This is one of the classic long gully climbs in the Yosemite high country and an ideal introduction to snow and ice, making for a perfect weekend climb. About 1,200 feet long, it often offers snow and ice climbing on 45-degree slopes. The special features of this area include the spectacular colors of the metamorphic rocks and an incredible view of the Yosemite high country from the summit.
Guidebooks include Secor’s “The High Sierra; Peaks, Passes and Trails”, and “Sierra Classics” by Moynier and Fiddler. The best of course is “Eastern Sierra Ice” by SP Parker. Also check out our unpublished guide to the Dana Couloir here.
Get it from Maximus Press.
We highly recommend that you spend at least one night at moderate altitude (higher than 8,000′) just prior to the trip. Spending a night in Mammoth would do the trick or better yet, camped at an even higher trailhead, such as the Sawmill Campground just off the Tioga Pass road. Please refer to our Planning for Success info sheet for more info.
Return to Classic Alpine Ice Climbs
We depart from the parking area at the west end of Ellery Lake, a half mile before the Tioga Pass entry station to Yosemite National Park on Highway 120. A half-day hike leads up Glacier Creek through forest and high alpine meadows to camp near Dana Lake. We’ll use the remainder of the day to review and learn skills and prepare for the next day, which can be a long one.
We are gone from camp before dawn working our way around Glacier Lake to the small Dana Glacier at the base of the couloir. We start out moving together putting to use the French crampon technique we discussed the day before. As the gully steepens and the climbing gets harder, we change our footwork and start to use belays. About six to seven belayed pitches puts us at the top of the gully. We then curve up along the summit ridge to the top and relax, enjoying the view.
The descent starts easy enough but when we drop off the ridge back into the Glacier Creek it becomes steeper and the rock somewhat looser. Eventually we get back to the lake, pick up camp and head back to the trailhead.
We have found the crux of the climb to be timing things so that we get back down to the Mobil Gas Mart before they close.
The “MoMart” has gained a reputation for the best food on the eastern Sierra or you will ever get at a gas station. Maybe we will have time for one of their Mango Margaritas…
Elevations and Distances
Trailhead to camp: 2.0 miles, 1520’ of gain, 125’ of descent
Camp to summit to trailhead: 4.1 miles, 2250’ of gain, 3600’ of descent
You should be in good physical condition, have some backpacking experience and have the ability to traverse broken uneven slopes with a moderate pack. Prior experience at altitudes above 10,000’ is recommended. You do not need to have climbed steep ice before but basic snow travel skills are recommended. In the fall the snow is often hard and icy so we will not be able to work on self arrest and similar skills so come equipped with these.
Price includes guiding, permits, group climbing gear, tents, kitchen gear, breakfasts, lunches and dinners (you bring hot/cold drinks and snack items). Scheduled dates include USFS trail fees. Private programs do not.
Local accommodation is not included.
★ Please Read before you go ★
We feel the following information is essential... (links open as PDF in new window)
- Details, itinerary, and equipment list for your trip
- SMC Cancellation Policy
- Suggestions on preparation - get the most out of your trip!
- Tips on physical training for your trip
- LNT - Let's work together to protect our precious mountain environment.
Dana Couloir map
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