South Ridge

Page Type
California, United States, North America
Route Type:
A good 'schwack!
Time Required:
Less than two hours
Class 2

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Page By:
South Ridge
Created On: Aug 17, 2004
Last Edited On: Dec 28, 2004


If the directions to this approach are somewhat sketchy, it is because there are a million ways to start this hike. Here's the basic beta. It isn't too hard to figure out the details when you're actually there.

Drive up Squaw Valley Road (see main page for directions). As you approach the newly minted "Village at Squaw Valley", you have a couple of options:

First, you can continue to the end of the road, turning right off the main road just before the bridge over Squaw Creek. Follow this road past the fire station and into the Squaw Valley employee parking lot. This is a huge lot. On the right side of the lot near the edge of the forest, there is a lodge ("OVI" or Olympic Valley Inn). Behind it is a trailhead that leads you into Shirley Canyon. Start on this trail, but leave it fairly soon and begin a quaint bushwack and some slogging up the scree slopes leading up to Point 7,742'.

The second option is to turn right before the Squaw Valley base area onto Christy Hill (after the post office, but right before Granite Chief ski shop). Bear left at the first little intersection, and then right at the next. You will probably make a wrong turn the first time you do this, but basically you are aiming for the top of Sandy Way, near the obvious water towers on the hillside. There is a use trail that leads from here up a scree gully towards Point 7,742'. The use trail is also shown on the topozone map HERE. Note that parking up on Sandy Way is sketchy, so if you don't find a legit spot, head back to the OVI trailhead.

Route Description

From Point 7,742', you can see the entire south ridge spread out in front of you, with Silver Peak at its terminus. Follow the ridge to the top. There are a number of little peaklets and gendarmes along the way, the most prominent of which is a 30-40 foot high spire that I call Silver-Squaw Spire (as it is on the ridge that divides the Squaw Creek and Silver Creek drainages). These gendarmes and peaklets can all be climbed and do not exceed Class 3 the easy way, but they are composed of unbelievably crappy volcanic rock that tends to break off in your hands. Beware. Otherwise, you can contour around every one of these gendarmes through some sidehilling that ranges from easy to heinous to "why am I doing this crappy hike when I could be down having a beer at Squaw Valley?"

If attempting this route in winter, beware of some good sized cornices that build on the lee slopes of the ridge. As in most areas in Tahoe, the wind blasts these north-south ridges pretty hard. It is generally best to contour around the gendarmes where necessary only on the windward (west) side. This is possible for all of them except the small little peaklet immediately after the Silver-Squaw Spire, which can only be passed on the lee (east) side. Traversing beneath this little peaklet involves a short but pretty steep traverse and therefore is much easier on skis with metal edges than cumbersome snowshoes (read: learn to ski!)

Essential Gear

Long pants for those sweet Tahoe shrubs that dominate between 6,000' and 8,000'

Skis in winter make it quicker and funner.

Miscellaneous Info

If you have information about this route that doesn't pertain to any of the other sections, please add it here.