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From Donner Pass to Benson Ski Hut, via Donner Peak, Mount Judah and Mount Lincoln

Published by 360 Pro , 24 March 2015, 14h49.

Region: World » United States » California
Date of the hike:20 March 2015
Hiking grading: T3 - Difficult Mountain hike
Snowshoe grading: WT3 - Demanding snowshoe hike
Geo-Tags: USA   US-CA 
Height gain: 950 m 3116 ft.
Height loss: 950 m 3116 ft.
Access to start point:Donner Pass - coming from west on I 80 take the exit toward Soda Springs/Norden, turn right onto Donner Pass Rd and follow it past the ski area Sugar Bowl. Some parking possibilities next to the road going south from there.

Today I had rather ambitious plans: almost 20 miles of distance and 4000 ft altitude gain. Depending on the snow situation some of the hike would have had to be done on snowshoes as well. The plan was to walk from Donner Pass to Tinker Knob & back and on the way to Tinker Knob bag the 4 peaks which are somewhat on the way there. However, I was a little too optimistic, not only about my physical fitness, but also the snow situation. My snowshoes stayed on my backpack all day long. I probably could have left them at home. However for Mount Anderson's north face I would have needed crampons, because it was too steep and ice-hard in order to safely get up and down there by foot or with the snow shoes.

I start my hike at Donner Pass. The main parking lot there is reserved for residents only, but I find a spot to leave the car without risking to be towed or ticketed. I first follow the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), which to my surprise is almost snow free already. Shortly before crossing the Mt Judah chair lift I turn left and walk to P. 7696, west of Donner Peak and then continue to Donner Peak. I first try to get to the highest point from east which turns out to be rather difficult. The easiest access to the highpoint is from southwest, some easy class II scrambling, nothing serious. Donner Peak offers a nice view down to the Lake and almost the whole range ahead of me (Mt Lincoln is hidden behind Mt Judah).

After a short break I follow the ridgeline to Mount Judah and continue to the top of the chairlift of Mount Lincoln. The last part follows the ski slope for a few hundred yards. The highpoint of Mount Lincoln is actually slightly west of the top of the chairlift. There I climb up an iron ladder to a small viewpoint platform. After that I head southeast down the ridge of Mount Lincoln and get back to the PCT. From here I continue along the trail to the point where the PCT turns right and bypasses the Anderson North face.  I walk straight up and get to the Benson Ski Hut, one of the rare huts in the Sierra Nevada.

From here I try to get up the north face to Anderson Peak which is 35-40 degrees. As soon as it steepens up I don't feel safe enough, because the whole slope is very hard and basically still frozen and I can't kick any steps with my boots. Snow shoes wouldn't be the aid of choice either, only crampons would safely get me up there and back down again. Since I'm rather exhausted already and don't feel like taking the detour along the PCT, I decide to visit Anderson Peak and Tinker Knob another day and instead take my lunch break in the ski hut. 3 guys spent the night there and just left so it was nicely heated. After this break I walk back to Donner Pass, this time pretty much strictly along the PCT.

Hike partners: 360

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