Mt. Lyell 13,114’
Elevation Change: 4400’ but 9-mile flat approach
Location: Tuolumne Meadows
On June 9, 2010 Eric Ongerth and I skied Mt. Lyell with a one-night stay, starting from the parking lot at Tuolumne Meadows Lodge and the John Muir Trail. Lyell is the highest peak in Yosemite and the second largest glacier in California. Secor’s Guide says it was first climbed in 1871. Is that enough to make you want to do it? Plus look at that nice easy terrain to slide around! All you need to do is walk 9 miles from the car to the start of the climb. You will also need a big snow year, because by the time you can drive this far down Highway CA-120, there won’t be any snow left. No biggie, it’s flat travel. Walking in trail shoes is the same speed as skinning. The only problem is you will walk back too.
Kris Thomas came with us too. He had the flu, and as you can see in my pics, he didn’t make it that far. We flipped him the keys to the car and met him the next day. The water was raging at the start, and the walk/skin up the John Muir Trail was really beautiful. And of course, there were no tracks or people. I hadn’t seen this tour recommend in guidebooks. I guess it’s not extreme enough. It is pretty hard to time this tour as well. If only we could get enough backcountry skiers employed in positions that would get mountain roads plowed and open to the public a little earlier for skiing.
If I were to go again, I would summit Amelia Earhart Peak, Simmons Peak, and Mt. Maclure before going back. There were really nice-looking bowls to ski on the south side of Mt. Lyell. The view from the top was unique and revealed a zone you don’t see from other ski tours. You will get a great view of the back of Banner and Ritter. The domes all around look fun to explore if you really want the long schlog tour from the car. I would bring kicker skins next time just in case there was some snow closer to the car. We didn’t need them, we walked dry trail for maybe 8 miles. I think I did it in T1 boots.