Sawtooths Ski Traverse
The Sawtooth Range lies on the northern border of Yosemite and contains one of the most rugged and beautiful ridges on the Sierra Crest. This is a classic tour that we offer with a new variation we discovered that provides more exciting skiing. Still very challenging and packed with adventure in 4 days, this tour is the perfect long weekend tour of a lifetime, or an excellent primer for even higher and wilder ski mountaineering.
Maximum guiding ratio of 4:1 and needs a minimum of 2 to run on these dates with these prices. We can also arrange this trip on a custom private basis. It’s not very splitboard friendly, unless conditions are perfect, but we can custom build a similar program in the Sawtooths that works better for snowboarders upon request. Click here to request a custom reservation and pricing.
Sawtooths Ski Traverse
In his classic 1999 guidebook Backcountry Skiing California’s High Sierra, John Moynier calls this tour “A ski mountaineer’s idea of heaven.” We would have to agree! Somehow nature really set this one up for us and it has become a well-deserved classic over the years. We discovered a variation on Moynier’s line that takes us northeast down some nice steep slopes from the summit of Eocene Peak to Glacier Lake, then up and over the incredible, ski mountaineering friendly Hawk’s Head Notch. We rejoin the original line at Cleaver Col. The traverse is relatively short at 20 miles but covers only the most spectacular terrain. There is never a dull moment. A fourth day allows us to an opportunity to summit and ski Matterhorn Peak, one of the classic, steep, ski mountaineering peaks of the Sierra.
TRIP ITINERARY: Sawtooths Ski Mountaineering Traverse
DAY 1Meet your guide very early in the morning in Bridgeport. After a gear check and final packing we head up to Twin Lakes where the adventure will begin and end. Ascend Robinson Creek to Little Slide Canyon and up to camp beneath the Incredible Hulk, a 1000+ foot spire of granite that attracts climbers all summer. If time, energy, and conditions allow, there are some couloirs on both sides of it that are worth checking out.
DAY 2Climb up past Maltby Lake and up to Ice Lake. From there, before heading to Ice Lake Pass, there is an unlikely geologic fault that has formed a large couloir up to the southeast. This lead to the shoulder of Eocene Peak (11,569'), and with a bit of mountaineering leads easily to the summit. We descend the steep northeast face of Eocene Peak into the upper reaches of Blacksmith Creek. Set camp near Glacier Lake and get another ski run or two in this amazing drainage as time and energy allow.
DAY 3Ascend up toward one of the coolest passages of the trip called Hawk's Head Notch, located at the low point of the North Ridge of Blacksmith Peak. Then ski down to the north and cross over to Avalanche Lake. From there we climb to Cleaver Col, an unlikely break in the precipitous ridge known as the Cleaver to access the Horse Creek drainage, where we set up our final camp.
DAY 4With daypacks we aim to climb and ski Matterhorn Peak (12, 279'), the high point of the trip and an iconic Sierra ski mountaineering peak. There are many classic lines on and around it and we will choose whatever looks best for the day. Descend to pick up camp and finish the 5000 foot descent down Horse Creek back to Twin Lakes, and the end of the journey!
- Advanced-expert downhill skiing skills
- Ability to control speed and execute fall-line turns in control and comfort in difficult snow conditions (deep powder, heavy and/or moist snow, breakable crust, firm or icy, etc.)
- Ability to execute hop turns on 40 degree+, firm slopes, coming to a complete and immediate stop at the finish of each turn
- Ability to sideslip forward and backward, with edge control, on steep, firm slopes
- Experience ski touring in the backcountry using ski touring equipment (boots, bindings, skins, transceiver, shovel, probe, etc.)
- Ability to make uphill facing kick-turns in an uphill track on a steep slope
- Experience in multi-day winter camping and/or mountaineering
- Experience with the use of climbing ropes and technical competency in use of ice axe, crampons, and ski crampons
- Excellent fitness
- SMG Guide(s)
- Group camping gear and technical gear
- Meals (dinners and breakfasts)
- Use of avalanche rescue gear (beacon, shovel, probe)
- Wilderness Permits
- Travel to/from the Eastern Sierra
- Lodging in the Eastern Sierra
- Food or drink in towns
- Snacks/lunches or drinks on the tour
- Personal or rental equipment
- Trip Insurance and Mountain Rescue Insurance (recommended)