Trip Report: Dana Plateau, CA – “Kidney Chute”

Miles Clark | | Trip ReportTrip Report
“Kidney Chute” off the Dana Plateau near Mt. Dana on Tioga Pass, CA. Photo taken on 5/31/20. image: snowbrains

Yesterday, June 9th 2020, Fox, Bevan, The Andy Hays, & I skied “Kidney Chute” off the Dana Plateau near Tioga Pass, California.

The Dana Plateau holds some of the spiciest lines in California.

Kidney Chute is not one of them – it’s made for pure fun.

“The Kidney Chute is the easiest way down from the Dana Plateau.”

– Greenberg & Mingori via Backcountry Skiing The Eastern Sierra

We hiked up Banana Chute in Ellery Bowl, traipsed across the Dana Plateau, dropped into “Kidney Chute”, booted back up “Kidney”, skied & rambled across the Dana Plateau again, then dropped into trustworthy Banana Chute back to the car.

Kidney Chute  – Dana Plateau, CA Details:

  • Summit (actually a plateau):  12,250′
  • Car:  9,400′
  • Vertical From Car:  4,300′ (includes up and down Banana & Kidney Chutes & across plateau)
  • Vertical skied:  4,300′ (1,300′ in Kidney Chute for this date, can be 1,800′ in winter)
  • Max Pitch:  35º 
  • Avg Pitch: 32º 
  • Aspect:  Southeast
  • Distance:  7.5-miles round trip (including Banana Chute – see below)
  • Time From Car to Top of Kidney Chute:  3 hours 
  • Car to Car Time:  7 hours & 45 minutes (including Banana Chute – see below)
  • Recommended Equipment:  Crampons, Ice Axe (no skins for this date)

Banana Chute  – Ellery Bowl, CA Details:

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

Video of Skiing Kidney Chute:



It certainly felt that way as we dropped into “Kidney Chute’s” refrozen sun-runnel-spines.

Scoping lines at the top of Kidney Chute. Andy and Bevan. image: snowbrains

We parked at Ellery Lake and crampon-ed directly up Banana Chute in Ellery Bowl.

Banana Chute was firm and great for crampon-ing.

1-hour and 15-minutes later we were on top of Banana Chute and feeling the heat.

The forecast for the previous night was a low of 30ºF at 11,500′ with a high of 54ºF on our ski day at that same elevation.

Video of Skiing Banana Chute:

We meandered and took our time across the Dana Plateau and were dazed to find it took us 1-hour and 45-minutes to get across the Dana Plateau to the top of “Kidney Chute”.

Why ski “Kidney Chute”, a south-facing line, so late in the season?

Simply because none of us had ever skied it, we all were intrigued, and wanted to check it off the list.

Fox topping out on Banana. image: snowbrains

The views of Mt. Dana & the Dana Couloir & Solstice Couloir from the high plateau were inspiring.

We saw that “Kidney Chute” was a burnt-out at the bottom and didn’t connect all the way to the profound cobalt of Kidney Lake and we were ok with that.

Our Plan B was the next chute north – Cocaine Chute – but Plan A was a go.

Andy and the plateau. image: snowbrains

We dropped into textured corn-cheese and it felt good enough.

Then, in the first steeps of the run, things got runnelled, convoluted, firm in spots, and rowdy.

The snow had been cooked so hard by the sun that it was deeply grooved into refrozen water ice in long sections.

Bevan and Mt. Dana. image: snowbrains

I thought it was fun.

It added to the challenge.

I pinballed down the chute dodging nasty sections and shaving off slushy brown snowcones with every turn.

Bevan at the bottom of Kidney Chute. image: snowbrains

At the bottom, there was only a thin strip of snow before the snow completely ran out.

Those last 5-turns were the best, softest, smoothest.

Kidney Lake flashed like a jewel below and made us thirsty.

Mono Lake from the top of Kidney. image: snowbrains

We crampon-ed up and out of “Kidney” and the thing seemed to last forever…

Back on the Dana Plateau, we were relieved to find 3 large patches of snow that got us 75% across the plateau with almost no effort.

We were soon back atop Banana Chute and ready for a thin, zesty fissure in the mountain.

Bevan booting up Banana Chute. image: snowbrains

Banana Chute was phenomenal, as per usual.

Banana just keeps getting thinner by the day and the walls grow taller.

The apron of Ellery Bowl has only one narrow section that connects its upper reaches to its lower.

Plateau boys. image: snowbrains

Banana Chute skied exquisitely and we were euphoric after an iffy “Kidney Chute”!

10-minutes of downhill dirt-walking discarded us back at our cars.

Nearly 8-hours of mostly walking had us hankering for “Monorito” burritos in Lee Vining.

Bevan grinding out of Banana. image: snowbrains

We dropped the 3,000-vertical-feet by automobile to Lee Vining and ate to our heart’s content.

I decided to head back to the coast to catch the small swell forecast to hit the next day.

Bevan, Fox, & Andy Hays stayed for more camping, more fires, more good times, and a crack at Dana Couloir the following day.

Bevan and Dana. image: snowbrains

I’m confident this truly was my last day of the season.

Day #169.

Let surf season begin!

Thanks, everyone.

2019/20 was legendary and wild in so many meaningful ways. 

May/June 2020 Trip Reports:

Photo Tour in Chronological Order:

Andy and crew around the fire the night before Kidney. image: snowbrains
Ellery Bowl with Banana Chute on the far lookers right. image: snowbrains
Snailing up Banana Chute. image: snowbrains
Bev banana. image: snowbrains
Fox Banana. image: snowbrains
Bev and Andy at top of Banana. image: snowbrains
Bevan in the flatlands… image: snowbrains
Solstice Couloir. image: snowbrains
Mt. Dana with Dana Couloir on the left and Solstice Couloir on the right. image: snowbrains
Dana Couloir. image: snowbrains
Bevan hikes. image: snowbrains
Bevan Dana Solstice. image: snowbrains
Andy and Bevan at the top of Kidney. image: snowbrains
Andy on the last bit of Kidney Chute. image: snowbrains
Bevan and crew booting out of Kidney Chute. image: snowbrains
Dana Plateau silhouette. image: snowbrains
Andy and Mt. Dana. image: snowbrains
Monoritos! image: snowbrains
Monorito bliss in Lee Vining, CA. image: snowbrains
Sonora Pass, CA. image: snowbrains
Sonora Pass, CA. image: snowbrains
Sonora Pass, CA. image: snowbrains




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