Tioga Pass Report: The North Peak Couloirs

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North Peak couloirs are legit
North Peak couloirs are legit

words, video, and images by Snowymonk

(editors note:  Snowymonk and crew know Rainbow Pools well.  Video evidence below)

My favorite area to go backcountry skiing is the Eastern Sierra.  And this year for one reason or another I hadn’t made it out to the East Side yet.  With the season coming to a close, I knew I had to get out there whenever I had a free day.  So a few days ago I made a day trip out to ski North Peak with my buddy Stefan.

East side biker gang
East side biker gang

We had heard that Saddlebag Lake was plowed but not open yet, so we brought along mountain bikes for the approach.  The gate was locked on our way in, but on the way out we saw that the gate was open and a few cars had already driven up  and parked at the lake.  Saddlebag Lake is mostly frozen and although we skated across it in the morning, I’d advise folks to stay on the shore.

vistas galore
vistas galore

The rim of the lake is slowly melting away and even if you can get on the ice, it may be difficult to find a spot to get off on the other end… one of us barely made it off.  After skinning/booting up the SE face of North Peak the altitude started getting to Stefan, so we decided to take it easy.  He waited about midway up the face with a pounding headache (I guess going from sea level to 11K+ ft will do that) while I scrambled to the summit.

Panorama
Panorama

After a fun ski down the face, we arrived back at Saddleback Lake and hugged the shoreline back to our bikes.  Right below our bikes, next to the dam there is a nice hole in the ice that was too tempting to pass up, so we went for a quick dip before cruising down the road back to the car & chilled IPAs.  We broke up the drive with a stop at Rainbow Pools to wake us up, and made it home around sunset.

Ice swim
Ice swim

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