident was in 1981 which claimed 11 lives in an icefall.

The mountain is a difficult climb with a success rate of about 50%. You must have solid mountaineering, crevasse, glacier travel, route finding and winter camping skills. Additionally, you should have knowledge of techniques on the use of crampons, the use of an ice ax, rope travel and hazard recognition. If you are inexperienced in the above, you can learn from a qualified instructor in any of the nearby mountaineering schools.

Ensure you have the proper mountaineering equipment and clothing.

It will take you about 2-3 days to climb the mountain. If you use the DC route, getting to Camp Muir will take about 5 hours of leisure walking, then using the Disappointment Cleaver Route from Camp Muir, another 6-8 hour depending on your fitness level and weather conditions.

When is the best time to climb Mt. Rainier?

The climbing season begins in April and runs through to September. When it comes to Rainier weather is the key determining factor to success, so many trips come to a halt mostly due to bad weather than any other contributing factor. Weather becomes more stable in the first week of July.

The trick is to find a balance when the weather is stable and mountain conditions are good.

Any permits, passes or reservations needed?

You will require a number of permits as listed below.

  • Rainier Annual Pass:$55
  • Rainier Single Vehicle Fee: $30
  • Per Person Fee either on foot or using a bicycle: $15
  • Motorcycle Fee: $25
  • Campground Permit: $20 per person per night
  • Campground fee for groups between 25 and 40: $60

Climbing permits can be obtained from:

  • Carbon River Ranger Station
  • Paradise Climbing Information Centre
  • Jackson Visitor Centre
  • Longmire Wilderness Information Centre
  • White River Wilderness Information Centre

Accommodation on Mt. Rainier

Camping on Mt. Rainier

You can camp in the backcountry for a maximum number of 14 days. The allowed number of a party size is 12 people. A team with more than 5 individuals is considered a group. The standard routes have two main high camps; on the east side-camp Schurman (at 9,440ft) and on the south side, Camp Muir.

Camp Muir’s facilities include a solar toilet and a Ranger Station. It can accommodate about 25 people and the camping approach is on a first come, first served. It is located at an elevation of 10,080ft. Rainier Mountaineering Inc. has a hut on Camp Muir and it can only be used by those climbing with them. Alternatively, you can tent camp on the glacier.

Camping at the Ohanapecosh campgrounds at Mt. Rainier
Camping at the Ohanapecosh campgrounds at Mt. Rainier Photo byMichael Hanscom

Other campgrounds that offer group sites are Cougar Rock and Ohanapecosh.

Mountain climbing routes

Mt. Rainier offers a variety of options when it comes to climbing routes. Your choice will depend on your ability and experience.

If you are a beginner I recommend using Disappointment Cleaver, Emmons Glacier or the Ingraham Glacier Direct. These are the most popular routes and it may be quite tricky to secure a camping permit during the climbing season. I suggest considering getting your permit earlier enough.

The Kautz Glacier and Fuhurer Finger routes are a bit less crowded but slightly more challenging and technical.

The Tahoma Glacier offers the best wilderness experience, so why not give it a shot if you’re up to it?

The Liberty Ridge, after being included in the 50 Classic Climbs of North America has become a magnet for experienced alpinists who want to step up their game.

For a more challenging and steeper climb experience, I recommend the Curtis Ridge, Mowich Face, and the Ptarmigan Ridge. These should only be attempted by true aficionados!

Ingraham Glacier-Disappointment Cleaver Route

This route is the most popular with about 75% of summit attempts. It is also among the most guided route in the whole of North America and has a well-worn trail during summer which comes at the expense of lots of human traffic, especially over the weekends.

Additionally, it has an elevation gain of approximately 9,000ft and about 13-15km long. It will take you on average 1-3 days to climb. Typical hazards that you may encounter are crevasse falls, navigation errors and steep icy slopes. The summit success rate averages 51%.

From Paradise, use the Skyline trail to Camp Muir. Head straight to Cathedral Ridge across the Cowlitz Glacier, you will find three notches, take the center notch and climb scree to the Ingraham Glacier. Once you cross it, you will reach Disappointment Cleaver, from where you will get to a snowfield. Proceed to the summit and descend via the same route.

Emmons-Winthrop Route

The best climbing season for this route starts in May and runs through August when snow on the surface has melted enough to expose crevasses. This route will require you to be revamped on crampon use, crevasse rescue, route finding, and self-arrest techniques.

It rises to an elevation gain of 3140m and is about 15-16km long. The average time it will take to climb is 2-3 days and has a summit success rate of 54.2%.

Starting from the White River Ranger Station, proceed for about 3.1 miles and consider camping at Glacier Basin. Continue past the crevasses and possibly camp again at Camp Curtis. Descend slightly onto Emmons Glacier and proceed upwards to Camp Schurman. From here, head upwards along a ramp called Corridor. The climb will steepen towards bergschrund after which the summit awaits. Descend via the same route.

Kautz Glacier

This route is considered the third most popular after Disappointment Cleaver and Emmons-Winthrop. It is quite a long approach and climbers need to be proficient in glacier travel and ice climbing. During weekdays you can be all by yourself but you may encounter a few parties during weekends.

It has an elevation gain of approximately 2900m and is about 17-19km long. It may take you 1-3 days to climb and has a summit success rate of 52%.

Begin at Paradise and head a mile to Glacier Vista then descend to Nisqually Glacier. Once you cross it, you will come to a section of snowfields where you can camp. Proceed past chutes and notches till you get to the summit.

Liberty Ridge

This ridge with an elevation gain of approximately 3500m is considered one of the most dangerous and difficult routes up Mt. Rainier. It is about 16-19km long and takes about 3-4 days to climb. Its average summit success rate is 53%.

Liberty Ridge
Liberty Ridge photo by Laurel F

Approach it from White River campgrounds onto the Carbon Glacier. Climb past the ridge, snow slopes and rocks till you get to Thumb Rock. Proceed and go round a cliff, stay on the ridge till you reach Black Pyramid onto Willis Wall. Climb past several pitches onto Liberty Cap Glacier, surpass the bergschrund and after a slight slope angle decrease, you will reach the summit.

You can choose to descend via the same route or use Emmons-Winthrop to Camp Schurman.

Emergency/Information Center

  • In case of an emergency call 911
  • For Emergency Physicians: 253-697-4200
  • Rainier National Park (Headquarters): 360-569-2211/2177
  • National Park (for Park information): 360-569-6575
  • For Lost and Found: 360-569-6608
  • Rainier City Hall: 301-985-6585
  • Police Department (Emergencies): 301-985-6565 

Flora on Mt. Rainier

Mt. Rainier is home to over 100 exotic plant species, 890 vascular and 260 non-vascular plant species. Vegetation varies remarkably depending on climate and elevation creating diverse habitats that support different plant species.

Whitebark Pine trees
Whitebark Pine trees Photo by David Fulmer

The Forest zone, found in the lower elevations is dominated by the douglas fir, Pacific silver fir, western red-cedar, western hemlock, whitebark pine, mountain hemlock, Alaska yellow cedar, subalpine fir and Englemann spruce.

The Subalpine zone is a mixture of tree clumps and meadows. The huckleberry shrub is quite dominant here.

The Subalpine Meadows has a variety of plant communities like that entail blueberries, paintbrush, American bistort, avalanche lily, lupine, mountain daisy, hawkweed, alpine buckwheat, alpine aster, black sedge, alpine willow-herb, saxifrage, partridge foot, cascade aster, and bunchgrass.

The Alpine zone is mostly covered in ice and snow and little vegetation cover is evident. The pink mountain heather, penstemons, asters, and sedges exist in little clusters.

Fauna on Mt. Rainier

There are 182 bird species, half of which are migrants from southern and central America. Some of these include the Northern spotted owl, marbled murrelets, peregrine falcons, little willow flycatcher, bald eagles, Northern Goshawk and the harlequin duck.

Mt. Rainier has the largest system of the glacier that creates many streams and rivers which are home to several fish species. The species include the rainbow trout, Dolly Varden, eastern brook trout, pink salmon, sockeye, sculpins, mountain whitefish, coho salmon, coastal cutthroat trout, chinook salmon and bull trout.

Amphibians include larch mountain salamander, Pacific giant salamander,ensatina, Western toad, red-legged frog, cascade frog, rough-skinned newt and long-toed salamander.

Reptiles include the rubber boa, common garter snake, wandering garter snake, Northern alligator lizard, and Northwestern garter snake.

Mt. Rainier is also home to over 65 mammal species that include bats, carnivores (red fox, coyote, mountain lion, raccoon, skunks, bobcat, weasels), hoofed animals(elk, mountain goat, deer), insects, rodents(squirrels, mice, beaver, porcupine, marmots, chipmunks), rabbits and hares.

Hiking with Kids

There are many hiking trails on Mt. Rainier with scenic views that children can enjoy.

Things to do

  1. Silver Falls at Ohanapecosh

If you love waterfalls, the Silver Falls will also be a breath of fresh air to you too. It is also one of the best falls in Mt. Rainier National Park too. Get the forest experience with its uplifting water roar as it meanders through the tall trees. To get there, just follow the Silver Falls loop trail which is about 3 miles from the Ohanapecosh campgrounds.

Silver falls Ohanapecosh
Silver falls Ohanapecosh Photo by David Fulmer
  1. Wildflower walk

Take a nature trail at Paradise and walk the famous wildflower meadows.  In the summer months of July through to August, they come alive with pomp and color. Go marvel at this jaw-dropping beauty of purple lupine, red paintbrush, pink penstemon and yellow cinquefoils.

  1. Sunrise Visitor Center

The center offers great history about volcanic forces that formed Mt. Rainier, the glaciers that dominate it, the wildlife and plant life that beautify it showcased by videos, artifacts, models, photos, and words. So go get some enlightening, it won’t hurt!

  1. Brunch at paradise

Imagine a Sunday brunch in a rustic and historic lodge that is located halfway up a mountain! Indescribable, right? Well, visit the Paradise Inn Dining Room which offers unrivaled cuisine that includes smoked salmon, seasonal fresh fruits, desserts and other brunch favorites. Add to these crab mac and cheese – yummy!

The Inn is open from June through to September on Sundays from 11: 30 am to 2 pm.

  1. Hike the Sourdough Ridge

Welcome to alpine splendor! This trail is quite family friendly for anyone looking to lazily explore the Sunrise area. It has amazing mountain views and its famous breathtaking sunrise. Go and have your heart stolen-literally!

  1. The Mt. Rainier Scenic Railroad

All aboard!

If you are a train fanatic, this is your treat. It is historical and scenic.  You can also board the train at the Elbe and enjoy a picturesque ride, about 18 miles, on a vintage locomotive too. Apart from the great views of the mountain, the train comes loaded with a snack bar, enough bathrooms, plenty of space for children to freely walk and play around and a cool conductor who will be narrating to you a brief history of the area. And! Wait for it…prepare to catch your breath as the train crosses the Nisqually River!

  1. Breakfast at the Copper Creek Inn

This inn is one of the amazing rural restaurants in the state. Locate just at the mouth of Nisqually, breakfast here is a must especially if you plan to hike all day long. It is known to whip up the best pancakes and blackberry pies. In addition, it is famous for its home-roasted coffee.

  1. Mountain Goat Coffee

Cops are known to love doughnuts while park rangers are into muffins. This joint offers the best coffee. Stop by for a cup of home-brewed coffee and mouthwatering baked goods. And while at it, make a khaki-clad guy your friend.

Climbing Denali: Amazing Facts to Remember

Mount McKinley (now Denali)
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Mt. Denali

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Mt. Denali 63.069200, -151.007000

Climbing Denali: Amazing Facts to Remember

Denali, formerly known as Mt. McKinley is North America’s highest peak standing at an elevation of 6,190 above sea level. It forms the centerpiece of Denali National Park and Preserves, in south-central Alaska. After Mount Everest and Aconcagua, Denali makes the third highest peak of the Seven Summits.

Denali was formed when the Pacific Plate slid beneath the Tectonic Plate resulting into a granitic pluton.

Denali National Park
Denali National Park

It has two main summits; the South Summit which is the highest and the North Summit which has a height of 5,934m. The mountain is home to five glaciers that flow off its slopes; the Traleika Glacier, the Peters Glacier, the Ruth Glacier, the Muldrow Glacier and the Kahiltna Glacier.

Denali Climate

The winter climate dominates this region and is classified as the Continental Subarctic Climate by The Koppen Climate Classification.

The lowest temperature ever recorded at -54.4°C was in January while the highest recorded was in June at 33.3°C

July is the month with the most precipitation with an average of 2.9” while February has the least precipitation with an average of 0.3”. The average annual precipitation is 13.5”.

Denali experiences snow cover of an average of 54.3”. December has the most snow with an average of 10.7”.

Climbing Denali

You will need to be in great physical condition for you to attempt the Denali summit. Proficiency in basic mountaineering skills that include, rope travel, crevasse rescue, cramponing, camping skills and self-arrest is highly recommended. The Denali climb is a technical, demanding and extremely challenging expedition so I would advise you to undertake this venture under the advice and preparation of a guide service. To start you off, here are two guiding service companies for your perusal.

  1. Alpine Ascents Institute

Website: info@alpineinstitute.com

Phone number: (360) 671-1505

  1. Mountain Madness

Website: www.mountainmadness.com

Phone number: 1-800-328-5925

These companies have certain prerequisites that should be met and you will be screened with regards to the aforementioned mountaineering skills as well as be trained in one of the climbing schools.

The guiding services will provide logistical support, food, gear and they will make most decisions concerning group dynamics, weather, and campsites.

A minimum of 6 months commitment to physical training prior to the climb is advised. You can also work on your cardiovascular, strength and endurance too.

Appropriate technical climbing gear and clothing should be part of your itinerary. Layered clothing, mountaineering boots, helmet, ice-axe, crampons, gloves, ropes, shovels, sleds, trekking poles, sleeping bags, climbing harness, stove etc. should be on your top list. 

Costs

Depending on what is being offered by the guiding service the cost is between $5,000 and $7,000 on the West Buttress Route. The ratio is normally 9clients: 3 guides.

West Rib Route will cost $8,000. The ratio is4 clients: 2 guides

The Cassin Ridge will cost between $18,000 and $26,000.

How long does it take to climb Denali?

It will take you about 2-3 weeks to get on top of the mountain and back to base camp. However, there are times when the weather is terrible and you will be tent-bound for a couple of extra days.

When is the best time to climb Denali?

The popular climbing season is from mid-May to end of June although the normal period begins in April to mid-July. It is said to be windy in May and July tends to be stormy.

Any permits, passes or reservations needed?

Any person attempting the climb should first register with Talkeena Ranger Station 60 days prior to the climbing date. A fee of $350 for Mountaineering Special Use will be charged. Climbers under the age of 24 years have a reduced charge of $250.

The Denali National Park charges $10 per person as the entrance fee.

Accommodation on Denali

Camping on Denali

The Denali Park offers several campgrounds with all the necessary amenities. These include Riley Creek, Savage River, Wonder Lake, Teklanika River and Sanctuary River. In case the campgrounds are full, don’t fret, there are plenty of RV parks with complete facilities at the entrance of Denali Park.

Denali from Camp on the Kahiltna Glacier
Denali from Camp on the Kahiltna Glacier Photo by Mark Horrell

If you intend to climb the mountain, you will carry all sleeping gear as you will camp on various spots on the glaciers. At times you may be required to build a new camp which will take several laborious hours to accomplish. You will also have to dig, shovel and cut out snow blocks too. However, since you will be in teams and work in shifts it will be doable.

Mountain climbing routes

There are four main route options to summiting Denali.

  1. The West Buttress Route

This is the most popular route for many climbers as it is considered the least technical however, this does not negate the fact that is an exceptional mountaineering challenge. It is also exposed to the Denali weather just as the other three routes; it has crevasses and steep slope too. Climbers should be well prepared to tackle these challenges.

The base camp is located at 7,200ft while the others are progressively located at 7,800ft; 9,500ft; 11,000ft; 14,200ft; and 17,200ft. This route has a vertical gain of 13,500 ft. The route is moderately flat between base camp and 11,000ft though crevasses are the major threats.

This expedition lasts for about 17days but I recommend carrying 3 weeks’ worth of food supply.

  1. The West Rib

This route is mostly known for its sustained steepness than its technical challenges. It mostly attracts aficionados who have already conquered the summit via the West Buttress. You must step up on your skill and experience though.

  1. Cassin Ridge

This route is only attempted by the most experienced climbers because it ascends the prominent ridge that is demanding, steep with fewer escape routes that are far apart.

  1. Muldrow Glacier

 Muldrow Glacier
Muldrow Glacier Photo by Chelsea Leven

It’s the first ascent route before the West Buttress was pioneered by Bradford Washburn. It takes a longer approach from Wonder Lake which automatically translates to an extra 7 days when compared to the West Buttress route. It is similar to the West Buttress in difficulty but it experiences minimal traffic.

 

Emergency/Information Center

  • In case of an emergency call 911
  • Information on Rescue, contact Denali Rescue Volunteers; Website: denalirescue.com Email: denalivolunteers@gmail.com
  • For mountaineering questions-Walter Harper Talkeetna Ranger Station: 907-733-2231
  • Park information: 907-683-9532
  • Switchboard: 907-683-2294

Flora and Fauna on Denali

Wormwood flora Denali
Wormwood flora Denali Photo by Travis
Grizzly Bear Denali
Grizzly Bear Denali Photo by Bob Thomas

Denali hosts over 1500 plant species. In the lowland, you will also find dwarf birch, alder, blueberries, and willow too. The river corridors are dominated by aspen, cranberry, paper birch. Other species include the wormwood, white spruce, lichens, mosses, ferns, grasses, and wildflowers.

Wildlife such as the caribou, reindeer, grizzly bears, squirrels, marmots, wolves, mice, wood frog and several bird species dot Denali.

 

 

Hiking with Kids

Jordan Romero summited Denali when he was 11 years old. So any youngling with a profound passion for conquering summits can make the attempt under strict guidance and observation.

Things to do

  • Biking/ Cycling

Get some heart rate up as you get to see Denali National Park while cycling. Just make sure you have a helmet. You can get your bike and helmet from the businesses outside the park that hire them out.

  • Go flightseeing

There’s nothing as beautiful as watching Denali National Park and Preserve from atop a window of a small aircraft. The scenery is also simply breathtaking with meandering glaciers and rugged peaks too. Watching climbers attempting also the summit will move your heart too and you can get these services from the listed flightseeing companies.

This river wounds beautifully along silver white rocks and lush green vegetation. It offers a campground that is quite popular and scenic.

  • Visit the Denali kennels

Sled dogs, also known as canine rangers-I love this last name! Sounds fierce and territorial, yes?

These dogs and the rangers are usually roaming the park and rarely in the kennels. So if you want to visit the kennels call to confirm the timings prior to your visit. Remember that Denali is the only park that has working sled dogs’ kennels. So go hang out with them and even attend a mushing demonstration led by a ranger. Epic!

  • Bird Watching

During summer, over 160 bird species can be spotted in Denali. So with armed with an adventurous spirit and binoculars, you are in for a treat. Be on the lookout for the Alaska state bird, northern wheatears, and its fellow resident species-the willow ptarmigan. Depending on the season and how lucky you are, you can also come across the arctic tern, a migrant from distant lands.

  • Capture shots of Denali and the Alaska ranges

Denali offers amazing opportunities for photography enthusiasts whether beginners or experienced.

The mountain stands out from the central ranges so magnificently. It can be seen from as far as Fairbanks and Anchorage on clear days. You can also view it from various angles along the Park road.

  • Wildlife viewing

Wildlife can be spotted anywhere in the park and commonly viewed when taking a bus ride.

A few tips:

The Wonder Lake zone has many bogs and other smaller ponds/water bodies near the road. This makes it also a great spot to catch a glimpse of the water-loving and bird species too.

Take multiple bus trips to maximize your chances of viewing great wildlife.

Remember to keep safe despite the engulfing thrill and excitement of seeing wild animals. Yes, we have a soft spot for them.

What you Need to Know Before Summiting the Notorious Mount St. Helens

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Mt. St. Helens

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Mt. St. Helens 46.191400, -122.195600

What You Need to Know Before Summiting the Notorious Mount St. Helens

Mount St. Helens is located in Skamania County, southwest of Washington. It lies in the Cascade Range and is among the top 5 notorious volcanoes among the Ring of Fire (the Cascade Volcanic Arc). It is approximately 80km northeast of Portland in Oregon.

Mount St. Helens is an active stratovolcano consisting of lava combined with pumice, ash and other rock deposits. It is only 40,000 years old. Streams that flow from this mountain enter into three rivers namely the Toutle River, the Kalama River and the Lewis River.

Geology and eruption

Mount St. Helens is famous for its explosive eruption that occurred in 1980 which was recorded as the most economically destructive and fatal volcanic incident in the history of the United States of America. 57 people lost their lives, 250 homes and 47 bridges were destroyed. Additionally, 24km of railways and 298km of the road were affected and destroyed.

An earthquake that measured 5.1 on the Richter Scale triggered a massive avalanche of debris causing the eruption. The blast emitted at a high-velocity super-heated gas, ash, and rock which had a temperature of about 350 °C moving at a speed of almost 500km per hour. Mudflows and pyroclastic flow followed soon afterward. There was complete darkness in Spokane which is located about 400km from the volcano.

Mount St. Helens Volcanic eruption
Mount St. Helens Volcanic eruption

The northern face of the mountain collapsed and mixed with snow and water to form lahars that destroyed bridges and vegetation. It has continually experienced nearly 130 small tremors and a frequency of about 40 localized earthquakes in a week. The sleeping giant is predicted to awake at some point but not in the near future.

The mountain summit was reduced to an elevation of 2,549m from 2,950m. What was left as an aftermath was a horseshoe-shaped crater of about 1.6km wide? The small successive eruptions have resulted in the formation of magma dome on the southern side.

Mount St. Helens Climate

Mount St. Helens experiences a warm and temperate type of climate. The winter has more rainfall than in the summer. The average annual precipitation is 1146mm.

The average temperature in a year is 11.4 °C.

Climbing Mount St. Helens

Mount St. Helen has become quite popular since its last eruption and many mountaineering enthusiasts have it on the top of their bucket list. It attracts beginners and experienced climbers from all over the world.

It is mainly a non-technical climb but quite strenuous like any other existing mountain. Climbers are advised to be in peak physical condition because of the rugged and steep terrain. It is highly prohibited to climb into the crater. The endpoint should be at the rim of the crater. Keep away from the snow cornice. Snow cornices may develop during winter and last till summer, so some areas may be unstable at the crater rim all year round.

Climbing the mountain may not be particularly dangerous though accidents have occurred in the past. Ensure that your speed is controlled. Be prepared for extreme weather changes. Confirm weather conditions prior to your attempt.

Ensure you have the right gear and equipment. Crampons, an ice-ax, mountaineering boots, synthetic clothing, First Aid Kit, water, food, sunscreen, sunglasses are a must.

You can complete a round-trip within 7-12hours

Best time to climb

It is possible to summit Mount St. Helens all year round but the best time would be towards the end of spring through to early fall. The season begins at May 16 and ends in October 31.

Any permits, passes or reservations needed?

If you plan to climb between November 1 and March 31, no permits are required for this period. You are however advised to register at Climbers Bivouac or Marble Mountain Sno-Park. Climbing Passes are available at zero cost by self-registration.

If you chose to climb between April 1 and October 31, you are required to have a permit. The permits are purchased through an online vendor administered by Mount St. Helens Institute. The Permit fee is $22 per individual. These fees are used for conservation and youth education programs. You will also need to self-register at Climbers Bivouac.

From April 1 to May 14, the permits are limited to 500 per day while from May 15 to October 31 they are limited to 100 per day.

Parking Permits are required at Climbers Bivouac. A National Forest Recreation Pass will cost you $5 for a day and $30 for the annual pass.

 

Accommodation on Mount St. Helens

Camping on Mount St. Helens

Campsites vary from site to site regarding visitation fees and seasonal restrictions.

Mount St. Helens offers quite a wide variety of campgrounds and RV sites for your selection. These include the Cougar RV Park and Campground, Lone Fir Resort, Eco Park, Lower Fall Campground, Iron Creek Campground, Pacificorps Campgrounds, Kid Valley Campgrounds among others.

Mountain climbing routes

  • The Monitor Ridge Route

This is the most popular route among climbers and quite crowded during summer actually. Its trailhead is named Climbers Bivouac. It has an elevation gain of 4600ft covering a total distance of about 4.5 miles to the summit crater rim.

You will hike through a forest trail for the 2.1 miles. At the LowestTrail, you can use the toilet on your right-hand side. Follow a rocky ridge marked by wooden posts till the last post. Proceed with that ridge and soon enough you will be at the summit. If you are climbing during winter, trekking poles and an ice-axe will definitely come in handy.

  • The Worm Flows/Swift Glacier

It is the single most direct route to the crater rim and mostly used during winter and spring. Mount St. Helens has great summit view and experienced hikers can enjoy a non-technical climb and begin at Marble Mountain Sno-Park and cross to Swift Creek. At about 2 miles in, you will come across the breathtaking Chocolate Falls that are along Swift Creek that will open up to a barren landscape full of mudflows and rock towards the crater rim. Head west to find the true summit.

  • Hummocks Trail

This trail has an elevation gain of 100 ft and the round-trip distance is about 2.3 miles. The climbing season is from late June through to November.

If you want to get an in-depth appreciation of the effects that came about with the eruption of this mountain, this is the best trail to use. You will also note how nature fights back as it regains its vitality after the aftermath.

It is a relatively flat trail and is considered easy even for young children. You will get to spot a few animals if you are lucky. Remember to stay on the trail so as not to tamper with the habitat.

  • Harry’s Ridge

The best climbing season for this route is from late June through to November. It has an elevation gain of approximately 200ft and is about 8miles long.

Harry's Ridge Trail at Mt. St. Helens NM in WA
Harry’s Ridge Trail at Mt. St. Helens NM in WA Photo by Mt. St. Helens

Starting from the Johnson Ridge Observatory, you will enjoy the sight of wildflowers, especially in mid-summer. At the end of Harry’s Ridge, you will be treated to the most direct and perfect view of the crater mouth and the Lowest Falls. Also, Mount Adams and Spirit Lake will be amazingly visible. On a clear day, you can catch a glimpse of Mt. Hood while on this trail.

From Johnson Ridge Visitors Centre, follow a paved path downhill for about a mile and a half till you get to the parking lot. Follow the trail till you get to Devils’ Elbow and after 3.5miles you will get to a junction. Harry’s ridge will be on your right. Proceed upwards until you arrive at the summit.

 

  • Lakes Trail

This trail has an elevation gain of 500ft and is about 8miles long. Best season to climb is from late June to November.

The trail usually stays about 300ft above a large, beautiful lake called Coldwater Lake and this has attracted many hikers. The trail starts from the boat launch offering a great view of wildlife and wildflowers. Go uphill to Coldwater Ridge Visitor Centre. Another 2 miles of hiking will bring you the South Coldwater trail to the right. To the left the trail continues to Mt. Margaret Backcountry.

  • Lava Canyon

It is about 5 miles round trip with an elevation gain of 1600ft. The best time to climb is from May through to November.

Lava Canyon Near Mount St. Helens
Lava Canyon Photo by dmytrok

It is quite a thrilling experience using this trail. You will get across via a suspension bridge after starting from a paved trail and get into the Lava Canyon Gorge. If you are afraid of heights, this may not be your thing. The trail will later intersect Ship Trail which is the return route. The canyon will begin to broaden as it leads to Smith Creek Valley.

  • Goat Mountain

This trail has an elevation gain of approximately 1600ft and the roundtrip distance is about 6 miles. The best time to climb is from late June through to November.

The trail offers distant views Mt. Adams, Mt. Rainier, Mount St. Helens and the surrounding areas from the summit. Climb steeply upwards along a ridge and the traverse to the southern flank for the last mile.

Emergency/Information Center

  • In case of an emergency call 911
  • Mount St. Helens National Monument: 360-247-3900
  • Mount St. Helens Climbing Hotline:360-449-7861
  • Northwest Avalanche Forecast: 503-808-2400

 

Flora and Fauna on Mount St. Helens

36 years after the eruption of Mount St. Helens, vegetation has tried to claim its roots back. There is evidence of pre-forest conditions and young patches of the deciduous forest can be seen.

You can also see, dense thickets of shrubs, colorful flowers in their complexities, paintbrush, lupin and scattered conifers are evidenced too.

Willow Flycatcher
Willow Flycatcher Photo by Steve Thompson

The black-tailed deer, the mountain goat, cougar, the American Black Bear and the majestic elk were the famous five animals that existed before the eruption. They all perished as they could not outrun the pyroclastic flows and survive the poisonous sulfur dioxide gas that was emitted with the ash. But all the five species are now back in the zone.

Other animals present include the Western frog, the American beaver, bird species like the yellow warbler and the willow flycatcher.

 

Hiking with Kids

Children above the age of 10 years can climb the mountain to the summit. Keen observation, proper gear and guidance are essential when hiking with kids.

 

Things to do

  • Ape Cave

It is the longest lava tube formed 2000 years ago by lava that flowed across a deep watercourse. You can walk on either the Lower Ape Cave Trail which is 0.8 miles or the Upper Ape Cave Trail which is 1.5 miles and you may scramble over rock piles and narrow passages.

Additionally, you can carry your own torch/headlamp or hire a lantern for $5 at the Apes’ Headquarters.

  • Check out the Coldwater Lake

It is located 43 miles east of Castle Rock and was created after the eruption in 1980. It formed when water collected behind a dam was brought down during the explosive eruption. It’s a fascinating sight indeed.

Coldwater Lake Trail at Mt. St. Helens
Coldwater Lake Trail at Mt. St. Helens Photo by Mt. St. Helens
  • The Fire Mountain Grill

This American grill menu is located at a strategic spot offering great views. The mouthwatering fiery tasting burgers and steaks will have you scrambling for more!

  • The Cougar Grill

Nothing beats this grill when it comes to their signature burgers and tacos. Sipping down a cold beer after such a treatment will leave you with quite a heavy impression that you will swear to be right back!

  • Silver Lake Visitor Centre

It is in the Mount St. Helens region situated a few miles east of Castle Rock. It also offers the best background of Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Movement showcasing classic films and a mock-up volcano exhibit too.  Additionally, you even have an opportunity to duck as you learn about the inner workings of a mountain.

  • Johnston Ridge Observatory

This observatory is situated strategically overlooking the mouth of Mount St. Helens crater at the end of Hwy 504. It  also offers the most stunning views of this crater too.

The center has exhibits that showcase the geological events that climaxed with the eruption of the mountain as well as the monitoring and volcano forecasting advancements.

What You Didn’t Know About Climbing Mauna Kea

Mount Mauna Kea
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Mt. Mauna Kea

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Mt. Mauna Kea 19.820600, -155.468100

What You Didn’t Know About Climbing Mauna Kea

The Big Island of Hawaii is home to the world’s tallest mountain-Mauna Kea. Yes, you heard me right!

What about Mt. Everest? You wonder.

Come; roam with me for a minute. Allow me to enlighten you.

Generally, the height of a mountain is measured from the sea level. Therefore, Mt. Everest standing at 8,848m takes home the gold medal. It is king!

Mauna Kea is only 4,207m above sea level but when measured from the ocean floor it beats Mt. Everest by a whopping 1,355m! How astonishing!

Mauna Kea measured from the base to the peak has a height of 10203m, making it the highest island mountain in the world. It is a dormant volcano located 300km from Honolulu which lies in Oahu Island, Hawaii County, United States.

Due to its stable airflow and high elevation, this mountain hosts the largest astronomical observatory in the world. Currently, research teams operate 13 large telescopes near Mauna Kea’s summit. These include the infrared telescope, the sub millimeter and the optical telescopes which are the world’s largest. The astronomers operating these telescopes come from 11 different countries. However, the construction of such a facility has caused an uproar because native Hawaiians consider it a sacred mountain. In fact, no one was allowed to access the summit apart from chiefs and high priests in the ancient days.

 

Geology and Eruption

Mauna Kea has much-rugged appearance when compared to other volcanoes near it. Instead of a single peak, its surface is undefined with a series of black and red volcanic cinder cones. Despite its location in tropical, a temperature drop of even one degree would result in the formation of snow at its peak. It’s the only volcano in Hawaii with distinct glacial evidence.

Lake Waiau, Mauna Kea
Lake Waiau, Mauna Kea, Hawaii Photo By Karl Magnacca

It is a dormant volcano created when the Pacific Tectonic Plate overlapped the Hawaiian Hotspot in the Earth’s mantle. Mauna Kea hosts Lake Wai’au which is the single alpine lake in Hawaii. It is quite small and shallow with a depth of about 3m. It is probably as a result of melting permafrost but you can’t ignore the possibility of it being spring fed. You wouldn’t think of disturbing the cute lake because Hawaiians used to apparently dip their babies’ umbilical cords with the belief that they will receive strength and prosperity from the mountain’s goddess. Absurd? I’ll let you be the judge.

Mauna Kea last erupted about 4000 years ago. However, geologically speaking, it is likely to erupt again despite its dormant state. Although not in the near future, its eruption would result in a massive damage to infrastructure. The telescopes on the summit would detect any such activity and will ensure timely warning for evacuation hence life loss may be minimal.

 

Mauna Kea Climate

Mauna Kea’s summit experiences an Alpine Climate. It more or else “manufactures its own weather”.  It will not be surprising to find thick fog, snow, hail and strong winds during the months of summer.

The summit skies are normally dry and devoid of atmospheric pollutants. This is because of an inversion layer which sits beneath the summit that separates the upper atmosphere from the moist air at the lower altitudes.

The general climate surrounding Mauna Kea is classified as the Marine West Coast Climate. The winter tends to have mild temperatures while the summer has moderate temperatures. The average annual temperature is 13.9°C. July is the warmest month with an average temperature of 15.6°C. January is the coldest month with an average temperature of 11.7°C.

28.9°C was the highest recorded temperature in August, while the lowest (-4.4°C)   was recorded in January.

Mauna Kea has an annual precipitation averaging 14.5”. January experiences the most precipitation-2.0″, while June experiences the lowest amount of precipitation-0.5″

Mauna Kea commands the winds because of its size and positioning. These winds have attained hurricane velocity several times, and anyone flying through Hawaii can attest to violent turbulence.

On higher altitudes, snow cover is usually present in the months of December through to February.

 

Climbing Mauna Kea

So you want to tackle the world’s tallest climb?

The high elevation that easily causes Altitude Sickness, the steep gradient and extreme weather should be your greatest challenge and/or concern. This means it is no easy task. Mauna Kea is the only place you can cover 14,000 feet from sea level within a period of 2hours while driving. So Altitude Sickness can be a real threat.

The road that was constructed in 1984 makes the summit accessible to a large number of people. The Mauna Kea Access Road is tarmacked up to the Onizuka Visitor Centre. From here there is a partially paved road all the way nearing the summit just 100feet shy.

Onizuka memorial at Mauna Kea
Onizuka memorial at Mauna Kea photo by Vipahman

The good or bad news is that you can opt to take a hike or just drive to the summit. But where’s the fun in that, huh?

If you have chosen to take the hiking challenge option, here are a few tips for you!

Before the climb:

  • There is no form of transportation on the mountain. Don’t assume that you can always hitch a ride back to the Visitors Information Station (VIS). So be prepared in case you get tired or lost.
  • There is no water provided on the trail. Ensure that you keep yourself hydrated by carrying your own supply of water.
  • Confirm the weather conditions at the Mauna Kea Weather Center before you begin the trek. There are certain periods when the weather is not suitable.
  • Make sure you’re back at the VIS before sunset after you complete your summit. Darkness is real here.
  • Ensure you have appropriate clothing for both weather extremes. It can be extremely hot and you will need your sunhat, sunglasses, and sunscreen unless you want to get seriously scorched. Prepare for rain, wind or fog by having the appropriate mountaineering boots, long-sleeved shirt, a warm fleece, gloves and long pants.
  • Carry a compass to enable you to find the east road in case of severe weather.
  • A dust mask may come in handy in the early morning hours to reduce lung burn that is caused by the dry air.
  • Kindly register at the VIS before you hike. The forms are placed in a box next to the VIS entrance. Fill it out with all the details required and upon return, ensure you check in with the staff at VIS.
  • I would advise you to take a break of at least 45min at the Visitor Center before proceeding to the summit. Actually, it is mandatory. The effects of high altitude are not to be taken lightly. Interestingly, you will not be twiddling your thumbs drowning in boredom. The Centre normally has videos showcasing the geology, history, and culture of the monumental volcano. So you’ll barely notice the time wheezing past!
  • There is no food provided on the mountain, so carry with your belly or backpack.
  • Remember to use the restrooms provided at the Visitor Centre.

On the trail:

  • Make sure you stay on the trail. Don’t go cross-country!
  • Don’t disturb the landscape. Also no littering and no starting fires.
  • Ensure you dispose well of any garbage. Next, to HokukeaTelesscope on top of the mountain, you will be provided with porta-potties.

Can anyone climb Mauna Kea?

Unfortunately, not everyone is allowed or is fit to attempt to summit Mauna Kea.  Pregnant women, children below the age of 16 years, individuals with extreme overweight conditions, people with health problems like high blood pressure, individuals with cardiac or pulmonary conditions are advised not to go past the Visitor Information Station which is situated at 9,200 ft.

 

How long does it take to climb Mauna Kea?

If you choose to hike, the trail is about 10km long, which means it will take you about 6-10 hours for the average round-trip considering its steep gradient.

When is the best time to climb Mauna Kea?

Summer time is the best period to attempt the summit. The weather is generally mild and friendly. Winter can get extremely windy and stormy so avoid the months of January and February.

Any permits, passes or reservations needed?

There are no permits or fees required to access Mauna Kea. The higher altitude zone is owned by the University of Hawaii and they use the approach of not-for-profit. However, a group of more than 10 people will need to acquire a Special Use Permit.

People who intend to film or take photographs for the purposes of TV production or for sale must acquire a permit from the State of Hawaii Film Office.

Military groups are also required to request permission and must adhere to specific rules.

A permit will also be required in the case of conducting a research. These can be obtained from the Office of Mauna Kea Management (OMKM).

Accommodation on Mauna Kea

Camping on Mauna Kea

Camping on the mountain is prohibited. But you can choose to camp at Mauna Kea State Recreation Area. It is located a few miles west of Summit Road, about 7 miles to be precise.

Mountain climbing routes

The hiking trail to Mauna Kea’s summit begins at the Onizuka Visitor Centre at 9,200feet. It is about 10km long with 1400m of altitude difference to cover. The summit trail is named Humu’ula Trail.

From here, you have two options to get to the summit; hiking on foot or using a rental car.

Getting to the summit by car

The Visitor Center is usually open every day of the year from 12pm-10pm and parking is always available.

From the Visitor Centre, you will find a track that is mostly pebble but regularly maintained. It is meant to be only used by 4X4 vehicles. This 4-wheel drive should be a low range to counter brake failure or overheating.

Drive straight ahead for about 10km, and then you will find a small car parking lot and a chemical toilet on the right. This marks the beginning of the trail to the summit which is not accessible by vehicle.

Take roughly 20-30 minutes here to acclimatize before you start the hike. You may feel a bit lightheaded once you get out of the car but take deep and slow breaths, the feeling will disappear in about 15min or so. Put on your sunglasses as the UV rays at this juncture are quite vicious.

Proceed for about 300metres and voilà! The summit! You’re on top of the world literally.

Getting to the summit by foot

From the visitor Centre, after taking about an hour to acclimatize, head towards the Humu’ula Trail. It begins with a gradual incline, you’ll most probably find it easy but you will start feeling the altitude change. The incline gets steeper as you progress and in case you start experiencing any symptoms of altitude sickness, I suggest you turn around and call it a day. Celebrate the accomplishment either way.

If you’re still in good physical condition and committed to the summit, continue straight on. You will encounter a few level sections in which your body will highly appreciate.

The summit trail is quite obvious plus there are sign posts along the road to guide you. It will get rocky as you proceed. At an altitude of about 11,000 feet, you can choose to rest and acclimatize as you are treated to a spectacular view of the second highest mountain in Hawaii-Mauna Loa. It will also be a perfect time to grab a snack, sip some water and capture some amazing shots!

At about 13,000 feet you will come to a small fork, turn left to maintain the summit trail. A few meters after that first fork, you will find another one. Take a right to proceed to the time. If you want to see Lake Wai’au, then make a left turn.

You will hike along the road until you reach the observatory structures. Catch your breath for a few minutes then pace yourself for the final 300meteres to the summit.

 

Emergency/Information Center

  • You will probably be alone all the way. If you get lost or altitude sickness gets the best of you, quickly find your way to the Mauna Kea Access Road and seek assistance.
  • In case of an emergency call 911
  • You can also call the Visitor Information Station: 934-4550
  • For winter conditions call: 935-6268

Flora and Fauna on Mauna Kea

At lower elevations, you will find native vegetation ofMamane trees and patches of grass scattered on bare soil. There are two types of native grasses; alpine hairgrass and Piliuka. and Native fern species include Kalamaoho, Iwa’iwa, and Ma’ohi’ohi too. Mint vines are also common here.

Towards the summit, the Hawaiian Strawberry, numerous species of lichens and mosses tend to dominate.

Considering Mauna Kea experiences alpine and subalpine conditions, very few species of animals can survive. You will find birds, insects, spiders, moths centipedes, bugs, beetles, and bats.

Amakihi split
Amakihi split Photo by Byron Chin

The native bird species include ‘Amakihi, ‘ Elepaio, ‘I’iwi, Palila and ‘Ua’u.

 

Hiking with Kids

Children below 16 years are not allowed to summit Mauna Kea. The farthest they can go is up to the Visitor Centre where they can learn a lot and get to participate in stargazing too.

 

Things to do

  • Skiing

Yes! You can go skiing on Mauna Kea. In the months of January and February, there is adequate snow cover for you to board or ski. However, there are no lifts or ski resorts.

I would recommend Ski Guides Hawaii. They provide equipment, transport to the mountain and after each run, they offer a ride back to the top.

You can reach them on (808) 885-4188

Website: www.skihawaii.com

  • Visit Lake Wai’au

Once at the summit, you cannot dare descend without having a glance at the highest alpine lake in the world. Lake Wai’au is blue-green in color and approximately 1.4km from the parking lot. Don’t disturb the lake or even worse, attempt to drink the water for reasons I had clearly stated above.

Once at the fork just turn left. It is not a long hike but it’s a hilly one for sure!

  • Enjoy the summit sunset

Mauna Kea’s summit is essentially above the clouds because it is so high. You will enjoy unobstructed views of Mauna Loa and Maui’s summit-Haleakala. Because of its closeness to the equator, sunsets don’t last long. Ensure you get information on sunset times prior to the hike to guarantee this breathtaking phenomenon of watching a sunset from the world’s topmost spot!

  • Watch the Stars

The Visitor Centre offers a Star Gazing Program between the staff, enthusiasts and the public. It is also open to everyone and is available from 6pm-10pm every Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday.

Star gazing program
Star gazing program photo by Casey Bisson

Come and enjoy the constellations, nearby galaxies and other celestial bodies. You will be stunned.

Get a feel of the Subaru Telescope

It is one of the largest observatory structures from Japan. The tours are normally guided and available in Japanese and English. I suggest you register early online because it fills up so fast. Although the tour doesn’t include looking through the large optical mirror, the fascinating interior is worth every minute of your time.

What You Need to Know Before Climbing Mt. Hood

Mountain Hood
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Mt. Hood

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Mt. Hood 45.373600, -121.696000

What You Need to Know Before Climbing Mt. Hood

Oregon’s highest summit, Mt. Hood, at 3426m, is one to behold.  It is an ice cone beautifully rising above lush green vegetation. A mountain-lake nearby, by the name Mirror Lake, gives a perfect reflection of Mt. Hood.

Mirror Lake reflecting Mt. Hood
Mirror Lake Photo By Kkmd

It lies on the border between two counties; Hood River and Clackamas about 80km south-east of Portland.

In North America, this glaciated peak is one of the most coveted by climbers and is situated within Mt. Hood National Forest. After Japan’s Mt. Fuji, it is the second most popular spot for climbers. It houses 12 named glaciers and snowfields, which cover about 80% of the mountain. The famous skiing zone being the Palmer Glacier within Timberline Lodge.

Due to past minor eruptions, it is characterized as a potentially active volcano though informally the mountain is considered dormant. Fumaroles near the summit (Devil’s Kitchen and Hot Rocks) contribute to the fear that an eruption is imminent. Although an explosive eruption is unlikely, the U.S. Geological Survey estimates the chances of an eruption between 3-7 % in the next 30 years.

 

Mount Hood Climate

Mt. Hood experiences the Mediterranean type of Climate.

The average temperature is 46.8°F (8.2°C). July is the warmest month with temperatures averaging 63.6°F (17.6°C). While January is the coldest month with temperatures averaging 30.2°F (-1°C).

The highest temperature (35°C) was recorded in July and the lowest temperature (-21.7°C) recorded in January.

The mountain gets 38inches of precipitation yearly. December receives the most precipitation while July has the least amount of rain.

Snow is 57 inches on average.

 

Climbing Mt. Hood

Contrary to popular opinion that Mt. Hood can be tackled by inexperienced hikers, ascending this snow capped peak requires technical skills and experience. This trivialization and carelessness have led to a number of deaths on Mt. Hood. Actually, an unprepared climber has sadly considered a risk to other experienced climbers.

It will take a roughly 4-7hours to summit Mt. Hood if you’re in peak shape but 6-9 hours if you aren’t.

Now that we have ascertained that this mountain is a technical climb, proper mountaineering equipment, and safety skills are mandatory. Due to rapid weather changes, safety greatly depends on the climber’s fast judgment, skill, and preparation.

I will not hesitate to emphasize the need for proper training before tackling Mt. Hood. Physical conditioning is quite essential if you want a successful trek. I suggest going on training hikes or making use of hilly terrain that more or less simulates the high elevation of Mt. Hood. Carry a weight of about 20-30 pounds consisting of the equipment you will need on the mountain, on your back during these training sessions.

Ice-axe used for climbing ice mountain
Ice-axe Photo by Chriscom

You should also be trained in crampon and self-arrest techniques using the ice-axe. Familiarity with other safety techniques like First Aid, crevasse rescue, roped travel, navigation and avalanche condition assessment will be an added advantage.

Make sure you are aware of the risk elements associated with the climb. Get to know the type, how to avoid or mitigate it. Some of the dangers on the mountain include:

 

  1. Rock/Icefall

This happens due to strong winds, sun, and vibrations that loosen the surfaces holding the ice and dust. So the debris comes tumbling down the slopes. Rockfall is likely to occur during Fall and Summer while ice fall is likely to occur during Winter.

  • Mitigation Tip:

Get an early start off between 12 am and 2 am so that you’re back to the base before 9 am when the danger of ice/rock fall is highly likely. Also, once on the upper slopes wearing a helmet would be recommended.

  1. Fumaroles

Fumaroles are openings or vents on the earth’s crust in volcanic areas that emit poisonous gases like sulfur dioxide, hydrogen chloride, and carbon dioxide. These sulfurous gases smell like rotten eggs. They are active all year round. Lingering near these zones might trigger suffocation, nausea and it is potentially fatal.

  • Mitigation Tip:

Avoid getting comfortable around these zones and keep your walk steady.

  1. Avalanches

These are huge masses of snow moving downhill. The velocity of an avalanche increases rapidly in volume and mass as it gains momentum picking up debris and snow on its path.

They normally occur due to a temperature increase that causes melting of ice normally between 9 am and 1 pm a structural instability or a trigger from climbers.

  • Mitigation Tip:

An avalanche condition assessment should be carried out each time a climb is attempted, especially after snowfall in spring.

  1. Crevasses

These are open and deep cracks that occur in glaciers. They vary in size and depth. On the popular South route of Mt. Hood, the Bergschrund crevasse is the primary one. Other crevasses can be present during spring and summer above Palmer.

  • Mitigation Tip:

Navigate carefully around them.

  1. Other Climbers

A potential danger is higher when there’s a massive influx of people attempting to climb the mountain, especially during the summer and spring months.

  • Mitigation Tip:

Be polite and patient. Ensure that there’s adequate space between you and other climbers. Move fast and carefully especially through chutes.

 

Clothing

Improper clothing on Mt. Hood would lead to a numbing frostbite. I suggest the 4-layer approach that entails shell, insulation, mid layer and base layer. All clothing should be synthetic or breathable.

Gloves, socks, hats and boots and balaclavas should be part of your essential itinerary.

 

Equipment

  • Crampons-These will ensure you have a firm grip on the ice while offering stability and traction.

Tip: choose well-fitting and comfortable boots prior to getting crampons.

  • Ice axe-It is quite portable but having the skill to use it for self-arrest is necessary. Practice several times before the climb.
  • Headlamp-You will definitely need a headlamp considering you will be climbing Mt. Hood at night.
  • Shovel-This will ensure that you can quickly dig yourself or someone else out when bad weather pulls the rug under your feet and you/they are stuck in a snow cave.
  • First Aid Kit-You should carry a light-weight kit from which you can dispense aid to yourself or another climber in case of an injury.

Other necessary equipment includes; gaiters, trekking poles, helmets, map or compass, sun protection cream, overnight gear, a mobile device, climbing harness, rope, food, and water.

Permits

You will require a Wilderness Permit from Climbers’ Cave or Timberline Lodge to access Mt. Hood National Forest.

The Climbers’ Registration Form shows the number of people in your team, climbing dates, emergency numbers etc. It is not mandatory but I highly recommend it. It is also acquired from Timberline Lodge.

The Sno-Park Permit is seasonally mandatory. It is required by the Transportation Department of Oregon for car users from November through to April.

 

Best time to climb

Depending on the route chosen, any time of the year can be ideal to climb Mt. Hood.

However, mid-April to mid-July is the best time recommended if using the South Side routes which are the most popular. However, ultimate indicators of the best time to climb should be mountain and weather conditions.

Accommodation on Mt. Hood

Portland is only a few kilometers away from Mt. Hood (about 2 hours) If you’re a speed maniac possibly an hour. It offers several options for accommodation, easy access to the airport and rental cars. Most climbers opt to leave the city in the late evening so as to climb at night.

Hood River near Mt. Hood
Hood river near Mt. Hood By Sam Beebe, Ecotrust

You may choose to stay in Hood River. It’s an awesome place to stay and is closer to the mountain, though smaller without a major airport.

Though expensive, you may prefer to stay in the iconic Timberline Lodge. It is the most convenient and it holds plenty of history for your gulping. Its architecture is equally mind-blowing having been built with giant beams and boulders with rusty finishes and cozy fireplaces.

If not, a cheaper alternative, operated by a climbing organization in Portland would be the Mazama Lodge which is also closer to the mountain.

The Cascade Huts are more of a Do It Yourself (DIY) kind of huts. They are one-room rustic cabins that accommodate up to 8 people each and are well-stocked with stoves, sleeping bags, utensils etc. During summer the huts provide water and food as well.

There are other several inns and resorts that offer affordable accommodation in Government Camp.

If you prefer to camp, there are several options for this. Mt. Hood National Forest and the Timberline Lodge Parking lot would suffice if you have an RV.

You may also camp on the mountainside but be cautious of rock fall and avalanches.

 

Mountain climbing routes

The classic climbing routes are the South Side routes, North Face Right Gully, Cooper’s Spur, Devil’s Kitchen Headwall, Ravine, Sunshine Route, Wy’East, Sandy Glacier Headwall, Reid Glacier Headwall, West Crater Rim Route andLeuthold Couloir.

The recommended and popular routes to the summit of Mt. Hood are the South Side Routes.

The South Side Route begins atTimberline Lodge parking lot. There are three variations of this route once you get to the Palmer ski lift; the Pearly Gates is most popular with climbers, the Old Chute which is normally an alternative when there’s congestion at the Pearly Gates and the West Crater Rim variation is for climbers who want a challenge.

Ascent via the South Side Route

Arrive at Timberline Lodge at around 11 pm, organize and gear up aiming to begin the climb 12 am. Walk along the ski boundary as you head north. You will find a worn path which will be your highway till you reach the Palmer Lift House.

Take your first break at Silcox Warming Hut which is slightly above Timberline. The lift houses act as landmarks and windbreakers not as shelters. They simply provide minimal protection.

If visibility is poor, you can use the lifts and get to the Magic Mile Lift House. If not, continue from Silcox on the main trail to find the Palmer Lift House. Check weather conditions as you take your second break. If the conditions are unfavorable, consider turning back or waiting for improved conditions.

From this lift house, heading north you will arrive at Crater Rock. I suggest using the eastern side of Crater Rock to get to the Hogsback ridge that links it to the rim of the summit. It is fairly reliable and more protected. Put on your crampons at this juncture.

From the Hogsback, you will have two variations to get you to the summit; the Pearly Gates and the Old Chute.

The Pearly Gates

This is the shortest and most direct route to the summit. It is also the steepest with high probabilities of rock/ice fall. To navigate this route safely, proper mountaineering gear is required.

Pearly Gates route
Pearly Gates Route by Tommy Unger

Move swiftly and carefully especially if it is springtime when a large cornice forms on the northern side of the rim.

 

The Old Chute

This may be your best option if the Pearly Gates are in bad condition. It is, however, less steep, though it has similar dangers as the Pearly Gates with a risk of avalanches.

Once at the summit, celebrate your achievement, grab a snack or drink, take some photos and begin heading back.

Descent

It is normally said that the summit of a mountain is just half of the journey. Descent from the summit of Mt. Hood will probably take you half the time you spent ascending, roughly 2-4hours. This does not mean it is an easy feat, though gravity will be your best ally.

I strongly recommend that you descend using the same route you used to the summit because you will now be familiar with the landmarks, obstacles, and conditions. However, Old Chute offers an easier descent.

Emergency Plan

I suggest that you come up with an emergency plan in case of any mishap. You should also alert a friend or a family member who will not be taking part in the climb. Include information on the route you will take, a timetable, check-in time, probably time for a search to be initiated, family member contacts et al.

  • Emergency/ Rescue/Helpline

To report an emergency, dial 911.

You can also contact Portland Mountain Rescue directly on 503-222-PMRU (7678)

 Website: www.pmru.org

Email: info@pmru.org

Other important contacts include;

Mt Hood Information Center-503-668-1700

Oregon State Police-503-731-3030

Mt Hood (ZigZag) Ranger Station-503-622-3191

Washington State Police-360-696-6161

Mt Hood (Hood River) Ranger Station-541-352-6002

 

Fauna on Mount Hood

Mount Hood is home to several animal species. You will find amphibians like bullfrogs, spotted salamanders, and the American toads. On the other hand, reptiles like the milk snake, garter snake, and snapping turtles also exist here. Further, you can spot some of the soil animals like Earthworms, beetles, termites, and many more.

Mount Hood is home to several animal species, amphibians like bullfrogs, spotted salamanders, and the American toads. On the other hand, reptiles, like the milk snake, garter snake, and snapping turtles, also exist here.

 

Chipmunks, foxes, raccoons, skunks, bats, squirrels, fisher cats, and turkeys are some of the mammals present on the mountain.

Over 150 bird species have been recorded as well.

 

Flora on Mount Hood

Vegetation in Mt. Hood include various species such as the Red Maple, the Northern Oak, the American Elm, beech, birch, Sassafras, the hemlock, ferns and the Eastern white pine.

 

Hiking with Kids

Despite the ascent being a technical one, 4 children are said to have successfully climbed to the summit of Mt. Hood. Two 11-year olds, one 9-year old and a 7-year old. So, yes, you can attempt the climb with your kids but extreme caution is to be observed and it is highly advisable to take a guide or two along.

Alternatively, there are many hiking trails that are children-friendly in the forest and lake regions.

Things to do

  • The Mt. Hood Scenic Loop

Take a drive that will have scenic views of Portland, Mt. Hood National Forest and the Hood River all in one loop.

  • Take a Day Hike

There are quite a number of hiking trails around Mt. Hood. The most spectacular and scenic routes are those along lake trails. The Trillium and Mirror Lakes would be well worth your exploration.

  • Visit Timberline Lodge

In 1977, this lodge became a National Historic Landmark. It is home to a wealth of history. Constructed in 1937, it has managed to preserve much of its design and decor despite the fact that it has modern amenities.

  • Camps and Cabins

There are over 100 documented camping areas with vault toilets and picnic tables that are run by the Forest Service. With many options to select from, spend the night with the iconic mountain by camping in one of the many campgrounds.

  • Hood Skibowl

This resort is well known for knight-skiing with half of the routes lit. It will give you a winter playground feel.

Skibowl at Mt. Hood with fireworks
Hood SkiBowl at night: By Mt. Hood Territory

During summer, activities on the mountain become high-adrenalin ventures like zip lining, horse-back riding and mountain biking.

  • The Meadows Ski Resort

This is the place to be for a variety of snowboarding and skiing terrain.

  • The Mt. Hood Railroad

A ride on this train will ensure a breathtaking view of the mountain and the Hood River.

Mount Shasta – Climbing and hiking the majestical, perfect cone

Mountain Shasta view
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Mt. Shasta

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Mt. Shasta 41.408982, -122.194926

How to Summit Mount Shasta

The legendary Mt. Shasta soars to 4322m high. It almost seems unreal as it rises majestically from the flatlands in perfect cone-shape and snow-cap. Even the naturalist Author John Muir, could not hold back upon seeing Mt. Shasta. He penned these heartwarming yet captivating words in 1874, “When I first caught sight of it, I was weary and 50 miles away and afoot. Yet all my blood turned to wine, and I have not been weary since.”

Mt. Shasta is located in Siskiyou County, south end of the Cascade Range in California, United States. Known as the second highest peak in the region of the Cascades, it forms a part of the Shasta-Trinity National Forest.

On a non-cloudy day, you can see the peak from almost 160 KM. It is amongst the top goals on the bucket list of many mountaineering enthusiasts. This natural wonder has attracted many presidents, authors, and poets over the centuries.

It is recognized as the most distinguished and sacred mountain in the world. The humans have a soft spot for mountain landscapes as sacred features, that’s why, many have attached to their spiritual attributes. The Native American Tribes of Northern California are known to have viewed Mt. Shasta as a holy ground. Its also being said that Anyone who attempted a climb unprepared in terms of cleansing rituals has risked harm from the protective spirits of the mountain.

Here’s everything you need to know about Mt. Shasta.

Geology and Eruption

Mt. Shasta is a potentially active volcano with four overlapping cones including Shastina, the most prominent one and the main summit itself. Furthermore, It is also home to the 7 popular glaciers, including Wintun, Whitney, Bolam,  Hotlum, Mud Creek, Watkins, and Konwakiton.


Is Mt. Shasta likely to erupt?

Pacific Ring of fire
Ring of Fire, Illustration By Gringer 

 

Mt. Shasta is part of the notorious chain of volcanoes (Ring of Fire) in the Pacific Basin, where many eruptions and earthquakes take place. The U.S. Geological Survey has rated it as one of the highest threatening volcanoes. It has continuously erupted for over last 10,000 years in intervals of 600-800 years. The last one happened about two centuries ago, in 1786.

The presence of fumaroles indicates the fact that it is alive and brewing. Geologists are quick to agree that it is not a question of “if” but “when” it will erupt.

Mount Shasta Climate

Mt. Shasta experiences an average of 122 sunny days, with a warm-summer Mediterranean type of climate. The average annual temperatures on Mt. Shasta is 49.2°F, with an annual high of 62.2°F and an annual low of 36.2°F. The highest temperature of 41 °C was recorded in 1981, whereas, the lowest temperature of −25 °C was recorded in 1980. The month of July is the warmest month while January is the coldest one.


Let’s take a look at what it takes to climb Mt. Shasta.

Climbing Mt. Shasta

Is it possible to climb Mt. Shasta?

Climbing Mt. Shasta is one of the great ways to communicate with the nature. Most of the routes are easy, especially the Avalanche Gulch. So anyone with an insatiable desire to reach the summit and has a good physical condition can surely attempt the climb. However, proper physical training, backpacking, and hiking experience is highly recommended.

How long does it take to climb the Mt. Shasta?

It actually depends on various factors like the goal or purpose of the climb (is it to enjoy the scenic views, to get to the peak in the shortest time possible, to have a feel of the terrain and explore it, etc.), your physical condition and the route you choose. On an average, it can take up to 8-10 hours to ascend, and 4-5hours for the descent. You can choose to summit in one day, but it is recommended to divide the trek in 2 days so that you can acclimatize and increase your trek progress.

What’s the weather like?

Considering Mt. Shasta stands tall and in isolation, it has a tendency to amplify its existing weather. This is why the visibility can plummet to zero at higher altitudes within a few hours. A drastic drop in temperature and strong winds can be noticed as you ascend. During summers, lightning storms are quite common as well. Therefore, traveling cautiously, carrying extra clothing regardless of a normal weather, carrying a survival kit, food, and shelter can prove to be extremely helpful.

What equipment should climber carry?

I suggest that you call ahead to get information on current weather and mountain conditions. This will determine the type of equipment you can use. Other factors include the route that you will choose and the time of year at which you will trek. You will be needing crampons, an ice axe, and a helmet for the Avalanche Gulch route as well as for other routes.

Other essentials include comfortable hiking boots, maps, flashlight/headlamp, pocket knife, stove, matches, a locator beacon, a fully charged phone with extra power bank, sunglasses, hat, and sunscreen lotion.

Are permits, passes or reservations needed?

Yes. Most of the area located above and below the tree line is within the Mt. Shasta Wilderness. You will need to acquire a Wilderness Permit, which is free of charge. You can get the permit from Mt. Shasta Station or McCloud Ranger Station. These permits come in handy during search and rescue missions, as they contain most of the climber’s information.

If you intend to climb over 10,000 feet, you will have to obtain a Summit Pass at $25 per person. The validity of a Summit Pass is 3 days. They can be acquired from the aforementioned stations or from vendors.

Also,there are restrictions placed on human activities that tamper with the Wilderness’ ecosystem so as to preserve its integrity. Some of these regulations include a maximum number of 10 people per team and 7 days as the duration of stay in a 30 day period. Dogs and campfires are prohibited. You will be required to pack out your solid human waste.

Disposal of human waste along the routes of Mt. Shasta Wilderness poses a serious threat to its environment, aesthetic, and is also a health hazard to the rangers and other climbers. In an effort to minimize these problems, a Human Waste Disposal System was developed. So you will be required to pack out your food, garbage, and waste. These bags are available at McCloud Ranger and Mt. Shasta District Offices free of charge.

When is the best time to climb Mt. Sashta?

Many climbers opt to summit from May to September, depending on the chosen route and the different favorable conditions along the aforesaid routes.

For Avalanche Gulch route, which is the most popular and non-technical route, the best time to climb is usually between mid-May and mid-July. During the month of July, there is a good snowpack coverage, whereas, the weather is more ideal towards the end of May.

As the summer progresses, however, the rockfall becomes a major hazard in the south side of the mountain along Avalanche Gulch route.

How Accommodation works on Mt. Shasta?

Camping is allowed throughout the Mt. Shasta region. For many of the south side routes, an awesome camping option – The Sierra Club Foundation at Horse Camp has facilities like fresh water, composting toilets, Leave No Trace information, campsites, and an emergency shelter. It costs you $3 per bivy and $5 for per tent. These fees are donated to the organization for the maintenance. You can also camp at the Bunny Flat trailhead.

Helen Lake is also another common camping area, and in case you decide to stay there, ensure that you carry extra water for cooking and drinking and extra fuel. The upside of camping at Helen Lake is that you will be rejuvenated to tackle the steepest part after a night’s rest. The downside is that the ground is rocky, the temperature is cold, and the winds are strong; which may rob you of your beauty sleep.

There are two campgrounds that are maintained by the Forest Service on Mt. Shasta; McBride Springs and Panther Meadows, both located off Everitt Memorial Highway.

Fowlers Camp is located along The McCloud River and it offers a good spot and easy access to the east side trailheads.

Also you can explore other good campgrounds like Castle Lake and Gumboot Lake are situated on the west side of Mt. Shasta and only a few minutes from the town.

There are comfortable and well-furnished hotels near Mt.Sashta as well. In case you’re on a budget or you just don’t want to go back home grumbling that you spent all your money on accommodation, here are 5 affordable hotels for the stay, starting from $55 only.

  1. Strawberry Valley Inn
  2. Travelodge by Wyndham Dunsmuir
  3. Best Western Plus Tree House
  4. Shasta View Lodge
  5. Shasta Starr Ranch Bed & Breakfast

Mountain climbing routes

Mt. Shasta provides numerous routes to the summit. The south side routes hold Avalanche Gulch, Casaval Ridge, Cascade Gulch, Green Butte Ridge, Sargents Ridge, and West Face. On the other hand, the north side routes are Bolam Glacier, Bolam/Whitney Ridge, Hotlum Glacier, and Whitney Glacier. Moving to the east side, the routes include Clear Creek, Hotlum/Wintun Snowfield, Wintun Glacier, and Wintun Ridge. Here are a few often-used routes.

Avalanche Gulch

This route is the most direct and popular one to the summit. Nicknamed the John Muir route, it is at its best in the months of May to July, when there is plenty of snow. The route is favorable for all levels of climbers. You can camp at Horse Camp and its access is through the Bunny Flat trailhead.

The West Face

Talking about the alternative to the Avalanche Gulch, the West Face route is the second-best one with a more or less similar technical level. It is a scenic route and you can camp at Hidden Valley, a beautiful base camp. It is best attempted in May-July during snow year. This route can also be used for skiing and snowboarding during the descent. Are you up for it?

Casaval Ridge

Casaval Ridge on Mt. Shasta
Casaval Ridge on Mount Shasta seen from near Helen Lake

This route is for those mountaineers, who love challenges. It is quite steep yet undeniably beautiful! It is best climbed during the winter and spring season.

Emergency Plan

An Emergency Plan is essential before you attempt the summit. Include the information about the route you will use, contact information in case of an emergency, a timetable, etc. This information is normally covered in the Wilderness Permit and enhances the search and rescue operations.

Information about the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, website: www.fs.usda.gov/stnf

To find out climbing conditions, call (530) 926-9613

For 24 hour information about climbing and avalanche conditions on Mt. Shasta, check out the Mt. Shasta Avalanche Center website- www.shastaavalanche.org or call (530) 926-9613.

Also some other important contacts include:

Mt. Shasta Ranger Station (Avalanche Report): (530) 926-9613

Mt. Shasta Ranger Station (Forest Service): (530) 926-4511

McCloud Ranger Station: (530) 964-2184


Flora and Fauna on the Mount Shasta

The Mt. Shasta has a mixture of conifer forest trees such as sugar pine, cedars, western white pine, douglas fir, and white fir. Underbrush includes chinquapin, snowbrush, greanleaf Manzanita, and tanoak.

Miner’s lettuce, mountain violet, Shasta lily, and showy phlox are some of the common wildflowers found in the zone.

Juniper and mountain mahogany can be found on the northeast flank.

Wildlife on Mt Shistaincludes the coyote, deer, mountain eagles, black bear, prairie falcons, red-tail hawks, and the ground squirrel.

Hiking with Kids

Kip Van Horn was 9 years old when he successfully summited Mt. Shasta. Children under the age of 18 years can attempt the climb under proper guidance. However, there are many other adventurous options for hiking with kids. There are several hiking trails, for instance, you can go tubing, visit the Sisson Museum, and many others.


Things to Enjoy

McCloud River and Falls

During summer, adults and kids are seen to enjoy jumping from the falls into the beautiful pools of the McCloud River. The Upper Falls have well-manicured walking trails, fishing spots, clear blue-sky ponds, and amazing picnic areas.

Lake Siskiyou

Lake Siskiyou
Lake Siskiyou Photo By KyleAndMelissa22

This lake offers water rafts, water toys, kayak rentals, and paddle boats. It also has a beautiful beach that is used as a playground.

Shastice Park

Shastice Park, located a few kilometers up the EverittMemorial Highway is just the right place to be. The skating season starts in November and ends in February. Non-holiday tickets go for only $10! It also has a jungle gym, a tennis court, and offers a fabulous view of the prestigious mountain.

Lava Tubes

Pluto Cave is almost a mile in depth, which is why it is called the lava tube. Furthermore, you can enjoy the mystery of this cave and be ready to be amazed by these volcanic formations.

The Sisson Museum

This museum is home to Mt. Shasta’s history. Kids can engage in various experimental activities, as you delve into getting familiar with the mountain and its origin. While at it, you can go on the fish hatchery tour. This museum is a popular spot for school field trips as well.

Dunsmuir

These botanical gardens are perfectly placed on the edge of River Sacramento. You can take a tour of the gardens and have a picnic. Also you should take the time off to walk along the river and enjoy some quiet meditation as you breathe in nature at its best. The gardens also offer a hall that can be hired for family reunions or special events.

Medicine Lake

This is a caldera lake which sits in an ancient volcano, located a few miles East of Mt. Sashta City. It offers great opportunities for sightseeing and recreation. Covering an area of about 600 acres, Medicine Lake is well-known for its crystal clear waters.

Golfing

Yes, you read it right. The Lake Shastina Golf Resort takes care of all your golfing needs. This resort offers a stunning view of the mountain. In addition, other golf courses include the Weed Golf Course and the McCloud Golf Course.

I’m sure you’re all excited and eager to take on the adventure Mt. Shasta has to offer!