Paiute Pass to Rock Creek

A true Sierra Crest tour, this is one of our favorite moderate ski trips. The tour features gentle skiing across Humphreys Basin, a spectacular traverse around Bear Creek Spire, and the exhilarating open skiing down the bowls of Granite Park and Rock Creek Canyon. As a five day trip our itinerary allows plenty of time for taking a run or two without a full pack at the end of the day. If you want to make the trip longer pair this with its continuation along the crest: the Rock Creek to Mammoth tour.


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 Tours

Our first day is an easy day to aid in acclimatization as we take the road from Aspendell to our hut at North Lake. We review avalanche rescue procedures that day and on the second day we head up the North Fork of Bishop Creek leaving behind the trees and cross Paiute Pass into the wide expanse of Humphreys Basin. Endless slopes of gently rolling terrain pass easily beneath the skis as we cross Desolation Lake and climb to either Steelhead Pass or Carol Col before dropping steeply into the lakes of upper French Canyon.

The next portion of the trip is certainly the most beautiful section as we cross Royce Lakes below the imposing walls of Merriam, Royce and Feather Peaks. A low pass gives access to the stunningly beautiful Granite Park with gentle slopes and great runs everywhere.

From here we have two options for our route into Rock Creek Canyon. Which one we choose will depend upon snow conditions and the wishes of the group. The technical descent over Spire Pass is a true mountaineering experience, while the less steep option across Italy Pass and the north shoulder of Bear Creek Spire is longer but gives the opportunity for an ascent of Bear Creek Spire. Rock Creek Canyon has long been known for the quality of its skiing and we will enjoy the best there is: an eight mile downhill run to Rock Creek Lodge.

Here our friends at the Lodge will provide us with their famous high country hospitality before we finish our trip at our vehicles at the Rock Creek trailhead.

Program Prerequisites:

You need SMC Intermediate Ski Skills or better 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 Christie turns all while carrying a pack of about 35 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 a very good level of aerobic fitness is required.

Program Inclusions:

Price includes guiding, van shuttle, 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:

Paiute Pass to Rock Creek map

Rental Equipment:

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