Tragedy Spring to Silver Lake Via Porthole Gap

Summary  Link to more information about summary

Difficulty 4 Intermediate-advanced
Length 4.5 miles one-way or 3.5 miles one-way to alternate end point
7950 feet
+200, -900 feet or +500, -900 feet to alternate end point
Navigation Road, map and compass
Time Half day
Season Mid-December through mid-April
Snowmobiles Use Moderate use for the first 1.1 miles with low use for the remainder of the tour. The Silver Bear Snowmobile Trail used to coincide with the first part of this tour but has not been groomed for many years.
USGS Topo 7.5' series, Tragedy Spring, Caples Lake, Bear River Reservoir and Mokelumne Peak
Start On the south side of Highway 88 at Tragedy Spring, 9.0 miles east of Peddler Hill Maintenance Station and 2.9 miles west of the Silver Lake dam. You may find the snow bank at the starting point too high and steep to climb. In this case walk along the highway to find a better spot, but be cautious of vehicle traffic.

Description   Link to more information about description

This tour drops from a ridge above Silver Lake to the lake and ends with a ski along its entire two-mile length. Breathtaking views of Silver Lake and the convoluted mountains surrounding it, including the red cliffs to the northeast, are all visible from the saddle from which you descend.

Image of Silver Lake
Silver Lake

Silver Lake often offers ideal conditions for kicking and gliding or skating as you traverse its length. While other parts of this tour may indicate a desire for heavier equipment, the tour across the lake is most enjoyable with lighter equipment. You will need to weigh the tradeoffs if you own more than one set of equipment. Regardless, the bleakness of a large snow-covered lake hemmed in by mountains certainly is a wonderful setting.

An explanation of the difficulty of this tour is needed. More than one-half of the tour, the ski across Silver Lake, is appropriate for a beginner skier. You should consider the Silver Lake tour if skiing along the lake is all that you seek. The other portion of this tour is much more difficult.

Before reaching Silver Lake the tour is definitely of intermediate difficulty. But the crux of the tour is a 1/10-mile descent down a very steep section. Locating the spot from which to descend is critical. The difficulty of the entire tour is based on this section. Intermediate skiers who feel confident in their skills and who are willing to turn back if necessary may want to consider this tour.

Although the ski across Silver Lake is the ideal way to end this tour, it is possible to avoid that part by ascending a road from Plasse Resort to Highway 88 at BM 7588. This alternative, which is described in the mileage log, reduces the length of the tour by 0.9 miles but adds 300 feet of elevation gain.

Also described in this guide is the much more difficult tour from Tragedy Spring to Silver Lake Via the Summer Trail.

Mileage Log   Link to more information about mileage log
Numbers in parentheses
correspond to mileage points on map

Waypoint 1 to 2
Miles: 0.0 - 0.6
Elevation change: +200 feet

From the trailhead (1) ski south on a snow-covered road for 0.6 mile until you reach the west side of the ridge’s highest point (2). It may not be possible to discern the road in which case you must find your own route.

Waypoint 2 to 3
Miles: 0.6 - 1.2
Elevation change: -250 feet

Descend southeast for 0.6 mile until you reach a saddle (3) near Porthole Gap.

Waypoint 3 to 4
Miles: 1.2 - 1.5
Elevation change: -300 feet

At the saddle's northeast edge, where the terrain descends abruptly, ski southeast along the edge until you encounter large rock outcroppings that are quite picturesque. There are also likely to be cornices overhanging the abrupt edge. Be careful not to ski on top of them in your efforts to located a safe place to descend.

There is at least one place — a very small gully just to the south of a rock outcropping that has worked in the past as a "porthole" to descend. You should evaluate it for current conditions. After locating a safe place to leave the ridge, descend northeast until you reach a clearing (4) below, which is 0.3 mile from the saddle. The first 0.1 mile of the decent is very steep.

Waypoint 4 to 6
Miles: 1.5 - 2.7
Elevation change: -350 feet

Ski north across the clearing and then down along a small drainage for a total of 1.2 miles until you reach the shore of Silver Lake (6). In this section you will first encounter two water tanks, then the cabins that make up Stockton Municipal Camp, and finally the structures adjacent to the lake.

Waypoint 6 to 7
Miles: 2.7 - 4.5
Elevation change: Nil

Ski north along the west shore of Silver Lake for 1.8 miles until you reach the site of Kaye's Resort (7). Under no circumstances should you attempt to cross the outlet of the lake near the dam to reach the parking area at the east end of the dam; carefully walk there along the highway.

Alternate Route

The alternate route, which ends on Highway 88 at BM 7588, takes off from the main route at mile 2.6. Here, just before reaching Silver Lake and midst the buildings of Plasse Resort (5), you must locate the snow-covered road that ascends to the highway.

Waypoint 5 to 8
Miles: 2.6 - 3.5
Elevation change: +300 feet

Ascend the snow-covered road, at first west and then north for 0.9 mile until you reach Highway 88 (8).

Print version of map for tour