• Activities:

    Skiing, Snowshoeing, Backpacking, Hiking

  • Skill Level:

    Intermediate

  • Season:

    Spring, Summer, Autumn

  • Trail Type:

    Out-and-Back

  • RT Distance:

    10 Miles

  • Elevation Gain:

    7200 Feet

Easy Parking
Forest
Scenic

A great intermediate route with long ski descent slopes and straightforward route finding -- without the crowds of Avalanche Gulch.

The Hotlum-Bolam route follows the ridge between the Hotlum and Bolam Glaciers on Shasta's north side. It's an intermediate route that isn't much more technical than the south side routes, except for icy sections and possible late-season open crevasses. For this reason it's a popular alternative to Avalanche Gulch for climbers with a bit more experience handling steep snow and ice looking to escape the crowds. 

We climbed it Memorial Day in 2016 and the route was icy on most of the exposed slopes above 11,500 feet or so.  

The route will take you mostly across steep snowfields, over rocks, and up between The Rabbit Ears and The Sharktooth. When you climb past The Rabbit Ears, there is a traverse above a gully that a few of our party chose to rope up for. 

We gave ourselves 3 days to do the climb, including the 6 hour drive from Portland, which is a more leisurely pace than the two days most people take. On the day we arrived, we hiked in and camped just below treeline near the trail, arriving just before dusk. The next day we hiked up to about 9,500 feet and set up camp, arriving early afternoon. There's a nice open slope here leading up to the Hotlum-Bolam Ridge that we did laps on with our skis for the rest of the afternoon. We got started toward the summit at about 2 a.m. and got back to our camp around 2 p.m. We packed up and headed back down to the trailhead, where we slept that night and left for home the next morning. 

Most people set up camp in the rocks where we did at 9,500, but you can also head up higher at about 10,700 feet where there's a rock wall -- this is called Marines Camp. 

The route starts from the Northgate Trailhead. From Weed, head northeast on 97 to Military Pass Road, which you'll follow for about 3.5 miles until you reach Andesite Logging Road. Go right on Andesite and follow it to the trailhead. 

The road in is rough. You'll be happier in a high clearance SUV or truck, but with slow going, a car will be able to handle it. If you're going early in the season, check with USFS to make sure it's open. 

From the trailhead, head up the trail through the forest as it heads up to the open area south of the North Gate Plug. Shasta will be in front of you and the North Gate plug will be on your right. From this open area (at about 8,500 feet), you'll keep ascending the obvious line toward the ridge until you get to various rock groupings at 9,500 feet. Here's where we set up our camp. 

to summit from here, you climb diagonally to the east to the snow ramp to the right of the Hotlum Glacier. At the top of the ramp, you'll traverse east below a small rock wall and up a steeper ramp above the Hotlam glacier. Make sure to take note of any crevasses on the glacier as you climb past it.  

Continue climbing up the ramp, slightly to climbers right, above the lower rocks on the ridge. After this section, you'll reach your first chute, called the Step, which was covered in icy patches when we climbed it. Once at the top, you'll be at about 13,000 feet -- just about 1,100 below the summit! 

From here, head directly up a second snowfield toward where the ridge becomes rockier. You'll climb up right of The Rabbit Ears, traverse right above the Bolam Glacier and climb up a short snowfield to the summit! 

Descend the route you ascended -- be mindful to avoid any hazards you encountered on the way up. If you're glissading, skiing or boarding below The Step, keep to your left near the bottom to avoid the crevasse on the glacier that often forms. 

As always, check with the forest service and avalanche center for current conditions before heading out.  

Pack List

  • Crampons 
  • Mountaineering boots 
  • Snowshoes (optional)
  • AT ski set up (optional)
  • Beacon
  • Shovel
  • Probe
  • Goggles or glacier glasses
  • Essentials
  • Wag bag -- you need to pack out all your trash!
  • Helmet 
  • Ice axe
  • Gloves (Gortex with a removable liner are best)
  • Gators
  • Hat 
  • Camera
  • Climbing gear: pickets, rope, belay device, carabiners
  • Harness
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Sarah Horn Storyteller

Out there getting wind blown, shaking out the fear and tripping around trails.

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