Location: Lee Vining, CA – Tioga Pass
Elevation Change: 5000′ from the gate closer on hwy 120 to Dana Plateau
Recomended Map: Tioga Pass
This post is primarily about a tour I like to do, but so many variations are possible. There is too much to say about the Tioga Pass area and the Dana Plateau for one post. The Kidney Couloir is on the south end, and quite protected from wind. This is the most likely soft snow if all the gnar couloirs you might be aiming for are scaring you with their hardened snow. If they are powder, stay over there and forget trekking all the way to the end of the Plateau. You could climb the Kidney Couloir and return the same long way, but I prefer the loop of ascending Coke Chute in the center of the Dana Plateau. Ideally, hwy 120 would be open and you would just skin a few easy hours from 9500′. The park service doesn’t get the gate open in time usually for snow to stick around down low for the old car shuttles of the past, so you are probably going to get up there the hard way.
You park near the power plant, below V Bowl on a side street parallel to hwy 120. As you drive the power plant access road west towards the building, look for a small clearing on the left with willows and a small meadow. The essential bridge you need to cross is 100 yards from the road right here. We used to cross sketchy logs and not even realize this bridge was here! Then head up V bowl, usually with ski crampons to the huge cirque below all the cool couloirs. Many people just ski up to the bowl and play around all day. Liberty Chute, Ripper Chute, Coke Chute, 3rd pillar chute, and more extreme lines are commonly skied up there. You’ll find some more mellow terrain in this area as well as awesome couloirs coming off the plateau all along the eastern edge.
For the ultimate Dana Plateau drop of Kidney Couloir or Coke Chute (the least extreme with 2000′, half at 40 degrees steep), try this one. Climb Dana Peak to it’s 13k summit and ski off the south side, dropping into the north facing classic Dana Couloir. Skin or walk 800′ back up to the Dana Plateau and drop off down to the power plant road, for a total descent of 8000′. If you shuttle a car when the hwy 120 gate is open, you’ll only have to climb half of that vert. However you will be walking down dry forest slopes near the bottom even in a huge snow year. So just go from the bottom and put in a Mt. Shasta size day in a beautiful setting above Lee Vining. No, I haven’t done this loop yet. I remember the car shuttle days and am soft. We do usually put in about 6000′ vert to ski this Coke – Kidney Loop, because you won’t want to miss a few sweet slopes you cross on the way back.