After all the talk of Sonora and Tioga Passes opening this past weekend access was finally granted last Friday at exactly 3pm for Tioga. I can’t say when or if access to Sonora was granted, but for what turned out to be a short period of time Tioga Pass Road was in fact open up to the bathrooms for a few days before the gate was then locked this past Monday. I’m not fully sure why the gate was opened then locked again, but the current word is the road will be totally opened by this Monday, May 7th. However, I will say that one Caltrans representative spoke to both Sonora and Tioga opening this Friday, May 4th, although more people are pointing to Monday for at least Tioga opening into Yosemite National Park.
Even though I had gotten word of a Saturday opening for the Tioga gate last week a friend had also been speaking with Caltrans representatives and told me he heard that Friday was going to be the day. With that beta in mind, after an early morning powder session in Tahoe on Mt. Rose , I hopped in the car with Seth and Allison to see if we could cash-in. When we showed up to Tioga at about 2:30 pm the gate was locked, although there was a lot of Caltrans action in the area. We scoped the exit to “Powerhouse”, which looked a bit thin,
and by the time we circled back to actually talk to a Caltrans employee right then and there the gate was unlocked at 3 pm. Ecstatic, we cruised through the gate as the first car to gain access to the upper bathrooms just shy of the Yosemite National Park boundary.
The scene up on Tioga was barren. It was me, Seth, Allison and one road biker who had parked at Ellery Lake and hopped on his bike for a serene ride into Tuolumne. We expected a few other cars to show up ready to rock the newly scored access to some of the better terrain on the Eastside, but it was just us.
By now we were working with limited time and didn’t think a full Mt.Dana to Plateau linkup was the best idea so we set our sights on Ellery Bowl. The bowl itself wasn’t looking so caked as it normally is in late April, but “Chute Out” (lead photo) was looking prime.
The three of us casually skinned our way to the top of our line and were beyond thrilled to lay a few tracks in the uber smooth run that’s a Tioga Pass favorite.
Here’s Seth making the most of his well-earned research from earlier in the week.
That night it was time to link up with good friends in the Bridgeport area and get ready for the annual “Green Creek Chuteout”. Of course I spaced on my camera for the day, but the vibe, as always, was extremely positive as new and old friends gathered to pay respect to friends we all miss so dearly, and lay tracks in one of the more classic Eastside link-ups around. The North Couloir of Dunderberg, like most of “Chute Out” was cold winter snow, while the Green Creek Couloir was perfect spring butter. The coverage was much better than it looked from the road so if you have any inclination to bag this one before all is said and done with the season now is definitely the time.
Wrapping up another memorable weekend on the Eastside, Seth, Allison, Jillian and myself headed back up to Tioga on Sunday. Although “V Bowl” and the lower reaches of Tioga are toast, the Plateau,
and lines like “Coke Chute” are still holding decent coverage for anyone that wants to drop one of these classic lines and climb back out.
While my last few trips up Mt. Dana had focused on some of the lines on the north side of the peak, for this session we decided to head to the summit and ski the Dana Couloir. You can’t fully see the entrance to the Solstice Couloir in this shot, but the cornice is very manageable this year and reports confirm that it skied just as good as the Dana Couloir. A few other tracks were seen in some of the more obscure chutes accessed before one gets to the Solstice Couloir. These are all great lines when the snow is good and you know your line goes. The tracks from below looked more than worthy.
The coverage on Dana was actually better than we expected. Views out to Tuolumne were gorgeous as always on the skin up,
and the wintery snow in the relatively wide couloir was even better. We all enjoyed ourselves, especially Allison who came out of the top of the couloir smooth, and sent the rest of the apron in impeccable style.
After a scenic skirt back to the top of Ellery Bowl,
we ended up skiing a narrow chute system to the far rider’s left that was super fun and incredibly aesthetic shown here by Jillian,
We all know it’s been a tough year for the Sierra, but don’t tell me this range ain’t got no heart, you just gotta poke around. Above 9-10k feet there is still a bunch of good skiing to be had. You just have to get to higher elevations and when you do you’ll be pleasantly surprised. With Tioga and Sonora set to open (hopefully for good) soon, access in Bishop via South Lake and roads to places like Rock Creek open for business now is the time. It may not be a fat year in the Eastern Sierra, but for at least another couple of weeks, if you feel like making something happen, there will undoubtedly be quality snow to shred.