Shasta County Highpoint Trip Report

Mount Lassen

Date: March 12, 2005
Author: Matt Worster

winter ascent

Research on this ascent was tricky. Ski mountaineering web sites claim the round trip is 13 miles from the ski chalet at the south entrance of the park. Several members of the National Park Service were adamant that the round trip is 20 miles. The estimate of 13 miles is probably correct, provided you take the obvious cut-offs and a direct ascent to the peak. The 20 mile figure is probably from adding the summer driving mileage on the road to the switchback summer trail mileage.

We slept at the parking lot Friday night and got a late start (7:30) on Saturday morning. Three of us had snowshoes (2 w/ MSR Ascents, 1 with an Atlas model - highly recommend the Ascents), one had tele-skis, one had a split-board. The main cut-off begins roughly one mile from the ski chalet, at Sulfur Works.

Ascend the east side of the drainage to rejoin the road, bypassing the loop that swings south of Diamond Peak. You can't miss Sulfur Works with the obvious smell, water bubbling from the earth, and sudden disappearance of 12 feet of snow. Hard sleddin' as they say in Maine.

After rejoining the road, follow it to Lake Helen and onward to the summer trailhead. If you're breaking the trip into two days, most people camp in the Lake Helen basin. From the summer trailhead, take your favorite line to the prominent south ridge. Once at the ridge, you'll probably find the north side has more snow but watch for cornices and fractures in the snow (we saw a few). I followed the ridge up to the false peak (obviously false, due to prominent weather equipment on the true peak) and then took the short, level traverse to the summit rocks. The others traversed under the false peak, which requires side-hilling. We ditched our snow gear and made our way through the powder and the rocks to the top. Gorgeous views of Mount Shasta, among others.

We snowshoers retraced our steps, sliding down the wet snow wherever possible. The folks with boards on their feet started down the southwest bowl before traversing into the south bowl and into the Lake Helen basin. The going is level enough after the lake that we kept up with them for several miles on the way down.

We were all off by 6:15 pm. All told, about 11 hours including several food breaks for a party of good strength.