Eastern Sierra, CA Backcountry Report: The Third Pillar Chute | Tioga Pass, CA

Roger Romani | | Conditions ReportConditions Report
Roger in the choke of Third Pillar Chute. image: snowbrains

Report from June 3rd, 2019

The Eastside has been FIRING this week.

Tioga Pass/120 opened to Yosemite’s east gate on Saturday.

Miles and I heard about the opening driving back from a quick very long strike mission to Zebra Coulior on Emmerson, and knew we had to get up there.

Miles peering into the Third Pillar Chute. image: Roger Romani

We car shuttled, leaving my car just east of the Poole Power Plant at the base of one of the many tongues of snow leading down from the high country above.

As Miles drove us up to Ellery lake, we both oogled the myriad of options just off the pass.

We were aiming for the Third Pillar of Dana, a steep coulior dropping off of the Dana Plateau just to lookers left of the famous rock climb of the same name.

Miles dropping into Third Pillar. image: Roger Romani

Parking at Ellery lake, we skinned and then booted up the deceptively long and steep Ellery bowl.

A few icy moves at the top made us glad that we had brought our ice axes and crampons.

Skinning across the pancake-flat Dana Plateau, we looked out over Mono Lake as cumulus clouds blews in from the northeast.

Roger. Dana Plateau. image: snowbrains

With the light fading in and out, we knew that we had to time it right to get good light on our ski line.

The Dana Plateau reminded me of the top of Palisades at Squaw: flat, with the gnar dropping off to the left side.

Miles reached the chute first, and looked down. “How’s the snow?” I asked.

Roger climbing the last pitch of Ellery Bowl. image: snowbrains

“Awesome!” came the reply.

I shot photos as Miles dropped first.

“Lots of sluff!” he yelled up as snow cascaded from underneath his skis.

The Third Pillar. image: snowbrains

Miles reached the bottom of the coulior, and I looked up to find clouds racing to cover the sun. I sprinted through my transition, turned the GoPro on, and dropped.

The snow was some of the best spring snow I’ve ever skied. Definitively steep, loose, but not too loose. And so, so fun.

It was a sluff race down to where Miles was holding the camera, far below.

Roger below Third Pillar. image: snowbrains

This was some of the best skiing I’ve done this year, period.

The rock crux was covered, but likely won’t be for long.

At the moment, the coulior is on the mellow side of how it might ski usually.

Stoked to have nailed such a line in such conditions, Miles and I exchanged smiles, and then turned to ski back to out car.

Dana Plateau and Roger and Powder Plant Chutes. image: snowbrains

The normal exit (what Greenberg calls the V Bowl Chutes in the Eastside guidebook) was pretty baked out, so we tried to figure out an alternative descent back to the car.

From the base of the Third Pillar, we skied down to the very end of the flat section of the drainage below the line.

We walked and skinned up a low ridge to our left, trying to find one of the chutes that lead to my car in the river valley below.

Roger in Ellery Bowl. image: snowbrains

After maybe twenty minutes, we crested the ridge, and looked down to find a chute disappearing into the valley below.

After scratching our heads at the photos we’d taken from the opposite side of the valley, we decided that Miles was right, and the chute we were above was the right one to ski.

I dropped first this time, cheezing it for the camera in front of Mono Lake.

The Third Pillar and Mono Lake. image: snowbrains

Miles dropped second, not stopping until he reached the bottom of the tongue of snow fiveteen hundred feet below.

I don’t blame him, the snow was way too good not to ski as fast as possible, as long as possible, hollering at the top of your lungs.

We reached the bottom of the tongue of snow, a mere five hundred feet of downhill scree and a river crossing separating us from the car.

Miles and Ellery Lake. image: Roger Romani

“I think we accidentally just nailed today!”

One river crossing and some road walking later, we were back at the car.

Boots came off, and I plopped myself down in my lawn chair (the true secret weapon of backcountry skiing).

Dana Plateau. Miles. image: Roger Romani

In short, it’s absolutely going off on the Eastside right now.

Grab your crampons, pack the cheezits, and try to be skiing by eleven if you want good light.

Ski season isn’t over folks, get ready for one of the best Junes you could ever hope for. 

If you’re interested in skiing the California Backcountry, please contact Alpenglow Expeditions for a guide and all the local knowledge.


The chutes coming off the Dana Plateau. image: snowbrains
Miles up Ellery Bowl. image: Roger Romani
Roger. Dana Plateau. image: snowbrains
Dana Plateau. Miles. image: Roger Romani
Roger Marmot. image: snowbrains
Miles. image: Roger Romani
Third Pillar. Miles. image: Roger Romani
Roger below Third Pillar. image: snowbrains
Mt. Dana. image: snowbrains
Roger in Third Pillar Chute. image: snowbrains
We skied the snake couloir in the middle back to car near Poole Powder Plant. image: snowbrains
Roger in the scree but almost back to the car. image: Roger Romani
Short forest walk. image: snowbrains
Roger atop the 2nd run. image: snowbrains
Stream cross. Roger. image: snowbrains
Short road walk back to car. image: snowbrains
Roger happy at the car. image: snowbrains
Salsa’s for apres ski. The make a mean carne asada torta. image: snowbrains
Roger atop Third Pillar. image: snowbrains

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