Trip Report: 13,100′ Mt. Dana, CA | “Solstice Couloir” to “Banana Chute”

Miles Clark | BackcountryBackcountry | Conditions ReportConditions ReportTrip ReportTrip Report
Miles Clark taking in “Solstice Couloir” off 13,100′ Mt. Dana, CA. image: snowbrains

Brought to you by 10 Barrel Brewing 

Report from May 11, 2021

Yesterday, we went for an old classic.

This might be my #1 most favorite ski link up on Earth…

Solstice Couloir on 13,100′ Mt. Dana to Banana Chute in Ellery Bowl.

Both runs are big, steep, spicy, and dangerously fun.

Oh, and I got to do this with one of the best crews I’ve ever had together in Eastern Sierra:  Fox, The Andy Hays, Greggy, and Jason Dobbs.

Solstice Couloir  – Mt. Dana, CA Details:

  • Summit (actually a ridge):  12,500′
  • Car:  10,000′
  • Vertical From Car:  2,500′
  • Vertical skied:  1,400′
  • Max Pitch:  45º
  • Avg Pitch: 40º
  • Aspect:  Northwest
  • Distance:  5.5-miles round trip (including Banana Chute – see below)
  • Time From Car to Summit:  2 hours and 30 minutes
  • Car to Car Time:  5 hours & 15 mins (including Banana Chute – see below)
  • Recommended Equipment:  skins (we recommend bringing boot crampons & ice axe as precautionary measures in this zone at all times)

Banana Chute  – Ellery Bowl, CA Details:

  • Summit (actually a ridge):  11,300′
  • Vertical skied:  1,700′
  • Max Pitch:  45º
  • Avg Pitch: 42º 
  • Aspect:  North

Solstice Couloir + Banana Chute Link-Up Details:

  • Car #1 at  10,000′ at Tioga Pass + Car #2 at 9,500′ at Ellery Lake Dam
  • Vertical Climbed  3,100′
  • Vertical Skied:  3,400′ 
  • Distance:  5.5-miles round trip
  • Car#1  to Car #2 Time:  5 hours & 15 mins
  • Recommended Equipment:  skins (we recommending bringing boot crampons & ice axe as precautionary measures in this zone at all times)

We all met up and dropped a car at the Ellery Lake dam and shuttled up to the pass.

We were hiking by 9 am under blue skies, a temperature of about 45ºF, and a western breeze.

The first part of the hike is steep and grueling.

The hardest part of the day but also the part of the day where you’re the most fresh.

After 2.5 hours, we reached the top of Solstice Couloir, and the entrance was looking kinda ridiculous…

It was going to take a side-step above big exposure down to either a short rockslide or shooting a weird cornice tube to get into the chute.

Miles gazing onto 13,100′ Mt. Dana and Solstice Couloir. image: snowbrains

After a quick drink and a bite, I went first.

The snow on top slid right off and wanted to take me with it.

I sidestepped down slowly.

Andy flying out of Banana Chute. image: snowbrains

I was planning on going for the rock side, but the tube made more sense once down there.

I wriggled my way into the tube, and the icicles coming down put me in a little cage.

It was stunning and fun.

Andy checking out the nutty entrance to Solstice – the tube on the bottom right… image: snowbrains

I broke free of the icicles, burst out of the tube and into Solstice Couloir proper.

The top of the chute was steep, the snow was rough, and the choke was narrow.

I bashed turns through the choke and came screaming out into the middle of the chute where there was more space to roam.

Skiing Solstice. image: snowbrains

The snow was better on the skier’s left.

It was hit or miss, some good corn, some weird refrozen mini sun-cups, and some corrugation.

The full run down into Glacier Canyon was a riot.

Greggy looking into Solstice with Mono Lake in the back. image: snowbrains

At the bottom, I watched my buddies ski down and was stoked to see everyone come through that entrance safe.

Except for Dobbs…

He elected to ski in right off the top, where the cornice had melted back a bit.

Dobbs dropping into Banana. image: snowbrains

No one else wanted to ski that line.

It was extreme, and he pulled it off beautifully.

Glacier Canyon was stunningly gorgeous, as per usual.

Cruising Glacier Canyon with the crew. Skiing Solstice. image: snowbrains

We boot scooted and walked our way down canyon, up over onto the Dana Plateau, and over to the top of Ellery Bowl in search of Banana Chute.

We found Banana in fairly decent shape.

Fox dropped first, and the snow appeared a bit firm in spots but good overall.

Dobbs & Andy on top. image: snowbrains

I dropped in and was stoked on the snow off the top.

Splashy and fun.

In the choke, there were moguls, but they were slushy, fun, and workable.

Apres ski Charcuterie & 10 Barrel Brewing. image: snowbrains

After the choke, there were a few great turns before the snow got pretty firm at the end of the chute.

I came blasting out onto the apron with a big smile and a hoot.

The apron below Banana was beautifully sun-kissed, and we ripped big GS turns right down to the car.

The whole crew on the first rest break. image: snowbrains

We were all buzzing…

We apres skied at Ellery Lake for an hour before ripping down to Mono Cone in Lee Vining for ice cream, burgers, and fries.

“Solstice Couloir” off 13,100′ Mt. Dana, CA. image: snowbrains

Day 1 in the Eastern Sierra was an impressively fun link-up with an all-time crew.

I can’t wait to find out what the rest of the month here in Mammoth/Tioga Pass has in store for us!

Recent Trip Reports:

Photos in Chronological Oder:

Early morning dirt skiing. image: snowbrains
Andy grinding up Dana. image: snowbrains
Dobbs showing some chest. image: snowbrains
Dobbs & Andy arrive at the top of Solstice. image: snowbrains
Greggy looking into Solstice. image: snowbrains

The crew on top of Solstice. image: snowbrains
Solstice Couloir’s hanging cornice. image: snowbrains
The entrance tube… image: snowbrains
Dobbs & Andy on top. image: snowbrains
Dobbs & Andy finishing Solstice. Skiing Solstice. image: snowbrains
Dana Lakes under 13,100′ Mt. Dana. image: snowbrains
The crew taking it all in. image: snowbrains
Dobbs cruising Glacier Canyon. image: snowbrains
Da crew. image: snowbrains
Dobbs and Dana. image: snowbrains
Dobbs and crew and Dana. image: snowbrains
Dobbs working the Dana Plateau. image: snowbrains
Sun cut snow. image: snowbrains
Lazy Andy… image: snowbrains
Dobbs dropping into Banana. image: snowbrains
Dobbs ripping Banana. image: snowbrains
Dobbs tasting Banana. image: snowbrains
Andy owning it. image: snowbrains
Après ski with 10 Barrel Brewing. image: snowbrains
Apres ski! image: snowbrains


Charcuterie & 10 Barrel Brewing. image: snowbrains
Mono Cone! image: snowbrains
Fox crushing Mono Cone. image: snowbrains
Miles fired up on this first Mono Cone of the season. image: snowbrains

Related Articles

7 thoughts on “Trip Report: 13,100′ Mt. Dana, CA | “Solstice Couloir” to “Banana Chute”

  1. Hey Miles, just started following your blog, great stuff man, plan to make a trip with my cousins to TIoaga last weekend of this month (May), Hows the snow coverage holding up in Ellery Bowl? Any recommendations? Thanks so much!

    1. Hello Kyle, thanks for the message and the kind words :).

      Snow coverage is low in Ellery Bowl right now but you can ski Banana chute from the top right back to the dam.

      How it will look in 2 weeks? Likely Banana won’t go anymore and the snow likely won’t make it to the dam anymore.

      We’ve been skiing off White Mountain on the other side of the road and there’s quite a lot of snow out there.

      By end of May you may have to walk on dirt to get in and out but there should be some fun little chutes left to ski.

  2. I love to taste the banana! (And charcuterie, etc). Such a fun trip with the best!

Got an opinion? Let us know...