Lassen Volcanic National Park – Lassen Peak Summit and Ski Descent

“Don’t dance on a volcano.”


Some rolling clouds for our morning approach. Lassen Peak, California.

May, 2016

Last May, themountainwife, (AKA Lindsay) and I headed up to Lassen Volcanic National Park for a climb to the summit and a ski descent. We had a great time and enjoyed some amazing views on the way up.

We ran into some of our North Tahoe ski touring group having just summited and back to the parking lot as we pulled in with the camper the night before our climb. They were pumped, basking in the glow of a successful summit-ski and their energy was infectious.

Lindsay on the warm spring morning ski tour approaching Lassen Peak, California.
Slow and steady corn skinning. You can barely see the parking lot in the distance on the right. Lassen Peak, California.

We were hoping for a day as sunny, predictable and successful as our friends had experienced the day before. We awoke and hit the trail just before dawn from the Devastated Area parking lot on the northeast aspect of Lassen Peak.

Making good time on our way up towards Lassen Peak, California.
Our route took us from the Devastated Area parking lot, up through the Devastated Area, past the Crescent Crater and on to the summit of Lassen Peak.

Lassen Volcanic National Park is a US National Park with active volcanism due to the  subduction of the Gorda Plate, off the coast of California, diving beneath the Northern California coast. The most prominent feature of the National Park is Lassen Peak, elevation 10,457 feet, and the southern-most volcano of the Cascade Range, stretching north into Oregon and Washington. Lassen Peak happens to be the largest ‘plug dome’ volcano in the world. A plug dome volcano is one that grows with more slow viscous, thick lava flow that can plug easily. Volcanic peaks tend to have generally lower angle slopes as approaching the mountain; then rapidly steepening slopes approaching the summit. This peak is similar with a very straightforward approach and route-finding from this NE aspect.

Here is a map depicting the Cascade Range Mountains. See Lassen Peak south of Shasta.
See the skiers stretching out below. Almost crampons time. Lassen Peak, California.

While themountainwife has logged many split board and ski ascents and descents in the backcountry; she has had relatively little experience wearing crampons and using an ice axe while ski mountaineering. We transitioned early and took our time moving deliberately up the steepening slope.

themountainwife putting on some mountain shoes. Lassen Peak, California.
Into the clouds. Lassen Peak, California.

Mixed sunshine and clouds were blowing towards us coming up over the summit. The sun would soften the snow, then clouds would drop the temperature and start to firm everything up again making for quite variable conditions.

Moving on up. Lassen Peak, California.
Lindsay. Lassen Peak, California.
Linds had some time to acclimate to the axe and crampons before the steeper, final pitch to the summit. Lassen Peak, California.

Towards the top of the boot pack to the summit, the pitch steepens and I was proud Lindsay continued to forge on ahead. She made great time but continued to move slowly and deliberately; I could hear in her breathing she was focused on each step!

themountainwife. Lassen Peak, California.
Beautiful day climbing a volcano. Lindsay headed up Lassen Peak, California.

As we reached the summit the winds picked up a bit and some cloud cover settled in. We found some shelter just below the summit and waited for some sun-softened corn snow to shape up.

Lounging. Just below the summit, on the rim of the volcano, on Lassen Peak, California.
themountainwife. Relaxing for a moment between the stress of steep climbing and steep skiing! Lassen Peak, California.
Dropping in! Volcano skiing. Lassen Peak, California.

After nearly an hour on the summit we decided to drop in. A few steep tentative turns, then getting used to some variable corn conditions, we moved skiers right of the summit towards the more northernly, cooler snow. Everything skied great from top to bottom.

Unknown climber in the sun. Lassen Peak, California.
Low-angle corn for days. Lassen Peak, California.

As we quickly moved down the mountain we encountered a long stretch of snow that was perfect to set an edge and cruise for days! Smooth soft corn snow. Beautiful for May-skiing in California!

Before long we were back towards the bottom and feeling accomplished. Lassen Peak, California.
No magma and we made it down!
Volcano skier!
Cloudy ski tracks on the peak.

It always looks so easy to find your way through a narrow strip of trees back to the parking lot when you’re looking down on the whole landscape from high on the mountain. You’re perspective is always a little different just a few minutes later when you find yourself wandering through those trees; almost there, almost done.

Just follow the snow…. Lassen Peak, California.
Lassen Peak, California. May, 2016.

Basking in the parking lot sunshine and looking back up at the peak. Today was a good day!

Map of the Devastated Area, Northeast approach to Lassen Peak, California.



Lassen Volcanic National Park – National Park Service Website

Lassen Volcanic National Park – list of recommended activities with two (summer) days in the park

Hill Map – The BEST free online mapping tool

Skiing the Cascade Volcanoes – an older ski moutaineering guide website by Amar Andalkar





Add yours →

  1. Saweet TR… can’t wait for it to start snowing here in the northeast!


  2. Amazing skiing! Walked up Lassen Peak in summer many years ago so really enjoyed reading a ski mountaineering ascent/descent


  3. Thanks for documenting such a fun mission! And for pushing me to the summit!


  4. Saaweeeet! Let’s plan something together soon! Love the pics as blog! Bad ass couple!


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