Tuesday, May 8, 2012

TR: Sonora Pass (5.5.2012) - Leavitt Peak with Johnny

Sonora Pass is a special place.  The pass lying just north of Tioga, it's often overshadowed by it's southern neighbor and is quite neglected.  But there is a sweet spot every year when the pass opens, and there is still plenty of snow to go skiing right from the road.

Friday at noon, the gates to Sonora Pass opened... Sat at 3:30 am I woke up, packed the car and started driving.  By 7 am I met up with Johnny and we were ready to cruise... The mountains here don't get ridden much during the rest of the year.  (unless you have a snowmo, access is FAR).  Gotta say it's a refreshing feeling to get to the top of an 11,500 ft peak and not be able to recognize the surrounding peaks.  We parked at the pass (9624') and followed the PCT south to Leavitt Peak, the most popular target from Sonora Pass. 

This was my 12th day in the BC this year, 11 in the resort, so 23 day on skis total.  Not too bad considering the season didn't start until Jan 21st, and I have a 8 mo. old baby.  
That's Leavitt Peak to the left, and Deadman's on the right.  We booted right up the bowl.  

Summit shot

Check out some of these peaks to the South! Kennedy Peak

Hawksbeak Peak, I believe.  

Another beautiful thing about Sonora Pass it the shuttle option.  From the top of Leavitt peak you can ski down to as far as the snow will let you.  In this case it was around 8500 ft (at "the switchback") where we crossed Deadman Creek to get back to 108.

Thumb a quick ride back to your car, and you are all set!  Coincidentally, I was listening to Freakonomics podcast on the way up about hitchhiking... a fun listen, FYI.  

Night Cap Peak... from near where we descended and started hitching.  Plenty of burly descent options here... maybe not this year, but I'm sure some years there are some lines down that.  The left slope is another popular option for Sonora Pass enthusiasts.

Here's a link to Johnny great post from this trip. http://www.backwoodsbayarea.com/2012/05/cinco-de-my-oh-my-thats-big-peak.html

And his vid

Leavitt Peak | Cinco de Mayo from JonnyB on Vimeo.

And mine.

And from the folks that you can see booting up the Y-couloir while I was skiing down it.


  1. Contemplating a run to Sonora this year, soon. Some good info in this post, Monk.

  2. The photo of "Hawksbeak Peak" is actually Tower Peak. The photo of "Nightcap Peak" is actually Peak 10840+, east of Nightcap as shown on topo maps. Nightcap Peak is actually shown incorrectly on maps after 1979, as it is about a mile west of what the map shows. Confused yet? Many people tend to hike from Sonora Pass to Leavitt and then hitchhike back up the road, I think because a guidebook recommended it. I think it's easier to just hike the peak from the 8700' level on the highway. You start lower, but it's more direct without all the traversing, and no hitchhiking or shuttle hassles. That's how I've been skiing it for the last 40 years.