This tour is quite possibly one of the best introductions to longer backcountry ski touring. It takes one into some of the most beautiful terrain in the Sierra Nevada, the skiing terrain is straightforward, and the traveling days are not too long, allowing time to drop the packs and to enjoy unencumbered skiing. The initial part of the tour follows the line of our Mammoth to June ski tour and this continuation is really no more difficult; just longer and more fun. Everyday brings a new vista and the campsites are perfect.
What else is needed?
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. Please refer to our Planning for Success info sheet for more info.
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 pricy). 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
The tour starts from Mammoth Mountain, quickly leaving behind the bustle and noise of the ski area lifts following Minaret Road to Minaret Vista. This snow covered road gives time to adjust gear and ease into the skiing.
After lunch at the viewpoint we make a quick, fun descent of the road to Agnew Meadows and finally leave the road, heading north above the San Joaquin River. We climb up through aspens and pine forest to camp from where we can watch the sun slowly set to the west over the jagged Minarets. From here we take a long steady traverse skirting below Agnew Pass and dropping gently into the stunningly beautiful Thousand Island Lake. This is a popular summer camping and backpacking destination but at this time of year it is probable that we will have it to ourselves.
Reluctantly leaving Thousand Island Lake we cross gentle Island Pass and drop to Waugh Lake; the easy and fun part of the day.
Continuing we ascend to Lost Lakes and to our camp below 12,000 foot Donohue Peak. Lost Lakes Pass offers a gentle crossing onto the large plateau above Kuna Creek which we cross to the Kuna Connection. The north side of this pass is the steepest slope encountered on the tour and if it is too firm the best option is to take off skis and hike down to Helen Lake. Our last camp is above Parker Creek and from here we descend rolling terrain to Dana Meadows, cross Tioga Pass and descend the Tioga Road to the roadhead. Depending upon snow conditions this section might involve some walking, potentially from near Tioga pass to the gate at the bottom, six miles. We are picked up by shuttle and return to our vehicles in Mammoth late that day.
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.
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.
Details, Itinerary, and Equipment List:
Details and itinerary
Yosemite high country tour map