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Spring Adventure Report: Cascade Volcano Tour - Part Two

Trip Reports / Seth Lightcap

Can you hear that siren? That’s the HIGH PRESSURE alarm! Sun’s out, splitboards out, it’s time to crush lines in the backcountry!

If you’re within striking distance of California, Oregon or Washington State, the window is wide open to climb and ride huge lines on the many Cascade Volcanos. The Cascade Volcanic Arc is a group of 20 some volcanic peaks all of which hold amazing shred descents including several behemoth lines weighing in at over 7000+ ft long.

Earlier this week we brought you recent trip reports from Mount Rainier and Mount Baker in Part One of the Cascade Volcano Tour Report. For Part Two of the report, here’s recent stoke from Mount St. Helens and Mount Shasta. These two bad ass volcanoes in Washington and California are in stellar condition right about now.

Mount St. Helens

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Elevation - 8,365 ft (2,550 m)
Location - Southwestern Washington State, near Portland, OR.

Report + Photos - Seth Lightcap

Mount St. Helens is one of the most well-known volcanoes in the world and for good reason. In May of 1980, a multi-week series of earthquakes caused the volcano to catastrophically erupt. During the eruption, the north side of the mountain caved in and poured down the lower slopes. The landslide killed 57 people, destroyed 200 homes and decapitated the mountain. The once 9,677 ft (2,950 m) peak was reduced to 8,365 ft (2,550 m), and the formerly conical summit was replaced with a one-mile wide horseshoe-shaped crater.

The south side of Mt. St. Helens (shown above) is now the primo shred terrain on the mountain. Though it’s 1300 ft shorter than it was in the 70’s, this 4000 ft face is still plenty long and offers a wide swath of lines including the wave-like ripples in the middle of the face that are known as the ’Worm Flows’.

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My wife Allison and I charged a lap on Helens last week. We parked at the Marble Mountain trailhead and hiked about 3 miles of dry trail to snowline at the base of the mountain. Once on snow, it took us another couple hours to skin up to the crater rim. The slope never gets steeper than 35 degrees, but it’s severally foreshortened so it takes longer to climb then it looks like it should.

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Peering into the crater for the first time was mind-bending. Hard to imagine a mountain popping like a pimple and melting into the flatland below. In the center of the crater a lava dome is growing. As the lava seeps to the surface the dome gets several feet taller each year. Puffs of smoke and steam pour out of vents on top of the dome. Alongside the lava dome, there are also two growing glaciers in the crater that were formed after the eruption.

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The lines dropping into the crater look incredible. Unfortunately, they are illegal to shred. The crater and north side of the mountain are closed to public access year-round. Mount Adams lurks in the background of this shot.

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Dropping in, the Worm Flows route starts off with freeway-wide panels before pouring into the namesake lava-formed gullies. These lava gullies are a slashfest holding dozens of wave features. For both the crazy views and the surfy terrain, I’d highly recommend a trip up Mount St. Helens. It’s most definitely a unique peak.

To climb Mount St.Helens you need a permit. Find out more info about permits here.

Mount Shasta

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Elevation - 14,162 ft (4317 m)
Location - Northern California, near Oregon border

Report + Photos - Seth Lightcap

Turn for turn, line for line, Northern California’s Mount Shasta is the heavyweight champ of the Cascade Volcanoes when it comes to clean, continuous shred descents. Every aspect of this monster volcano offers multiple 7000+ ft lines. There are several glaciers on Mount Shasta, but most common routes don’t go near any seracs or crevasses. The lack of glacial hazards combined with the gargantuan size of the mountain’s snowy flanks, make Shasta the friendliest, most rewarding 14’er you’ll ever ride straight off the summit of.

The above image of Shasta’s south west face is from May 2012, NOT this year. The snowpack is definitely thinner this season but all the upper mountain lines you see here still go. Ride these lines now though, they might not go in a month.

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On May 15th, my wife Allison, a couple friends and I climbed the Hotlum-Wintun route on the east side of Mt. Shasta. The above shot shows the coverage on the route that day. The Hotlum Glacier is on the far right, the Wintun Glacier is on the left and the pizza-shaped snowfield in the center is the non-glaciated Hotlum-Wintun snowfield. The HW route climbs the middle snowfield before crossing onto the Upper Wintun headwall to gain the summit. The road is now open all the way to the Brewer Creek trailhead allowing easy access to this side of the mountain.

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Here’s Allison blasting turns through a zipper crust mid-way down the Wintun glacier. This stretch of the glacier has no crevasses. The glacier breaks up and the cracks pop open below and to the right side of the shred line.

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Boom. This is what a Shasta descent is all about. Arc a thousand feet of super-g turns then blow-up a slash to spice things up. As long as the sun shines, you’ll find the snow on just about any aspect of the mountain to be plenty soft and fully rippable. Photo - Allison Lightcap

To climb Mount Shasta you need to purchase a permit. Permits are available at all trailheads and local ranger stations. More info here.

Mount Hood

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Elevation - 11239 ft (3426 m)
Location - Northern Oregon, near Portland

Photo - Seth Lightcap

No Cascade volcano report would be complete without mentioning the tallest peak in Oregon - Mount Hood. As you can see from this shot taken on May 13th, there will be fun backcountry (and lift-served) shredding to be found on Mount Hood well into the summer.

For more info on climbing and riding Mount Hood or any of the Cascade Volcanoes. Study up here.

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Seth Lightcap
Trip Reports
Published on
22 May 2014

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