Cascade Volcanoes Ranked by Difficulty

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jackvanlancker
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Cascade Volcanoes Ranked by Difficulty

Post by jackvanlancker » Thu Apr 01, 2021 8:35 pm

I was wondering if anyone had a rough list of the Cascade Volcanoes ranked by difficulty of standard/easiest routes. Can’t find any beta online as easy as Colorado 14ers. I just did Shasta via Avalanche Gulch in mid March and was wondering how it would compare to other Cascade routes. Thoughts?
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Scott P
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Re: Cascade Volcanoes Ranked by Difficulty

Post by Scott P » Thu Apr 01, 2021 8:54 pm

Shasta is one of the easier ones. Since there are a lot of tiny volcanoes in the Cascades, maybe it's best to group them by elevation.

Of the ones above 10K, Lassen is the easiest. Next easiest are South Sister then Middle Sister. After that are Shasta and Adams. Jefferson is the hardest. North Sister is the second hardest.

I thought Rainer and Baker are pretty similar in difficulty. They are a little easier than Jefferson, but harder than Adams and Shasta and they require most skills.

Glacier and Hood are perhaps a little easier than Rainier or Baker, but harder than Shasta and Adams.

In order easiest to hardest, this would be my guess/synopsis:

Lassen
South Sister
Middle Sister
Shasta
Adams
Glacier
Hood
Baker
Rainier
North Sister
Jefferson

Hardest and easiest can have lots of variability though. For example Glacier isn't very technical, but it's the longest of the climbs. Rainier or Baker can be "easy" on a sunny day, but can have the worst weather. Hood can be crowded and exposed to objective hazards or even people knocking rocks down.

Hikes:

Lassen
South Sister
Middle Sister

Basic ice axe skills needed:

Shasta
Adams

Intermediate ice axe/mountaineering skills needed (and crevasse skills especially for Rainier and Baker):

Glacier
Hood
Baker
Rainer

At least some steep technical climbing required (both have rotten rock:

North Sister
Jefferson

Below 10,000 feet there are walk ups (McLaughlin or St Helens; steep scrambles (such as Thielson); or easy, but exposed and rotten technical/semi-technical peaks (Washington or Three Fingered Jack). There are a lot more that could be listed though.
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Matt Lemke
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Re: Cascade Volcanoes Ranked by Difficulty

Post by Matt Lemke » Fri Apr 02, 2021 6:50 am

Scotts analysis is pretty good. For the 5 WA volcanoes I would order them as follows from easiest to hardest. This takes into consideration the entire mountain experience, including weather, objective risk, length, technical difficulty and elevation...to name just a few.

1. St Helens
2. Adams
3. Glacier Peak
4. Baker
5. Rainier

I havent done too many of the Oregon volcanoes but I can say that 3 Fingered Jack had a 5.4 summit block that was not protectable. It was easily solod since it was only about 15 feet tall although a fall would have caused injury.

Happy volcano hunting :)
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Re: Cascade Volcanoes Ranked by Difficulty

Post by nyker » Fri Apr 02, 2021 7:12 am

I'll add conditions make a huge difference with objective hazards, etc.

Many of those peaks have loose terrain under the snow. A climb up on icy/very hard snow or shoulder conditions where ice is melting and rockfall increases also increases those risks/hazards quite a bit on some of those peaks.
Shasta is a good example where in "good" snow up the standard route, its really just a steep slog up snow. In hard ice, the consequences of a slip are much greater and increase higher up. Also a lot of rockfall on Shasta in shoulder seasons.

While on Rainier (on the standard DC/ID combo route) I never felt that sketched out, but on Hood there are some very steep sections on ice where I indeed paused while going up. I found the conditions higher up on Hood more susceptible to smaller changes in temperature/sunlight than Rainier or other peaks and a a move of 5 degrees or 1-2 hours of sun completely change the upper route. Add to that as Scott mentions the number of people on Hood's bottleneck, it dramatically increases risk level above the Hogsback.

Mt Saint Helens ranks as one of my more enjoyable climbs up I've done, it was 100% on Spring snow in April and while it was soft going down, it was just a wonderful snow climb up moderate/steep slopes with decent amount of gain from the winter th.
I have heard its not as enjoyable dry with the dry ash potentially causing some issues.
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Re: Cascade Volcanoes Ranked by Difficulty

Post by Skeletor » Fri Apr 02, 2021 8:51 am

I'd agree with Scott P's ranking. Depending on time of year and conditions, you could swap North Sister and Jefferson.

Good references for beta are SummitPost.org and CascadeClimbers.com. And if you're old school, this is a great guidebook:

https://www.amazon.com/Climbing-Cascade ... 156044889X
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Re: Cascade Volcanoes Ranked by Difficulty

Post by Skeletor » Fri Apr 02, 2021 9:22 am

Also the Mazamas climbing group has good info on routes, include GPS tracks.
https://mazamas.org/climbroutes/
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