Those who wish to scale Mt. Shasta in the near future will need to wait until after May 15 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Shasta-Trinity National Forest announced Thursday that they’re extending the closure of the peak above 10,000 feet until mid-May “in alignment with current federal, state and local guidance for social distancing and to ensure health and safety of climbers.”

Only local officers or members of organized rescue or firefighting forces in the performance of an official duty are exempt from the order.

Springtime is the most popular time to climb Mt. Shasta and during a typical year will attract up to 7,000 climbers, the USFS said. This creates a congestion issue at the Bunny Flat trailhead where hundreds of climbers park and embark from this one small area.

Another concern, the Forest Service noted, is high-density camping at the small base camp at Lake Helen, 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, according to the press release.

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, the Forest Service added.

The closure order will be in effect through May 15 and may be extended.

View the order and closure map at www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/fseprd731322.pdf for call the Mt. Sahsta Ranger Station at (530) 440-4509 Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. for more information.