Location: Tioga Pass – Saddlebag Lake
Summit Elevation: 12,590′
Elevation Change: 3,050′
I used to ski Tioga Pass area a lot but haven’t been there in awhile. In the late 90’s I started going to Mt. Conness in June, usually at the end of the season because it was money in the bank for snow lingering in the Y couloirs. You can’t drive up to the Saddlebag Lake Trailhead until late spring due to a gate closer down low near hwy 395. When that gate finally does open, you would still be wise to wait until you can drive pretty close to Saddlebag Lake as well. You are in for a few miles of flat but beautiful travel to the base of Mt. Conness from Saddlebag Lake. I usually skied the Y couloirs and then traversed skiers’ right on the way down, to find the “S” shaped couloir. I’ve also enjoyed skiing on the Mt. Conness Glacier itself, which is a short run but steep enough and exhilarating. This might be the easiest glacier to access for skiing in California. It’s also an amazing summer hike. I’ll toss some recent pics in the reply below.
I’ve included a few pics borrowed from friends in this post. Most of my pics are from May 13, 2008. I’m not sure when these other larger images where taken. I also included a home made map from Steelman, I assume he won’t mind.
I have never gone to the summit of Mt. Conness during a ski tour. There would be a bit of time invested in that, and I’m not sure where you would ski down from up there .The snow doesn’t connect that well between the summit and the Y Couloir on a narrow stretch. If you do it let us know how it works out. I have been to the top of Conness by a few climbing routes. Mt. Conness is the highest peak in Tuolumne and drops off nearly vertical on the southwest side. The South Ridge near the summit is narrow, but easy Class 2 boulder hopping without snow and trail shoes.
I kind of burned out skiing Tioga Pass after going a lot back when the road would be open sooner in the year. We would also stay at Tioga Pass Resort Cabins before they closed their operation. They would shuttle your gear up 7 miles on a sled while you skin 3000′ up Tioga Pass Road to your cozy little cabin. Eventually the old structures couldn’t be kept up to use in the winter, and the operation was sold to a summer only concession operator. The other peaks to ski when you can drive up Tioga Pass Road near the entrance of Saddlebag Lake are North Peak, False White, Mt. Dana, and Ellery Bowl. If you can drive all the way to the Tuolumne Park entrance, you can skin a few flat miles west and ski Mammoth Peak, Koip Peak and a few others. You can drop many long steep couloirs off the Dana Plateau if you have a car shuttle, but we got used to just climbing those from the bottom starting at the power plant. I’ll need to do a Mike’s Ski Tours post next on Tioga Pass…it’s all coming back to me now. Sleeping in your car up around Tioga Pass has always been unofficially allowed because you are just outside of the park.