Solstice Couloir

Page Type
California, United States, North America
Route Type:
Mountaineering, Ice Climbing, Mixed, Skiing
Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter
Time Required:
Half a day
Rock Difficulty:
Class 4

Route Quality: 3 Votes

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Solstice Couloir
Created On: Oct 25, 2006
Last Edited On: Oct 26, 2010


Nearly anyone who has climbed the Dana Couloir has also looked up and seen the Solstice couloir, a snow / ice chute which lies on the northeast face of Mt. Dana and can be seen across Dana Lake on the approach to the Dana Glacier.

Getting There

Follow the same approach to the Dana couloir, up Glacier Canyon until you get to Dana Lake. Go right (south) around the lake. In late season there may be a use trail which leads up the moraine on the south side of the lake to the start of the Solstice couloir.

Route Description

I've only climbed this couloir in neve conditions (early September 2006), which made for a nice solo. It started out at a fairly mellow 35-40 degrees where I entered the couloir around 11500', then steepened to about 45-50 degrees. There were rock islands in the steeper sections which made for reasonable rests.

There was no bergschrund that I could see (I don't think there is a glacier below large enough for a bergschrund). However, watch out for moats around larger rock areas.

The final 15' or so can be the crux. Look before you leap - there were sections that were overhung with remnants of the previous winter's cornices, a melted out section, and another section with 65-75 degree neve (fun !) You can also exit to the left on loose fourth class rock, according to Miguel Forjan (test the holds well !)

In previous years I have seen this couloir melted out at the top, with varying amounts of ice in the couloir proper. The couloir can look very dirty - if this is the case, it indicates rockfall - be wary of climbing in these conditions (start and finish early).

Some pics from earlier years in the autumn :

From the couloir exit at about 12500' follow the northwest ridge to the summit on class 2 talus / boulders.

Note: these are seat-of-the pants guesses on slope angles - please feel free to note corrections if you've measured them

Several possibilities exist for the descent, but the easiest is to walk the trail back down to the Tioga Pass entry station, and retrace SR120 back to your car (probably parked at Tioga Lake, in which case it's about a mile or so on the road).

Essential Gear

In early season (snow) - just an ice axe and crampons.

Later in the season (late summer / early fall) when it becomes neve and ice, one or two ice tools might be desirable.

I have not climbed this couloir in ice conditions, but would suspect that a small rack of screws and slings could be desirable, and perhaps a light rock rack (I have no specific recommendations).

Skiing / Boarding

The Solstice Couloir has been skied / boarded, if I'm not mistaken. Usually this seems to happen during the spring.

Steve Larson reports :
The one time I was on Dana to ski I checked out the Solstice Couloir. It was out of condition (way too many rocks), but it looked quite reasonable. My understanding is that the crux is dropping in. It's usually corniced at the top. That was certainly the case when I looked down it.

steeleman reports :
well, the main issue about the solstice is not the schrund, but the cornice. Usually it keeps a honkin' cornice (mandatory BIG air) until well late in the year, then it collapses and messes up the whole ski line

funny story is that a few years ago a friend was up there and reported seeing a huuuge group of n00b skiers atop the solstice contemplating the entry, and then literally one by one then tumbled down the thing, cartwheeling the entire way down. The followers never learned from the ones who went before them. How tragedy was avoided was sheer providence.

Any info on this would be appreciated, since I'm not a skier or snowboarder - post a note to the "Additions and Corrections" section of the page and I will do my best to incorporate your info.


When SR120 is closed (first big snows of winter until spring), access to this area becomes problematic. Please refer to the "Getting There" notes on the Mt. Dana page for details.

External Links

Google pulled up a few trip reports :

October 1999
September 1999