Mt.. Shasta : Hotlum-Wintun Ice Chute

2-3 Sep 2006 - by Rob Yang

I met Calvin Kilcrease through the California Mountaineering Club's email list and we'd been climbing rock and ice from time to time since this past winter in Lee Vining Canyon. This particular weekend we had discussed heading up a Sierra couloir, but nothing sounded all that formed as yet - I'd read several recent reports about North Peak, Feather Peak, Mt. Mendel, the Palisades, etc.

However, I'd just gotten back from a trip to the North Cascades (and Squamish along the way :) and noted lots of ice up there. And I knew of several ice gulleys to climb on Mt. Shasta.

We brought 6 ice screws (19 and 22cm), 2 Ti bail / belay screws, a 60m x 8.1mm rope (in the North Cascades I'd been climbing on a single strand of double rope on easier stuff), and enough trad draws/cordelettes/etc to pitch out if necessary. We put glacier gear (pickets, pulleys, etc) in the truck, but decided to leave it there :)

Saturday we drove up to the Brewer Creek trailhead, sorted our gear, and started hiking up the approach to the Hotlum-Wintun route. We stopped and camped at some rock-walled bivy sites at 10000', and found running water at the base of a snowfield a bit lower to the climber's right.

Our initial idea was to slog up the Hotlum-Wintun snowfield (aka the Hot-Tun) to about 13000' and traverse to the climber's right across a rock ridge into the ice gully to the left of the Hotlum Headwall. I'd climbed this gully in a guided alpine ice climbing seminar two years before. We'd started from a high camp around 12000' on a moraine, climbed up the Hotlum glacier, crossed the bergschrund, and climbed six pitches of ice (50m rope). But I didn't want to deal with the glacier crossing this time.

Sunday morning we got an alpine start at 4:15am and headed up the Hot-Tun. As it got light around 6-ish we could see blue ice in the chute just above us (the regular Hotlum-Wintun route veers left across a moraine at around 12000' or so and ascends snow above the Wintun glacier). The chute looked good, and instead of spending time picking our way through the rock ridge (for which I had fairly limited beta) we decided to just head straight up.

We started simulclimbing around 7am at about 13000' and Calvin led off, for about two rope lengths. I led for about the same. Finally Calvin led the remainder. The ice was highly featured, and aerated near the surface - I cleaned a lot off when setting screws. I would guess the chute was about 40-45 degrees at its steepest, and a good bit of the chute was perhaps 35-40 degrees, so definitely nothing serious. It made for fun climbing though.

The chute ended on scree around 13700' or so. The final 500' to the summit was just your basic scrambling on loose volcanic junk. We were surprised to find ourselves the sole party on the summit around noonish, but were soon joined by a few others. It was pleasant and cordial. I browsed through the register and noted that a few people had come up that morning as well.

We descended the scree and joined up with the Hotlum-Wintun route, which was all snow. The upper part (above the moraine crossing) was heavily suncupped and a bit hard still. Ugly. After crossing the moraine onto the Hot-Tun I happily fell into a rhythm and managed to mostly boot-ski back to camp with only a few butt glissades :)

After packing up we headed back down the dusty climber's trail and hoofed it back to Calvin's truck.

Pictures can be found on my website here :

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