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Terminal Cancer Couloir, Elko, NV

March 26, 2013
Photo by Jacob B.

Photo by Jacob B.

Ryan and I left SLC around 2:30 am, Sunday.

Later, we ate McDonald’s in Elko, NV while we waited for the sun to rise. Fueled by trans-fat and bad coffee, we drove to the trailhead and started the short approach to Terminal Cancer just a few minutes before a party of two guys who slept at the trailhead.

Soon after leaving trailhead, before we even had the chance to get tired or regret our decision to drive all night, the couloir came in to view from behind a ridge. Even in our sleep-deprived and real-food-deprived state, we were stoked.

The approach was easy and we were in the couloir proper 15 minutes later. We could hear the other party behind us and I made a goal to reach to top before they caught up. Unfortunately, the snow was just soft enough to make breaking trail a chore, and they caught up with me 100 meters from the top. They were, however, nice enough to let me go first for the last twenty meters and soon we were standing at the top of the most aesthetic couloir I’ve ever seen.

We took our time on top. We ate and took pictures and tried to stay warm before we switched our boots and skis and boards to “ski mode” and dropped in.

The snow was tracked out by the time I dropped in, and the first 15 meters were riddled with sharp rocks. There was no serious fall potential, but there was a lot of potential to ruin your skis, so we went carefully and sidestepped over rocks. Then the snow was soft and the setting inspiring. We took turns taking pictures and tried to savor the experience. As it is with backcountry skiing, we were soon battling unruly bushes and then skating down a mostly-snow covered road and then taking our boots off and drinking a beer and laughing. After much planning, driving, caffeine, climbing, and sweating, the only thing left to do was drive back through Elko and merge on to the 80 towards SLC.

Time in the mountains is ephemeral. Sometimes it doesn’t even seem real. It’s hard to really remember the joy or the fear or the fatigue you felt on your last trip while sitting at a desk. Sometimes it’s hard to even relate to your own past experiences. I think this keeps those places a mystery, separated from us not only by distance, but also by time. And that mystery compels us to return some other time, some other place.

Photo by Jacob B.

Photo by Jacob B.

Photo by Jacob B.

Photo by Jacob B.

Photo by Jacob B.

Photo by Jacob B.

Photo by Jacob B.

Photo by Jacob B.

Photo by Jacob B.

Photo by Jacob B.

Photo by Jacob B.

Photo by Jacob B.

Photo by Jacob B.

Photo by Jacob B.

Photo by Jacob B.

Photo by Jacob B.

Photo by Jacob B.

Photo by Jacob B.

Photo by Jacob B.

Photo by Jacob B.

Photo by Jacob B.

Photo by Jacob B.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. spence permalink
    March 28, 2013 9:20 am

    there is nothing more satisfying than beating people to the climb/ski line who have endured a likely miserable night bivying at the base. Nice work. I dont approve of the snowboarding however.

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