July 5, 2011

Skiing Tioga Pass / Ellery Bowl

Tioga Pass - the gateway to Yosemite from the Eastern Sierra - is one of the best places for quick access to steep spring/summer skiing in the USA. The road had only opened a week prior to our trip, so we knew there was still a ton of snow up there. We arrived at Ellery Lake around 11:30am on June 30th, and after scoping out the area, decided to ski Ellery Bowl, the area's premiere roadside attraction. Now, the term "bowl" doesn't exactly do this area justice - we found out that while the lower sections consisted of smooth, mellow corn skiing, the upper bowl was a STEEP 47-50 DEGREE HEADWALL in a total no-fall zone.

From the lake, we bootpacked straight up the thing. For the last 600 feet, the ice axes came out. I was deliberate in kicking a bomber staircase for Andrea to follow. The top of the ascent was actually a bit scary. But eventually we kicked our way to the top, and the views of the huge Dana Plateau and the Yosemite high country made it all worthwhile.

The descent off the top of the headwall was a test of faith and confidence. This was the steepest slope angle either of us had ever skied. I made 2 jump turns, then traversed over and watched Andrea nail her turns as well. From there, the skiing was exciting and fun. When we got to the bottom, we chatted with lots of tourists who had been watching us from below.

After lunch, we did a little sightseeing on the pass, then headed further south to June Lake for the night. We went for a run after checking into our hotel, and I remember our conversation pretty much only consisting of things like "Wow, that was really steep" and "Holy crap, can you believe how steep that was!"

Needless to say, I can't wait to go back and ski some of the other areas on Tioga Pass. Summer 2012 vacation in the works? :-)

Ellery Lake

The route

This doesn't even do justice to the steepness

Dana Plateau

The headwall and Yosemite's high country

"Don't fall there"

Traversing above some rocky/cliff area

Looking down after the traverse

Whoa! The look on her face says it all!

Done with the scary part!

Lunch time!

4.5 lbs of Snickers? Of course!

Tioga Lake

Next stop: Mammoth Lakes!!!

More pictures: Picasa - Tioga Pass

All of the 2011 Summer Vacation Links:

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