Glacier Route and Y-Couloir

Page Type Page Type: Route
Location Lat/Lon: 37.96720°N / 119.3192°W
Additional Information Route Type: hike & basic snow/glacier climb
Additional Information Time Required: Most of a day
Additional Information Difficulty: Class 3
Sign the Climber's Log


This route departs from Saddlebag Lake, near the top of Tioga Pass. Saddlebag Lake is located 2 miles north of the Junction Campground on Highway 120 (Tioga Pass Road). A small road leads from the Junction Campground (near Ellery Lake) up Lee Vining Creek to the lake. In summer, a ferry option allows you to shave 2 miles off the hike by transporting you to the north shore of Saddlebag Lake.

In winter, Tioga Pass road is closed 3 miles west of US 395 (near Lee Vining). In mid-Spring (usually coincident with the commencment of fishing season), the road is plowed up to the eastern part entrance of Yosemite. However, the Saddlebag Lake road is usually not cleared of snow until much later in the Spring. Thus, depending on conditions and time of year, you may have to use some combination of car, foot, snowshoes and/or skis to get to the start of this route, and you may have to start from either the bottom of Lee Vining Canyon (10+ miles to Saddlebag Lake) or the Junction Campground on Highway 120 (2+ miles to Saddlebag Lake). If starting from either of these points, simply follow the then snow-covered roads to the dam across Saddlebag Lake. The road terminates at the dam, which is the boundary of the Hoover Wilderness.

Route Description

[Note: a route map showing the Main Glacier Route can be found on the North Peak page.]

Hike/ski in a NW direction along the east shore of Saddlebag Lake to its inlet. From there, head due W, passing Greenstone Lake along its S shore. Staying close to the S slopes of North Peak, ascend a series of rocky (or snow-covered) benches to the upper Conness Lake (10,749'). From the lake, head due S, ascending an obvious bowl (which offers superb skiing in the spring) to the toe of the Conness Glacier.

From the toe of the glacier, you will see a number of prominent chutes heading up to the east ridge of Mt. Conness. Ascend the glacier and choose your poison.

The Y-Couloir

On climber's left, ascending the prominent rib that juts out into the glacier, is the appropriately named "Y-Couloir". This chute quickly splits into two main ascent chutes. The far left chute is the main chute. If ascending the far right chute, you will need to move gradually left near the top to avoid a cliff band. If ascending in winter or early spring, you should also note that the right-hand chute tends to develop a cornice at the far right top of the chute which should be avoided. Both chutes are steep, probably in excess of 45 degrees.

The Glacier Route

To the right of the Y-Couloir, two similar chutes gain the saddle between Mt. Conness and the top of the Y-Couloir. The left of these two chutes is described in Secor as the "glacier route". The chute to the right (just east of the NE face of the peak) is similar in length, and perhaps a tad steeper. Neither of these chutes is as long as the Y-Couloir, and they are slightly less steep. However, both chutes tend to sport a much larger bergschrund than does the Y-Couloir, as seen in the photo below (taken June 30, 2002).

From the top of the chutes, follow the rest of the East Ridge Route to the summit.

Essential Gear

Generally, an ice axe and crampons should be sufficient for these routes. Although the approach is longer before the roads open up, these routes are almost certainly easier earlier in the season when the bergschrund is well covered and any rocky obstacles are under several feet of snow and ice.

Skiing/Boarding the Glacier Route

The couloirs above the glacier make for some exciting skiing and snowboarding, as do the bowls and snowfields dropping north from the east ridge of Conness. These lines are sometimes skiable well into summer. Click here to see our Summer 2002 ski/snowboard trip to Mount Conness.



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