Skiing Terminal Cancer Couloir In Nevada’s Ruby Mountains
Location: Terminal Cancer Couloir, Ruby Mountains, Nevada
Starting Point: Lamoille Canyon FS Road 660 (7400′)
Distance: 2.15 miles
Time: 2-5 hours
Top Elevation: 9,400′ at top of couloir
USGS Maps: Lamoille
As the resorts closed up shop for the season, it was time to hit the road and go on a van based skiing road trip. With all they news about California’s epic snowpack, the obvious destination of choice was the Eastern Sierra. About halfway between Montana and California lies the Ruby Mountains and one of the 50 Classic Ski Descents In North America: the Terminal Cancer Couloir. Definitely worth stopping in for a ski!
Skiing Terminal Cancer seems to be on everyone’s ski mountaineering bucket list. It’s a classic, walled couloir in a remote mountain range. People travel from all over to ski this line. It’s proximity to I-80, access via Lamoille Canyon FS Road 660, and the fact that it’s a classic helps to attract skiers and riders. Plus it’s darn fun.
After craning our necks out of the window looking up at potential ski lines. We spotted the northwest facing line in the evening light, we quickly scouted around and found numerous pullouts to park. FYI – the road turned to snow about a mile pass the ski line. As we peered up at our ski line, we noticed that numerous other vehicles were doing the same thing. This is not unusual during the spring ski season. We soon made friends with two skiers from Utah and two from Colorado who had similar plans to boot the couloir in the early morning light. We agreed to climb together as this was the safest option.
The next morning one group bailed on the line, which left 4 of us. Donning shoes we waded across Lamoille Creek. Drying off our feet as best we could, we then slipped on ski boots and began to boot it. We wallowed through snow and bushwhacked through a gnarly section of alders before hitting the snowy apron. From there, it was steady uphill walking.
Avalanche debris filled the first small choke that sits below a large snowfield. Soon we entered the beginning of the walled couloir. After a few hundred feet the couloir opens up for a good stretch. Then it closes in tightly up to the final col.
After a windy night, we were definitely dealing with a questionably spooky snowpack. This required a bit of extra snow assessment and safe travel techniques as this was not a place to get avalanched. Finally we reached the col at 9400′ with a little help from our friends who set the booter.
From the top you look up at a nice face that goes to around 10100′. It also appears that you can climb/skin a more mellow route starting from near the Thomas Canyon Campground and access the top of Terminal Cancer from the back. Due to the short distance and ability to assess snow, I’d prefer to boot the thing.
We transitioned on a decently sized rocky ledge. Soon we were skiing Terminal Cancer couloir. It was jump turns at the top and then opened up into nice snow. The lower chokes were filled with avalanche debris which was essentially unskiable. As we popped out of the walled couloir, we were greeted by another group who was having a leisurely and late start.
Soon we were navigating back through the trees and crossing Lamoille Creek. Once back at the car, we dried out, ate some food, and got ready to head to the Eastern Sierra. Our adventure to ski Terminal Cancer took around 3 hours. We covered just over 2 miles and booted 2100′. Not a bad way to spend the morning.
See our route for skiing Terminal Cancer Couloir in the Ruby Mountains of Nevada:
Here are additional photos from skiing Terminal Cancer Couloir in the Ruby Mountains of Nevada:
This trip report from skiing Terminal Cancer Couloir in the Ruby Mountains of Nevada is from April 21, 2017.