Map of General Route:
Donner Peak is the sweet little mountain that dominates your view as you drive up old hwy 40 over Donner Pass. It is on your left above Donner Lake. Donner Peak is interesting, in that it offers extreme terrain on the north side above the train tracks, including the tick list “heart” run and some train tunnel hucking options. Then you have the mellow, low angle NW Gully and slopes that easily take you up to the summit. To climb Donner Peak, skin up this NW side, which is basically the right skyline you see in my pictures. You can see it as you drive up hwy 40 from Donner Lake. In times of stormy weather, you will have to drive in from hwy 80 and park at the gate closure near the entrance to Sugarbowl at the Judah Side. In that case, you don’t quite see how the terrain works out at the bottom.
It’s a small peak for you to play around on near the car. Donner Peak can have powder for many days after a storm. You could look around and really find some interesting terrain in the crags where we rock climb throughout this area in times of deep snowpack. I imagine you could ski down to a shuttle car at Donner Lake as well, just like people do from the Mt. Judah chairlift. I haven’t done this, maybe I’ll get to it this year.
There isn’t a parking lot to backcountry ski tour on Donner Peak. Sugarbowl Ski Academy has the ideal parking lot, but don’t use it. You can find a spot on the highway right outside of their lot. Traverse left and into the NE gully. You are skinning uphill within site of the Mt. Judah Chairlift. You will have a hard time resisting skiing down Donner Peak far lower than your car. No biggie, just skin back up.
Truckee and Donner Summit offer many small ski touring areas worth checking out. I don’t know many because I live in Tahoe City, and usually head south to ski tour. Some of our store employees could give you alternatives to Donner Peak and Castle Peak that I haven’t tried. Or just drive around and look for good terrain on a nice day and don’t tell anyone!
Some terrain shots I took on a solo trip up Donner Peak. You can see the dramatic difference in difficulty when seen from old. Serious stuff above the train tunnel on the left, and mellow terrain in the gully on the right. Plus the best view of Donner Lake at top. If you zoomed in you could see our shop and my office window.