The southeast chutes running off Lassen Peak's summit ridge offer multiple options for steep descents. This terrain is most readily accessible when the Lassen Park Road (Highway 89) is open and skiers can conveniently ascend Lassen Peak via the summer trail. Often, however, the full park road does not open until late into spring, limiting access to much of Lassen Peak's terrain unless you're up for a long tour in.
Occasionally a portion of the northern park road from Manzanita Lake to the Devastated Area is open. When this is the case, many descents on Lassen's northeast to southeast aspect can be reached by climbing from the Devastated Area, including access to the southeast chutes. The summer summit trail route can also be reached from the Devastated Area, but entails a much longer tour and wider traverse around a canyon.
From the Devastated Area parking lot the southeast chutes are accessed by contouring around the eastern edge of Lassen's northeast face. From the parking lot, head through the forest keeping to the east side of Lost Creek drainage. As you gain elevation gradually, continue heading toward the eastern end of Lassen's northeast face, which intermittently comes into view. As the tree line thins, begin the contour around Lassen's east-facing slope. The traverse is quite steep, and ski crampons are helpful, particularly in firm conditions. Cliff bands eventually open up to the southeast chutes. Clumps of stunted western white pine make great anchor points as you ascend the chute's steeper terrain; boot crampons and an ice ax come in handy here.
The summit ridge that reaches eastward off the summit pinnacle marks the top of the southeast chutes around 9,900 feet. The chutes offer multiple 1,500-foot-descent options. Avalanche exposure is high in the chutes, so they are best reserved for corn-cycle skiing. Given their southerly aspect, these slopes can corn up quite nicely by late morning on sunny days.
The chutes hold varied terrain and topography. Narrow chutes make for breathtaking turns with a short line of sight, while other wider chutes allow for high speed surf like descents. Most of the southeast chutes can be accessed from the summit ridge, but are most easily gained by bootpacking directly up if you are coming from the Devastated Area. The descent offers spectacular views to the south of Reading Peak and Lake Almanor beyond. Lassen and Plumas National Forests span the horizon. If you're skiing back to the Devastated Area, traverse back toward your ascent track from the bottom of the chutes and enjoy the playful rolling topography en route back to the parking lot.
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.