Lassen Peak’s northeast face holds some of the park’s best climbs and descents. With multiple bowls, ribs, and chutes flowing down across north to east facing aspects, the terrain is enticing to say the least.
Typically the northeast face isn’t skied until later in spring when Lassen’s summit is more easily reachable by way of the summer trail, which cuts off 2,000 feet of climbing. Although a longer climb, the northeast face can also be reached by an alternate approach via the Devastated Area, located on Lassen Peak’s north side. Typically closed and covered in snow during winter, the 9-mile stretch of park road leading to the Devastated Area from Manzanita Lake is sometimes open earlier in the season, depending on snow depth and weather conditions. It’s also regularly the first stretch of road to be plowed each spring following a winter closure, and it opens earlier than the road to the summer trail.
Lassen Peak’s long summit ridge provides access to the northeast face descents. One of these descents, known as Dirty Martini Chute, is an aesthetic line with a large upper bowl that funnels down to a steeper choke section. The line is exposed to avalanche hazard and should only be considered when confidence in stability is high, as is true of all of Lassen’s northeast face descents. Shaped like a martini glass, more so when less filled in, it is the second prominent bowl feature to the looker’s left of Lassen’s north ridge. Fumaroles near the top of the bowl add some spice to an otherwise clean line, hence the name Dirty Martini.
Access the Dirty Martini chute from the Devastated Area by heading southwest through the forest toward Lassen Peak, veering right slightly to intercept the Lost Creek drainage. Continue up the drainage and follow low-angled gullies with the steep slopes of Crescent Crater on your right. Around 7,800 feet, head toward the saddle between the north ridge and Crescent Crater. Ascend the steep north ridge shoulder up to 9,800 feet, and then continue up the north ridge as you navigate around rock outcroppings and fumaroles until you reach the summit ridge at 10,300 feet. Crampons and an ice ax will come in handy up the north ridge, particularly earlier in the season when the ridge can be firm and sometimes icy. Either downclimb exposed scree and ash to get into the top of Dirty Martini’s bowl or, if there is adequate coverage, ski directly off the summit ridge.
On warmer spring days during corn-cycles, you'll want to get an early start to be skiing by late morning for the best snow. Loose wet-slides can also be a problematic on Lassen’s northeast face. Start your descents no later than noon. If stability is at all in question, descend the north ridge the way you came up.
Visit the Lassen Volcanic National Park road status page here for information on road access to the Devastated Area.
Winter backcountry adventures can be dangerous outdoor activities that pose significant risks as conditions affecting safety (i.e. weather, snowpack stability, avalanche hazard) are constantly changing. Prior to engaging in these activities each individual should get the proper training to make safe decisions and be equipped to use avalanche safety resources and tools. Please visit our Backcountry Skiing and Avalanche Safety post to learn more.