Fadgen's Adventures

Fadgen's Adventures
Green Creek Lake

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Terminal Cancer Couloir

Last week Dylan texted me asking if I had any plans for Tuesday/Wednesday of the following week. When I found out he needed a partner to ski the Terminal Cancer Couloir, I quickly asked for a day off from work for the following Wednesday. 

Terminal Cancer has been on our list of ski objectives for a few years, ever since a couple of friends skied it. Though it was a relatively low snow year (the Lamoille Snotel site showed 20”), we decided to at least give it a look. 

We met in Elko Tuesday evening, and after a big Basque dinner at the Star Hotel, we hit the sack in the luxurious Travelodge. The next morning, after a quick stop at Mickey D's, we were off. 

Surprisingly, the broken snow floor on the Lamoille Canyon road allowed us to drive to just below our objective. The lack of snow was both nice (no skinning required) and disconcerting (little snow). Since the couloir is north facing, we figured we should at least see what the snow conditions were like.  So, we put our skis on our backs and started out.
Leaving the creek and heading up

Splattski would be proud!
In good snow years, I imagine you could almost skin up to the couloir exit, but this was not a good snow year.  After crossing the creek, we headed up the hill through the sagebrush and aspens.  Moving through aspens or any small trees for that matter, with skis on your back, is a special kind of hell.  Luckily, hell only lasted for 10-15 minutes before we were confronted with our next objective – the steep ice coated apron.  With ski boots on and ice axes strapped to our packs, we made a few low class 4 moves to clear the apron before finally getting our first close up look at the couloir.  Looked steep!
Our first look at the ski line
Now it was just a matter of booting up.  Being the gracious father, I allowed Dylan to take the lead and set the boot track.
Getting excited!
And up...
Getting steep too!

Looking back down.
As we moved up, the swirling wind would send the spindrift either into our faces or down our necks.  This was a minor inconvenience, knowing it was filling out boot tracks.  The snow conditions were not as bad as expected.  A relatively firm base and no ice - other than on the canyon walls.  We were jazzed!

Just below the ridge, we negotiated a sketchy rock/ice section  and then we couldn't go up any further.  We took a quick break in the sun at 9400 feet, admiring the views, before deciding it was time to do what we had come for - ski this thing. 
Looking up Lamoille Canyon
We renegotiated the sketchy rock/ice section, this time facing in and with our ice axes in hand.  Once below the rocks, Dylan carved out a platform to get ready.  I  still had a lump in my throat on the prospect of skiing this thing, so moved down another 50 yards to get past the steepest section.  Here I too carved out my own platform and clicked in my skis.  After a few shouts to each other to make sure we both had our boots out of walk-mode, Dylan pushed off and quickly joined me.

After a bit of slip sliding, we both worked up the nerve to do a couple of jump turns before eventually linking some turns together.  Dylan even got in a few tele turns! 
My one photo of Dylan skiiing
As we moved lower, the snow quality improved, and the spindrift that had earlier settled on our tracks even provided a few face shots.  We stopped several times, grinning ear to ear, telling each other how cool an experience we were having.  Before we knew it we were at the exit to the couloir - run over. Damn that was quick. 

All we had left was the harrowing decent.  After a few brush belays and some cutting steps in the ice, we were past the steep section and back to bushwhacking through the aspens.  All in all an excellent day.
The final descent
It doesn't get much better than going on a true adventure with your son!  Wonder where we'll ski next?

Driving time - 9.75 hours
Hiking time - 3 hours
Skiing time - 15 minutes!

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A team of adventurers consisting of John, Tamara, Taylor, Dylan, and Shadow Fadgen