for intermediate to advanced ski touring in a
beautiful alpine valley. Optional pass
crossings and peak climbs.
Best in late winter and early spring.
Relatively low elevations (avg. of around 7,450')
mean that you should hit this tour before the snow
gets too thin on the high ridges.
This tour offers a
wide range of options to the backcountry traveler.
This is either a moderate day tour up a lovely alpine valley
to the base of an impressive alpine wall, or a strenuous
outing over a high divide, into an adjacent drainage and up
to the summit of one of the higher peaks in the area.
You can do this tour as a round trip back down Pole Creek,
or you can make this a one way tour and ski out either to
Squaw Valley or Sugar Bowl via the Donner-Squaw
High Tour, or up and over Silver Peak and
back out to Highway 89. Depending on your stamina and
how much terrain you want to cover, this is either a day
tour or a 2-day outing. The trailhead is near the
confluence of Pole Creek and the Truckee River, just off
Highway 89 about 2.5 miles north of Squaw Valley Road.
Limited roadside parking is generally
available for a few cars at the trailhead (just across from the Olson Construction
The tour starts at
Highway 89, near the confluence of Pole Creek and the
Truckee River. From the trailhead, follow the Pole
Creek drainage to the west, ascending gradually up a
road. After about two miles, you will cross Pole
on a bridge. (note: a side trail joins the main road
here which leads back down to Highway 89. If you take
this trail in, you will save about 3/4 mile, so I recommend
it. The trail
starts right behind the "Elevation 6,000" sign on
Highway 89, about a quarter mile north of the trailhead.
There is no parking here, but it is a short walk from the
main trailhead). After
Creek via the bridge, follow the road on the north side of
the creek until you
reach the Sierra Club's
Bradley Hut (which was relocated here from the
Five Lakes Basin after the Granite Chief Wilderness boundary
was stupidly drawn to include the area around the cabin).
At the head of the
valley, an impressive alpine wall separates the Pole Creek
drainage from the North Fork of the American River, which
lies immediately to the west. Above you and to the
left is the
rocky summit of Silver Peak
(8,424'), which affords incredible views of Lake Tahoe and
the surrounding peaks of the Tahoe Sierra. At this
point, you have a few options. You can climb and ski
Silver Peak; you can climb over the Pole Creek/American divide, descend to
the North Fork of the American River and then ascend Tinker
Knob (and continue on to Sugar Bowl if you desire); you can
cross over into Shirley Canyon and ski down to Squaw Valley;
or you simply go back the way you came.
The most popular
option on this tour is to skin up to the summit of
Peak. To do so, either head SW from the Pole Creek
bridge (staying on the south side of the creek), following
trails up to the NE ridge of Silver Peak.
Alternatively, if you are near Bradley Hut at the head of Pole Creek,
head south and angle upwards towards the
summit, following the
corniced north ridge. From the top, a beautiful panorama opens up to
the south. Looking out over the Squaw Valley
development, you can see nearly all of Lake Tahoe, as well
as the snowy peaks of the Desolation Wilderness and Carson
Range. From the summit, you may either descend back
down to Pole Creek via the NW face and ski back out to Highway 89, or, snow
conditions permitting, you can descend the more moderate SE face of
the mountain into the Silver Creek drainage, and follow this
path back down to Highway 89. If you choose the
latter, be aware that you will reach the roadway about 1.5
miles south of where you started, which means either a car
shuttle, hitchhiking or a long walk in tele boots.
Knob (with optional tour north to Sugar Bowl)
A more challenging
variation of the tour (which may, depending on your speed
and hours of daylight, require an overnight stay) is to
cross over into the valley of the North Fork of the American
River, and then climb up to the summit of Tinker Knob
(8,949'). To do this variation, skin up and climb over the
at the head of Pole Creek (the gap just to the south of unnamed point
8,597' and the gap north of point 8,506' are both suitable
alternatives, but mind the avalanche danger on these steep
slopes). From the top, descend to the valley floor slightly north
of Mt. Meadow Lake. From here, follow roughly the path
of the PCT up to the ridgetop just SSE of Tinker Knob.
From this point, the route to the summit of Tinker Knob is
fairly obvious (see
photo). From here, you can either return the way
you came, or you can connect to the
High Tour and ski out either to Squaw Valley or to Sugar
Canyon to Squaw Valley
An easier way to ski
down to Squaw Valley from Pole Creek is to cross directly
over into Shirley Canyon to the SW, and then descend the
canyon to the Squaw Valley fire station. To do so,
climb up to gain the moderate pass between
unnamed points 8,506' and 8,426' (located just NW of Silver
Peak), and then ski down into Shirley Canyon and follow the
Squaw Creek drainage to the point where it exits the canyon
into Squaw Valley proper.