Dana Peak 13,061′ and Dana Plateau – Tioga Pass
Tioga Pass was the most anticipated Ski Touring zone every spring in the 90’s and early 2000’s due to TPR (Tioga Pass Resort), which closed about 15 years ago. You were fed, you slept in a warm bed, and blazed your own fresh skin track from your personal cabin at 10,000′. We would hit Ellery Bowl, Dana Couloir, Solstice Couloir, and also ski the peaks behind the cabins down to points below. This was the same property that sells you gas and tourist gifts near Ellery Lake, a mile east of the entrance to Yosemite on hwy 120. You had to skin 7 miles and 3000′ up the highway to get there, while the staff brought your gear up on a snowmobile. If you couldn’t swing the cabin rentals, you would drive up in late spring when the park service opens the gate. In some years there isn’t much snow left. Today you can just follow social media and find out when it opens and where people are finding the smooth snow. You can definitely get lucky with smooth corn snow in June up there. it can also be totally melted out with terrible sun cups.
The prize was to climb 3000′ from Tioga Pass to the summit of Mt.Dana, hit Solitice Couloir or Mt. Dana Couloir, and then drop another 5000′ off the Plateau down to a shuttle car near the power plant. I think I only did that once. I would typically stay up there and ski all around Tioga Pass. Then we would go ski False White and Mt. Conness in the same trip. You are still outside of Tuolumne Meadows entrance, so you can sleep in your car up there.
After years of skiing around Dana and Tioga, I moved on to other High Sierra Trailheads that offer even more spectacular peaks as you can see on the MST ski tour menu. I am forever grateful to Jamie Schectman and Jim Harper who took me up to Tioga for my first experience though. It really blew me away. But years later, we got better gear and more touring skills. We started skinning up to the Dana Plateau earlier in the season, before the gate opens. I remember hearing about this and thought that sounded crazy, but then I tried it and found it to be totally worth it. The route is direct from your vehicle, where you can sleep. You will find fun skiing anytime you want to turn back. You can ski up to the Dana Plateau any time of year starting at about 7000′. This gets you more snow coverage and smoother snow. You park just outside the gate closure on hwy 120 on the south side of the road and skin or walk up “V bowl” to a beautiful east facing cirque below the Dana Plateau. The only path I know that works to get through this huge mile long cliff is called Coke Chute, which gets pretty steep at the top. You will want to bring crampons and axe in case the snow is wind hardened. Everytime I have done it, we found firm snow in the final few hundred feet at about 40 degrees. A slightly less steep route the top of the Plateau would be to traverse south around to the Kidney Couloir, which is on the south end of the Dana Plateau. The top of this couloir is also the highest point on the plateau. The snow will be softer due to the south aspect as well, but the route is certainly less direct. I like to go up Coke Chute and down Kidney Couloir. That’s about 5000′ of climbing. If the Coke chute has good snow, just turn around enjoy that zone.
There are many other couloirs and bowls to ski surrounding the North and East side of the Dana Plateau. One friend Jim Wintermeyer was famous in my mind for snowboarding down Liberty Chute every chance he got. You would typically rappel in. I never did it. I loved skiing the highest east facing chute on the far south end one time with John and Christie. Maybe look down it before heading over to Kidney Couloir and see if the snow is good. I guess you could climb the 5000′ any time of winter or early spring and keep on going to Dana Peak. Touring all the way up there and back would be at least 8000′. I have never skied the power plant bowl area on the north side. It looks quiet intimidating but is probably similar in steepness and exposure with the other routes. That hanging cirque up there above the steep avy path runout zone just looks so ominous. I guess I should go do that one next.
There is plenty to read about the Tioga Pass ski touring objectives in this beautifully done guidebook we sell. And all of the pro AMGA guide services have permits to take you skiing up there.