With the springtime opening of Tioga Pass Road, backcountry skiers and snowboarders flock to the east side of Yosemite National Park for their late season turns. In the crosshairs of many is Mount Dana, which at 13,061 feet is the second highest mountain in the park. Accessed by a straightforward yet deceptively strenuous climb, Mount Dana offers 360-degree views of Mono Lake and the surrounding mountains as well as the potential for both open face and couloir skiing on the descent.
While there are many potential routes to the summit, the easiest departs from Tioga Pass Road just east of the entrance to Yosemite National Park and climbs to a bench that is clearly visible from the road. From the crest of the bench, the summit comes into view and the route ascends directly to the top.
Descent options range from gradual open faces backtracking along the ascent route to steep couloirs dropping down to the Dana Glacier. The most popular couloirs are the north facing Dana Couloir and east facing Solstice Couloir (which at times can develop a precarious cornice at the entrance). For those looking for additional turns, many link Dana or Solstice Couloir with a hike up to and across Dana Plateau to a descent of nearby Ellery Bowl.
Winter backcountry adventures can be dangerous outdoor activities that pose significant risks as conditions affecting safety (i.e. weather, snowpack stability, avalanche hazard) are constantly changing. Prior to engaging in these activities each individual should get the proper training to make safe decisions and be equipped to use avalanche safety resources and tools. Please visit our Backcountry Skiing and Avalanche Safety post to learn more.