Dana Couloir II AI1

  • Currently 4.0/5

Mt. Dana

High Sierra, California USA

Trip Report
When is the last time you got thoroughly BLOWN??
Tuesday October 29, 2013 12:30am
yea yea... the title is a blatant violation.... ;-)

I needed a light hearted way to start this TR about a near death epic..

dana couloir oct 27th 2013
dana couloir oct 27th 2013
Credit: climber007

We were doing a late season run up Dana Couloir yesterday..

Just before we started up the glacier I glanced at my alti watch and noticed the barometer had dropped a bit, but conditions were sunny, clear, and beautiful at that point.

my fiancé lizard baking in a space blanket to take a nap after the app...
my fiancÚ lizard baking in a space blanket to take a nap after the approach to dana couloir
Credit: climber007

So we started simuling up the glacier...

simul-climbing on the glacier below dana couloir.
simul-climbing on the glacier below dana couloir.
Credit: climber007

Eloise and Will at the base of the bergschrund on dana couloir
Eloise and Will at the base of the bergschrund on dana couloir
Credit: climber007

By the time I setup an anchor at the bergschrund... Things were starting to go very south very fast with the weather... the "storm alarm" on my watch went off, and all hell broke loose with the wind up there... we had to retreat immediately..

bergschrund belay on dana couloir.
bergschrund belay on dana couloir.
Credit: climber007

I quickly setup a V thread on the bergschrund and my buddy Will was to go first and setup the next station below.. then my fiancÚ and I would come next, then rinse and repeat until we were low enough to down climb back to the rock...

unfortunately the high winds tied the double ropes in knots and it took Will a long time to get down that first rap..

in the process, the winds were just getting stronger and wilder with every passing minute, next thing I know, I am yelling AVALANCHE!! and my fiancÚ and I are in the direct path of it... so we leaned in to get as much cover from the bergschrund as we could, and proceeded to get buried by the snow, and pummeled by rocks.. that was pretty scary, but we were able to dig ourselves out... the terrifying part was the widow makers littered in the avalanche.. its an utter miracle none of us got taken out by one... we all got pounded by rock and snow, but fortunately no rocks of the widow maker variety nailed any of us..

So finally we make our way to the second rap, get it done and down climb the remaining few hundred feet to get off of the glacier and back on the rocks below..

We only thought all hell had broken loose while we were on the ice.. how wrong were we... now as we start descending we are shown exactly how furious mother nature can get...

basically the three of us got hammered by unimaginable winds.. I actually got completely picked up off the ground and tossed several feet backwards.. that happened three times to my fiancÚ.. and all three of us got blown down countless times...

my fiancé's ice tools after getting blown down in the talus more times...
my fiancÚ's ice tools after getting blown down in the talus more times than we could count
Credit: climber007

the winds were sustained between 70 and 90 mph, and gusting well more than 100mph... obviously these are just rough guesses, but I feel reasonably confident about them, given that two of us have skydived several times, and I was also a motorcycle racer... it was truly punishing.. even to the point (similar to skydiving) where its very hard to breath, and you get involuntary gum flapping if you don't consciously keep your lips sealed as hard as you can....

to add insult to injury the winds were cyclonic within the canyon, so there was literally no where to hide... the cyclones would pick up small debris and water (which instantly froze to tiny hail) from the small lakes in the canyon... then just sandblast you relentlessly while it blew you off your feet in the talus fields...

at the end of it all, we got down alive, and we were all very grateful.. between the snow avalanche, rock fall, and incredible winds which brought the windchill factor down to hypothermic levels... we were indeed lucky to get down without one or all of us getting seriously hurt or killed...

and then.. for one last slap in the face... after we finally get back to the car around 8pm... we turn it on and fire up the a*# warmers ;-) We start driving up Tioga pass only to discover that the gates are locked at the park entrance due to the weather... now destroyed.. we get the pleasure of much longer trip home through Sonora pass..

  Trip Report Views: 5,967
About the Author
climber007 is a trad climber from San Jose, CA.


Trad climber
going big air to fakie
  Oct 29, 2013 - 12:44am PT
that's a wild outing, thanks for sharing, glad you all are ok... now most days will seem great in comparison...

East Bay, CA
  Oct 29, 2013 - 01:08am PT
that ice looks pretty good, for CA.

Gym climber
  Oct 29, 2013 - 01:10am PT
Full value, who-da-thunk, October is so friendly.

I never knew that getting blown could be that gripping.

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
  Oct 29, 2013 - 01:34am PT

Glad you all made it out in one piece. The weather looked kind of strange on the satellite image. It didn't really seem to originate from a front coming in, just a big swirl extending over three or four states just happened.

Thunder and lightening?


Big Wall climber
santa cruz, ca
  Oct 29, 2013 - 01:43am PT
Wow full gnar on that one!! I'm glad you all made it back.
Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
  Oct 29, 2013 - 02:00am PT
sucks about the wind, the ice looks nice and blue! too bad it probably got covered by this current storm..
Sierra Ledge Rat

Mountain climber
Old and Broken Down in Appalachia
  Oct 29, 2013 - 03:44am PT
I experienced similar winds in the Palisades in February ~1982. The wind actually picked me up off the ground. I heard later that tractor-trailers were getting blown off I-5. Incredible experience.

Big Wall climber
Richmond, CA
  Oct 29, 2013 - 05:39am PT
To be fair, the NWS predicted winds to be increasing throughout the day on Sunday, gusting to 40 mph. That was from the 0550z forecast discussion on Sunday. IOW, if you were already in the mountains, you missed it. Peak recorded gust was 130 mph in the mountains. We saw consistent 40kts, gusting to 48 near the south tower of the GG Bridge.

Just livin' the dream
  Oct 29, 2013 - 09:01am PT
Glad you guys are OK! Would hate to lose such a gifted photographer and adventurer. ;-)

Trad climber
San Jose, CA
Author's Reply  Oct 29, 2013 - 09:22am PT
Thanks for all the kind comments.....

We had been rock climbing in TM the previous days and the weather report from when we left the bay area had nothing about this storm..

And for some reason our suite at the "Chateau de North Face" at our bandit bivy location didn't come with free WIFI so we could check it again b4 our alpine start Sunday morning...

Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
  Oct 29, 2013 - 11:02am PT
I heard later that tractor-trailers were getting blown off I-5.

I counted six 18 wheelers and 1 trailer blown over!!! Not kidding. It was the craziest sh#t I saw while on the road.

Trad climber
San Francisco
  Oct 29, 2013 - 12:52pm PT
Lee Vining is in a hole for NWS forecasting so local detail isn't there, but thankfully there's Howard. IMO his forecasts starting on Wed-Thurs made Sun-Mon sound sketchy & windy. You can get it via RSS if you hold your phone the right angle up in Tuol, preferably while wearing a tin foil hat.

LV & Lundy canyons have some of the highest winds in the state/country - before the gauge blew out, Lee Vining Hill measured a 208 mph gust back in 2006. On Dana & the crest you can basically be in the jet stream when a front is passing.

Sport climber
Golf Wall, CO
  Oct 29, 2013 - 01:45pm PT
Wow, that's quite an adventure! Good thinking on turning around, and not trying to force your way up the couloir anyway.

I've experienced winds which picked me up and knocked me down on Mt. Shasta (both Casaval & Sergeant's Ridges), but wouldn't have really expected them quite that strong over there.
patrick compton

Trad climber
  Oct 29, 2013 - 01:46pm PT
answering the title:

Last night, from Jeremy A's mom.

Trad climber
Upland, CA
  Oct 29, 2013 - 09:54pm PT
Your near death experience is my night's great entertainment - Thanks!

Trad climber
El Dorado Hills, CA
  Oct 29, 2013 - 10:10pm PT
Vegas... I'm not telling when!

A few different places
  Oct 29, 2013 - 11:11pm PT
Damn man. Glad you guys are ok.

Mountain climber
Laguna Beach, CA
  Oct 30, 2013 - 12:27am PT
Wild adventure! Thanks for sharing, and i'm glad you all came away from it intact.

Social climber
  Oct 30, 2013 - 12:35am PT
Glad you made it out OK, had been seeing the weather build for some time up there. Was gnarly even in Owens Valley.

As for your answer, was doing Diamondback (a variation to Sidewinder) in joshua tree when a wind picked up that I couldn't feel from low in Steve's Canyon. Don't know how fast it is, but that far out from the wee bolt I had to climb in between strong gusts. Creepy :P

Trad climber
  Oct 30, 2013 - 12:42am PT
I've witnessed first hand similar winds guiding on Longs Peak pick you up and throw you down........

That's when the client says " let's get the f*#k out of here"

Larry Nelson

Social climber
  Nov 1, 2013 - 12:04am PT
you get involuntary gum flapping
Sorry I gotta laugh. That was great and glad everyone survived with no injuries. One to tell the grandkids.

Trad climber
Tahoe City, CA
  Nov 3, 2013 - 08:44pm PT
We did Dana Couloir a few years ago in June. Later we heard that the wind in Sacramento was 60 mph. We hiked up from the pass with our skis on our back. It was so windy we left our skis 1000' below and bagged the summit. The couloir looked sweet and we thought we would be out of the wind. WRONG. We got our skis, skied the couloir (icy and pellets hitting our faces). Then on the hike out we got blown over with our skis on the backpacks through the giant scree and talus boulders. We left our skis under a rock at 12000' or so and hiked out. By the time we hiked out via Ellery lake and back to Tioga summit we were exhausted and retreated to a hotel room in LV (with ants in the room) instead of camping. the next day we retrieved our skis under much better weather conditions. ( Tails between our legs). The next spring we skied it again without the wind, going directly up the couloir. REDEMPTION.

Trad climber
San Jose, CA
Author's Reply  Nov 6, 2013 - 12:42pm PT
- Skeet.. yea getting blown down in that forever talus canyon is extremely punishing.. And since by some magical force, they decided to reopen tioga pass for now, I am thinking on getting some redemption this season and going back to finish the couloir, fun and easy climbing and the ice was in great condition..... ;-)
Mt. Dana - Dana Couloir II AI1 - High Sierra, California USA. Click to Enlarge
The Dana Couloir on June 22, 2008
Photo: Willian McConachie