Ruby Mountain

Mar 1996

By: Rich Henke



For many years I had heard about good powder snow conditions in the Ruby Mountains; so good that a commercial heli-ski operation is based there. The Rubies also had good potential for back country skiing. Since the Sierra in early March still exhibited winter conditions, the Rubies looked appealing. There were reports of lots of snow and it certainly qualified as a 'Nevada Obscure Ski Trip'.

I began the trip from the San Francisco area. Armando Menocal and I drove East to Elko, Nevada where we met Bryan Johnson who had made the long 800 mile drive from San Diego. Our plan was to ski the Ruby Crest Trail from Lamoille Canyon to Harrison Pass. This was a north to south route along the main Ruby Crest for about 40 miles with an expected cumulative elevation gain of 12,000 feet. We placed a car at the bottom of the snow covered Harrison Pass road and talked to some local guides about snow/avalanche conditions. We slept by our second vehicle at 6800 feet, about 8 miles from Roads End on the Lamoille Canyon road. The following morning, we skied up the snow covered road to Roads End and then climbed toward Liberty Pass at 10,400 feet. Here we crossed a wilderness area boundary. From noon until the time we camped, we saw many snowmobilers who are the main winter users of the Lamoille Canyon area wilderness area or not. Their range extended about 3 1/2 miles into the wilderness. There is little enforcement of the boundary by rangers, probably a very practical situation, as I suspect snowmobile users outnumber backcountry skiers 20 to 1. They caused us no problems The Rubies are a narrow steep range where one can see many miles in both directions from the crest. The high point and well-known landmark is Ruby Dome at 11,387 feet. However, it is located to the west of the main crest and was not situated appropriately to be included in our ski tour. After crossing Liberty Pass, we stayed high, often directly on the crest and skied over a number of small peaks, a significant one being Wines Peak at 10,893 feet. On day 2, we dropped down to 7800 feet on the east side where we camped. The following morning we climbed above Overland Lake to a pass crossing back to the west side of the range. We could have possibly stayed on the ridge and avoided the big drop but we were tired of carrying our skis along the rocky wind blown crest. West of the pass, we turned south and followed a series of ups and downs caused by west side canyons. Near Harrison Pass, we saw snowmobile tracks but oddly enough no snowmobiles even though we were ending our trip on a Sunday. The Harrison Pass road seemed to be "just over the next hill", a few too many times but we finally reached it and had an easy ski for the final few miles to our car.

The snow conditions were surprising. The Rubies are skied extensively by Ruby Heli Ski and people who come and spend $1400 for 3 days of powder skiing will certainly expect great light powder. However, most of our skiing (with a few exceptions) was on breakable crust. The good news is that the avalanche danger during our 4 day tour was practically zero. We had good weather which was quite lucky since winter storms were present just before and after our tour. Unfortunately, our car at Harrison Pass had been vandalized. Nothing was taken but someone had broken our rear hatchback window. Bryan and I had a breezy drive back to Southern California. Tune in next year for more 'Nevada Obscure Ski Trips'.

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