“Terminal Cancer,” A Ruby Mountain Oddessy | by Josh Daiek

Josh Daiek |

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I inhaled a deep breathe of cold winter air, gasping with each step closer to the top. This hike seems never ending, I thought. I continued one foot after the other, post holing with every step in the steep boot pack.

It felt like I time traveled. Nearly twenty four hours prior I was in the comforts of my own home, celebrating the new year with my lady. When I received a call from my friend Justin “What’s your plan the next couple days?” “Uhhhh…skiing” I replied. “Want to go to the Rubies tomorrow?” he asked. Without hesitation I blurted out “Yea!”

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The Ruby’s have been on my radar for the last decade but have always been out of reach because of time constraints or not having people to go with. No excuse this time. Justin filled me in “We’re taking sleds and toy haulers for a few nights of camping, exploring and shredding.” With a solid crew of Tahoe rippers, Will Brommelsiek, Benny Schmitt, Devin Ebright, Justin Befu and myself, the decision was a no brainer.

We began the new year escaping the grasps of  Lake Tahoe, heading East on the 80 into the most mountainous state in the U.S. After several stops at grocery stores, firework shops and  gas stations we arrived to Lamoille Canyon at the base of the Rubies. We buzzed around like bees unloading the trucks and trailers setting up camp under the full moonlight. We sipped on our frosty beverages, telling stories, eagerly waiting for morning.

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I awoke the next morning frantically scratching at the frost on the window trying to catch my first glimpse of the Rubies. I hammered down a quick cup of joe, suited up, hopped on my sled and ripped up the canyon. Only a half mile out from camp Justin and I rolled up on Terminal Cancer, a 2-3 thousand foot couloir carved in the side of a massive cliff face. Upon seeing the couloir I could hardly contain myself. I was immediately anxious and territorial, I wanted that line. “I saw some skiers in the parking lot…” I said to Justin, fearing they might beat us to the line. “Let’s go back to camp and get the boys!”

We ripped back to camp, excitedly telling the others about the couloir. After a quick discussion we decided it might not be best to have all five of us in the couloir at the same time. Since Justin and Devin had both skied the couloir before they stepped aside, leaving Benny, Will and myself.

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After a sketchy river crossing, we slapped on skins and wallowed through willow bushes fighting our way up the approach. I was a little disappointed as we came through the willows and onto an old skin track. Damn it! Someone had skied the couloir already. No worries I thought, this line is gonna be sick regardless of fresh tracks. The struggle fest continued as we fought through stubborn willows trying to reach the mouth of the couloir.

I crawled out of the willows and onto the apron, I glanced up to see Will starring back at me with a giant shit eating grin. “You see that?” he asked. I looked past him in confusion only to see the existing tracks stop a mere hundred feet up the couloir. “You gotta be kidding me!” I yelled in excitement. The rest of the couloir was untouched, it was virgin, it was ours!

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While we waited for Benny to catch up Will and I scratched in a small avy pit assuring it was safe to continue. Once regrouped we proceeded further up slope where we doug a full pit to assess storm layers and stability in the couloir. There were a few crust layers but seemed to be healed, so we proceeded on with caution.

Will led the charge effortlessly walking up the couloir thanks to the help of his Verts, a snowshoe like product that helps you levitate up steep pitches. Benny and I leap frogged behind post holing through Will’s tracks. A couple hours of wallowing, sweating and struggling and we found ourselves atop, starring down a 2000 foot hallway of pow. Benny and I agreed that Will earned first tracks after laying the ground work for our boot pack.

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Will dropped in without hesitation slashing quick turns down the hallway, flowing from top to bottom, bouncing plumes of snow off the walls with each turn. Benny followed, greasing his way down the coulee with style. Finally it was my turn, I dropped in smashing turns through the cut up pow, yipin’ and hooting as I tend to do when conditions permit. I thought I would flash the entire coulee like Will, but found myself needing a break less than half way down. I guess I didn’t have the strength or endurance to make 100 consecutive turns.

I exited the couloir and found the boys waiting in a safe zone in the willows. We exchanged a couple high fives, proceeded to fight through the willows again and back across the river. Like a group of beat up soldiers we wandered back to camp weak and tired from the day. After skiing Terminal Cancer I was more than satisfied with the trip, but it was only day one and I couldn’t wait to see more.

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The following morning I woke with the sunrise anxious and excited to see more. We packed up our sleds for the day and ripped up the canyon to Lammoile Lake. Surrounding the lake is an amphitheater of steep chutes and exposed cliff faces. We took advantage of the easy sled shuttle and hammered out some quick laps. The snow was firm and pretty wind hammered on all aspects of the bowl so we continued to the boundary in search of better options. Snow plumes shot straight off the peaks as the evil east wind raped the fresh snow from the mountains. Devin and I continued to explore while the others headed back to camp. We searched every nook and cranny we could access and while conditions weren’t prime we just couldn’t stop shredding laps. Before we knew it the sun was setting, so we rallied back to camp under an amazing sunset.

That night we decided to celebrate the new year, inviting our neighboring camps to join us for adult beverages and fireworks. Benny was excited like a kid on Christmas playing with his new toy. He ran around for hours, blasting mortars high into the night sky, laughing hysterically as they blew up and lit up our camp below.

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The following morning we groggily woke up and decided on a ski tour before hitting the road home. Not knowing the best zone to tour, we followed a set of skin tracks off the main road that led to a steep bowl in the distance. We grunted up the steep skin track, taking in epic views all the while minding our surroundings. It was the warmest we had seen in days. As westerly aspects baked in the sun above we changed our objective and climbing route. Justin dug a pit checking layers on the north aspect we were going to ski, he felt confident with us continuing but decided to hang back.

Devin and I pushed on just below the massive cliff that formed the summit. I hesitantly dropped into the steep face, feeling out the first couple turns as the snow was a variable mix of wind board and pow on the hike up. I sank my edges into the snow, surprised as I cut through the thin wind slab ease. I milked as many turns as possible to our safe zone where we regrouped. From there we skied one by one off the face and into the trees. It was the best way to wrap up our trip, it was the best way to bring in the new year.

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Big thanks to Justin Befu for all the pics, and thanks to Will, Benny, Devin and Justin for the epic trip!

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