The Shasta-Trinity National Forest has extended its closure of all areas of Mount Shasta above 10,000 feet due to the Coronavirus pandemic. The mountain will remain closed until May 15, at which the forest service will reevaluate the status of the mountain.
The closure was announced as officials feared crowds would converge on the mountain looking to reach the summit. Due to California’s shelter-in-place mandate, the search and rescue teams responsible for the Mt. Shasta area will not be at full capacity to perform missions in the near future. There are currently no Forest Service information and assistance programs in the area, creating a dangerous situation for anyone looking for recreation on the mountain.
Springtime is the most popular time to climb Mt. Shasta and during a typical year will attract up to 7,000 climbers. This creates a congestion issue at the Bunny Flat trailhead where hundreds of climbers park and embark from this one small area. Another concern is high-density camping at the small base camp known as Helen Lake, where climbers typically spend the night before attempting the summit.
“Additionally, climbers travel through and stop in communities adjacent to the forest before their trek which could potentially contribute to exposure risks to local residents,” said Shasta-McCloud Management Unit District Ranger Carolyn Napper. “Closing any area for any reason is not one we take lightly, but protecting our visitors and employees remains our highest priority.”
Climbing involves inherent risks, especially on the exposed upper slopes and ridges of the mountain and each year, a number of climbers end up injured, lost or sick. Law enforcement and/or search and rescue operations may be limited at this time. Due to these public health and safety concerns, a Forest Order prohibiting entry or use of the upper mountain is deemed necessary.
High risk activities such as rock climbing or backcountry activities that increase your chance of injury or distress should be avoided in all areas of the forest at this time.