FUN FACT: Squaw Valley receives an average of 450” of snowfall each winter. As you can imagine, it takes some time for the high-elevation snowpack to melt out of the Sierras. Although the mighty Tram Face, home of the Tahoe Via Ferrata, tops out at 7,400’ feet, we’re lucky that the terrain is mostly south-facing. This means that our routes typically melt out faster than some of the north-facing terrain at Squaw Valley.

As soon as the routes start to dry out each spring, usually in late April or early May, we start preparing to open! The first 2-3 weeks of our early-season operations include the following modifications to our program:

1. Expect an extra hike to the base of the climb

In mid-summer, when the access road at Squaw Valley is free of snow, we can use our 4×4 truck to drive climbers up to the base of the routes. During early-season operations, our groups hike 45-60 minutes up the Thunder Mountain trail to reach the base of the climbing area.

Keep in mind that the Thunder Mountain trail has a sustained incline. It follows a green circle ski run at Squaw Valley. In spring, it can be muddy at times. We suggest waterproof shoes if you plan to climb early-season.

2. We’ll climb in a big loop on Tram Face, instead of “topping out”

Depending on how the group is feeling we’ll start up the “Flamingo Buttress” and head towards “The Splitter.” From there, we’ll continue up the “Skyline” or the “Sundial” Route. Some groups make it all the way to the summit of Tram Face, while other groups use one of the escape routes to head back to the base.

If your group is moving fast and makes it to the summit, you’ll be rewarded with extra climbing! The normal walk-off trail goes along a super snowy north-facing ridge. This trail is inaccessible during early-season operations so we simply climb back down one of the Tahoe Via routes to get back to the starting area.

3. Expect an additional hike back down to the Village at Squaw Valley

Once we have climbed back down to our starting point, the group will begin the descent hike back to the Alpenglow office. Heading downhill is usually a little quicker and easier than the way up.

Please note, sometimes our climbing sessions run a little longer than scheduled during early-season operations, plan for some extra wiggle room just in case!

We’re thrilled to open early with these modifications to our guiding program.

When you join us for an early-season climb, you’ll typically beat the summer heat, enjoy less crowds in Tahoe, and get a little extra exercise and adventure out of the experience! If you prefer to reschedule your early-season climb to a later date with standard operations, please let us know as soon as possible and we’ll help you adjust your reservation. Please see our Domestic Cancellation Policy. If you have any questions, please reach out | 877-873-5376.