|Length||4.5 miles round trip|
|+1150, -1150 round trip|
|Season||Mid-December through early-April|
|Snowmobiles Use||Not permitted [Please report illegal use of snowmobiles in this area.]|
|USGS Topo||7.5' series, Half Dome and Mariposa Grove|
|Start||Ostrander Ski Hut|
Standing on the steps of Ostrander Ski Hut and gazing south across Ostrander Lake, spectacular Horse Ridge with its rim of cornices rises abruptly. Everyone visiting the hut should plan at least one layover day to allow time to explore the ridge.
You will find Horse Ridge broad and dotted with trees. Fog and wind from the south often cause ice, known as rime, to form in the trees. The wind also causes the formation of cornices on the north side of the ridge.
Of course you must first get to the ski hut and there are three marked trails that lead from Badger Pass Ski Area to it.
This loop tour is described clockwise. This is the preferred direction because the crux of the trip, ascending to the ridge, is early on. The top-most part can be very steep and ascending is definitely easier than descending. Refer to the mileage log for more information on this section.
Waypoint 1 to 2
Miles: 0.0 - 1.0
Elevation change: +600 feet
From Ostrander Ski Hut (1) ski east and then southeast for a total of 1.0 mile until you reach the base of a spur that ascends to Horse Ridge (2). At first you may find yourself on the Hart Lakes Trail.
Waypoint 2 to 3
Miles: 1.0 - 1.3
Elevation change: +350 feet
Climb south up the spur for 0.3 mile until you reach the top of Horse Ridge (3). The climb gets steeper as you proceed and don't be surprised if you must take off your skis and kick steps for the final 150 vertical feet.
Although being on the spur is relatively safe compared to other places under the corniced ridge, be aware that the top part of this section is potential avalanche terrain — plan accordingly. Once you are on the ridge, be careful not to ski close to its corniced north edge.
Waypoint 3 to 4
Miles: 1.3 - 2.2
Elevation change: -400 feet
Ski in a generally west direction along Horse Ridge for 0.9 mile until you reach the location where the ridge splits (4). The continuation of the ridge to the northwest narrows and just before reaching a jutting high point there is a bowl to the west that you can descend to intersect the route described below (see dotted line on map). The route described here follows the broad continuation of the ridge to the southwest.
Waypoint 4 to 5
Miles: 2.2 - 3.1
Elevation change: -700 feet
Descend the broad ridge to the southwest and then west for a total of 0.9 mile until you intersect the Merced Crest Trail (5), which is marked and designated as trail number 16. You have gone too far if you find yourself in a long stretch of level terrain. If so, back-track and look for the trail markers or the bowl to the northwest into which the trails descends.
Return to trailhead
Miles: 3.1 - 4.5
Elevation change: +200, -50 feet
Descend northeast into the bowl along the Merced Crest Trail, then climb gradually northeast past the bowl, then veer slightly more east for a total of 1.4 miles until you reach Ostrander Lake and Ostrander Ski Hut (1).