The Ionian Basin

The Ionian Basin sits in the heart of Kings Canyon National Park, above the rugged gorge of Le Conte Canyon. Mt. Goddard dominates the region and the gentle slopes on its southeast side offer one of the great ski descents of the Sierra, but so remote that it is seldom skied (except by us!). We plan on at least two nights camped in the heart of the Ionian, allowing several days skiing with only a day pack. Remote and little known, this is a wonderful loop trip that should be on everyone’s wish list.


We highly recommend that you spend at least one night at moderate altitude (higher than 8,000 feet) just prior to the trip. Spending a night or two in Mammoth or camped at the trailhead campground would do the trick.

SMC does not rent ski equipment, but we work with Mammoth Mountaineering (760-934-4191) to get you set up on the correct equipment. MMS has a very wide range of rental equipment that is probably the best you will find anywhere in California. All gear is current state of the art, well tuned and rental fees are deductible if you buy a set up from them. (We highly recommend renting before you buy so as to find what suits you best, since a full setup is pretty pricey). We can coordinate the rental and suggest that if you can you arrive Mammoth the night before and get fully set up since boot fitting can take some time.

Return to Backcountry Spring

We start our tour easily and with little stress by spending the first night at out North Lake hut allowing time for easy acclimatization and a review of avalanche rescue procedures. Starting early from the hut we climb steadily, and cross the Sierra Crest at 13,000’ Lamarck Col, making our second night’s camp near Evolution Lakes, overlooking northern Kings Canyon National Park. The next day we continue to travel through what many people consider to be the most beautiful area in the Sierra, Evolution Canyon. The traveling is generally easy as we wander up the valley, crossing frozen lakes and slowly gaining altitude as we head towards Muir Pass.

Rather than taking the Muir Pass, though, we head through a little known col that guards the north entrance to the Ionian Basin. At this point the itinerary can be varied as what we do exactly depends on the weather and the desires of the group.

Our best option is to establish a base camp in the Ionian Basin and day tour for days four and five. This would allow us plenty of time to climb and ski Mt. Goddard and other nearby peaks. The ski off the south side of Mt. Goddard is one of the best peak descents in the Sierra, but one not often done, because of the peaks remote and hard to get to location. We’ll finish the trip by returning on day six, crossing the Sierra Crest at Echo Col and skiing down to Lake Sabrina. Along the way the fantastic descent of the Black Giant beckons if time, snow and energy permit.

Program Prerequisites:

You need SMC Intermediate Ski Skills or better for this tour.

You need intermediate ski skills for this tour. You should be able to ski intermediate ski area runs confidently and be proficient at kick turns, traversing on 30 degree slopes, side slipping and parallel or telemark turns all while carrying a pack of about 40 pounds. Prior winter camping and mountaineering skills are advised. You will be traveling up to seven miles a day and gaining up to 3000 feet a day so an high level of aerobic fitness is required.

Program Inclusions:

Price includes guiding,hut stay at SMC hut, permits, all necessary group gear, avalanche beacons, tents, kitchen gear and dinners, lunches and breakfasts (you bring snack items).

We do not include accommodation in the pricing but can make local suggestions for you.

Please Read before you go

We feel the following information is essential... (links open as PDF in new window)

  1. Details and itinerary
    Equipment list
  2. SMC Cancellation Policy
  3. Suggestions on preparation - get the most out of your trip!
  4. Tips on physical training for your trip
  5. LNT - Let's work together to protect our precious mountain environment.

PDF Maps:

Ionian Map

Rental Equipment:

Need to rent equipment for your trip? We can help.