The Vitals: elevation-13,053' Elevation Change-3,100' Rock-Broken Talus
Mount Dana Photos
We started out one July evening towards Yosemite's Tioga Pass to do some backcountry skiing. Unfortunately, that's not how things turned out but it was still a good way to waste another day in paradise. When we got to the pass it was too dark to check out any lines for the next morning so we pulled off at a turnaround between Ellery and Tioga Lakes and settled in for the night. We awoke to a view of Ellery Bowl at sunrise. There wasn't a lot of snow and what was there wasn't too inviting. The only word we were getting was that there wasn't much snow up there so we decided to leave our boards in the car. Given the trail we chose to go up it was the right decision. It would have been a 3 mile slog up 3100' of vertical most of which was over broken up boulders with our skis and boots adding to our packs. The quality of the snow in Dana Couloir may have justified it but we only had what we could see in Ellery Bowl to go by. The trail we chose left from the Kiosk at the entrance to Yosemite and took us past many small alpine lakes and vast wildflower fields before depositing us on the shoulder of the peak. From here up it is nothing but broken granite all the way to the peak. There are trails which provide some relief from the rock but they tend to disappear into the snow soon after you find them. Other than scrambling on rocks there is not much technical difficulty to this hike. It is strenuous, however. After all, the air is thin at 13,000 (especially if you are coming from sea level).
A better way up if you are skiing this late in the year would be to leave from Tioga Lake rather than the park entrance and head up into the valley that separates separates Dana's summit from the Dana Plateau. You will need to follow the creek up into the glacial canyon where you will hopefully be able to put on your skins. Then traverse along the south side of the canyon's bottom (this assumes a stable snow pack) back towards Dana Couloir. Then boot it up to the top of the col and continue up to the peak if you like. From here you can ski down and back to where you first put on your skins or you can ski the couloir and then head east up onto the Dana Plateau and into Ellery Bowl. If you have a car there you can avoid the hike out with skis hitting the ground behind on broken rocks. Keep in mind that stable snow in Dana Couloir doesn't mean it won't be rotten in Ellery Bowl which is lower and gets much more sun.
The views from the top and along the ridge are fantastic. You are overlooking both Mono Lake and Saddlebag Lake as well as the Tuolomne Meadows. The peaks around you (all shorter) are amazing as well. There is a surprising amount of life at the top from spiders to horse flies to birds to flowers to overly friendly marmots. If you didn't visit the main ridge line on the way up you should do so on the way down. There are some spots where you can stand atop some very high cliffs. On our way down we were able to boot ski some of the lower slopes which took away some of the pain associated with not taking our skis. It didn't seem to help with any of the pain associated with the previous night's alcohol intake, however. Live and Learn.
December 2, 2008tain Webs
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December 2, 2008