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Report from February 5th, 2021
Photos in chronological order
Yesterday, I made the pilgrimage to Terminal Cancer Couloir in the remote Ruby Mountains of Nevada.
Terminal Cancer is one of the “50 Classic Ski Descents of North America“.
I arrived a bit before 10am and I was excited as there was a bit of wind up high.
Wind up high refreshes the chute constantly so no matter how many people are in front of you (this thing is busy) you get a fresh track.
I saw 3 people coming down the apron and hoped to chat with them about conditions but our paths didn’t cross.
As I got near the mouth of the couloir the wind picked up and a small sluff of snow rolled down to me and buried my feet up to my ankles.
Right then, I contemplated turning around.
It wasn’t a great sign that sluff was making it this far down – maybe it was coming off the walls above the chute?
I should have turned around.
5 minutes later – abruptly – the wind started howling.
It was now gale force.
The wind ripped down the chute, spun snow in barbaric circles, and started hurling snow off the rock walls in torrents.
I couldn’t see, I couldn’t move, I couldn’t hear, I could only feel.
Fear squeezed my internal organs like vice-grips on a tangerine.
I transitioned from walking to skiing as fast as I could.
Goggles improved my existence significantly.
I skied down the little bit of the chute that I’d entered in a hurry.
A vicious gust slammed me in the back as I dropped in and made it clear I wasn’t welcome.
Snow poured off the chute walls and was thrown back into the air before it could hit the ground below.
The grinding wind and snow fully blinded me just as I burst out of the couloir onto the apron below.
It all stopped in a flash.
I could see, I could hear, and my being buzzed…
My level of fear immediately dropped.
My consciousness kicked in.
I knew I should still be afraid.
I raced down the apron on an inadequate 8″ snowpack through burned bushes and small trees with branches piercing up through of the snow like spears.
Out of the path of Terminal Cancer’s wrath, my pulse slackened, my breathing calmed.
I took a deep breath.
“That escalated quickly!” I yelled out.
I relaxed into the short slog across the burned-out forest back to the car along the creekside.
About 25-minutes after being in the chute, I watched a small avalanche rumble down the apron.
Had I been hit by that avalanche, I don’t think it would have been good.
That apron is full of rocks, dirt, spiky branches, and stumps held within a very thin snowpack.
The wind taught me a ferocious lesson today.
One I won’t forget.
Recent Backcountry Reports:
- 2/5/21 – Terminal Cancer Couloir, NV Report: A Close Avalanche Call + a Lesson in the Wind
- 1/30/21 – Tahoe, CA Backcountry Report: Deep Powder & Steep Lines Above Lake Tahoe
- 1/26/21 – Tahoe, CA Backcountry Report: Deep, Light, Sunny Powder
- 1/23/21 – Teton Range, WY Report: Deep, Dense, Hot, & Crusty
- 1/22/21 – Teton Range, WY Report: Deep & Boney…
- 1/20/21 – Wasatch Mts, UT Report: Mt. Superior Extreme Skiing? | 4 Runs on Superior in 5-Days
- 1/19/21 – Wasatch Mts, UT Report: Mt. Superior’s Pinball Alley | Denial, Side-Stepping, Snowplow, French Fries
- 1/17/21 – Wasatch Mts, UT Report: Mt. Superior South Face | 2nd Day in a Row
- 1/16/21 – Wasatch Mts, UT Report: Mt. Superior’s South Face in Powder Snow
- 1/14/21 – Teton Range, WY Report: Incredible Chute in Punchy, Weird Snow After the Big Rain
- 1/8/21 – Teton Range, WY Report: Big Chute Fun, Perfect Snow, Pillows, & Stunning Vistas
- 1/6/21 – Teton Range, WY Report: Pillows, Chutes, & Airs in Sublime Powder
- 1/5/21 – Teton Range, WY Report: High Avy Danger = Minimum Angle + Maximum Wind Lip
- 1/3/21 – Teton Range, WY Report: 12″ New Snow, Pillows, Chutes and Slabs
- New Years Day 2021 –Trip Report: Nez Perce, WY – “The Sliver Couloir”
- 12/29/20 – Teton Range, WY Report: Fun Chute, Big Smiles, & Great Tree Skiing Powder
- 12/28/20 –Teton Range, WY Report: 4,000-Vertical-Feet of Perfect Bluebird Powder
- 12/27/20 – Teton Range, WY Report: High Speed Fun in Immaculate Powder Snow
- Xmas 2020 – Teton Range, WY Report: 3,500′ of Christmas Day Powder Fun 🙂
- 12/23/20 – Teton Range, WY Report: 2 Steep Chutes + My Avalanche Decision-Making Processes
- 12/20/20 – Teton Range, WY Report: Warm, Wet, Windy, Slabby Skiing
- 12/18/20 – Teton Range, WY Report: Great Skiing on Touchy Snow
- 12/12/20 – Beaver Mountain, UT Report: Mini-Powder Day in Paradise
- 12/11/20 – Tetons Range, WY Report: Ugly Skiing in a Gorgeous Chute in Tricky Snow
- 12/10/20 – Teton Range, WY Report: Steep Skiing in a Tight Chute in Tough Snow
- 12/9/20 – Teton Range, WY Report: Schoodeling in Good Powder Up High
- 12/8/20 – Teton Mts, WY Backcountry Report: South-Faces Aren’t Exactly Corn…
- 12/2/20 – Wasatch Mts, UT Backcountry Report: Suicide Chute on Mt. Superior in Low Tide
- 11/28/20 – Teton, WY Backcountry Report: Good Turns + 3cm Surface Hoar…
- 11/25/20 – Teton, WY Backcountry Report: 6″ of New Snow | Not Bad for November…
- 11/13/20 – Alta, UT Report: Friday The 13th Wind-Buff & I Only Hit 6 Rocks
- 11/12/20 – Alta, UT Report: Deep Dry Powder in Main Chute & I Only Hit 12 Rocks