Donner to Squaw Tour

Donner to Squaw is a classic tour. It can be a very fine tour. It can also get ugly, so be careful about timing this one. This is a north-south ridge, and it gets blasted! You don't want to be up there in a storm; wait for fair weather to do this tour. This tour is probably best mid-to-late winter. The average elevation is only 7700', and there are a lot of spots where the wind doesn't let much snow deposit to begin with. Sometimes this tour will be great in spring after a particularly heavy winter.

Start this tour at Donner Pass on US 40 just to the east of Donner Ski Ranch near ASI's Donner Spitz Hutte. You can usually park along one side of the road here (not in the parking lots). Your morning task is to ski up to the top of Sugar Bowl's Mt. Lincoln without bothering too many people at the downhill resort. Basically, you want to keep towards the left once you get into Sugar Bowl. Aim for the saddle between Judah and Lincoln, and then ski to the top of Lincoln (or cut across Lincoln's east face if the cornice hazard isn't bad; see photo).

  Ascending Anderson Ridge (photo Cathy Bianco)
The Mt. Lincoln shortcut traverse used to be quite dangerous due to the kind of cornice shown in this photo; more recently though, Sugar Bowl maintains this slope as part of their resort area (if unsure, avoid going underneath a cornice). Photo by Cathy Bianco.
Between Lincoln to Anderson, you mostly want stay west of the crest. As you approach Anderson, get on the crest. The crest just to the north of Mt. Anderson is where you'll find the Sierra Club's Benson Hut. You can camp there if there's room, or you can camp outside in the general vicinity of the hut. Personally, though, I find this tour quite manageable as a day-trip.

Get to the top of Anderson by going more or less straight up from Benson Hut. Follow the ridge, avoiding cornices, from there towards Tinker Knob. You don't have to ascend Tinker; just ski easily past it on its left (east) side. Rather than continuing to follow the ridge, drop down a south-facing bowl just past Tinker, which will put you on the west side of the ridge. Without losing a lot more elevation than you have to, glide on down to Mountain Meadow Lake. Then go a little ways southeast from there and descend Shirley Canyon down to Squaw's Olympic Village.

In Shirley Canyon, it's generally best to stay to the right once you get past the steep stuff. The route can get quite tricky as you get below around 7000', what with all the brush, creeks, and thin snowcover. Take it easy and you'll find yourself in Squaw's resortland soon enough. There's acres of parking at this end of the tour, of course.

An account of our 3/96 Donner to Squaw tour.

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