By: Rich Henke
In central Nevada, northeast of Bishop, the Toiyabe Range rises out of the Great Basin. This range extends close to 100 miles in a north-south direction and looked like the most promising line for a long ski tour.
In February 1995, Alois Smrz and I drove 475 miles from L.A. through Bishop and Tonopah to finally reach a small spot on the map near Kingston, Nevada. Here we met Armando Menocal who had driven from Truckee. After leaving Armando's car at a spot where we would finish our tour, we drove to the South Twin Trailhead just north of a small town called Carvers.
We began walking along the deep South Twin River Gorge at an elevation of about 6,000 ft.. It became immediately apparent why our inquiries had not identified any prior ski trips to this area. Over the next 4 hours, we made 17 stream crossings before the canyon opened up allowing easier going. However, we did manage to do all these crossings without getting wet! That night we camped at 8,500 feet, enjoyed a beautiful sunset, and could see Arc Dome which was our destination for the following day.
Arc Dome was the high point of the tour, an 11,775 ft. peak which dominates the southern end of the Toiyabe Range. It is the centerpiece of the Arc Dome Wilderness area, in a state with little wilderness. We skied all the way to the summit via the smooth north slope. The subsequent ski descent was possibly a first descent; certainly not many had preceded us.
From Arc Dome, we could see miles to the north. The ski route was an obvious line along a high ridge that stayed at an elevation of above 10,000 ft. for 40 miles to Kingston. Later that day a communication mistake resulted in us becoming separated and we had to descend toward the west to get back together. This delay, coupled with a light storm that night, caused us to change our plans and end the trip on day 3 by continuing west to Columbine Campground and eventually to the town of Reese River. We got a ride back to our car with a woman who lived on the Shoshone Indian Reservation at Reese River and learned all about local Indian affairs. We also benefited from her hospitality; she spent 3 hours of her evening helping us to get back to our car.
Although we did not accomplish our original objective, the ski up Arc Dome was exhilarating and rewarding. Local people, including the rangers at Tonopah could not recall ever seeing anyone ski here before, although people have done winter travel by snowshoes. Our experience was a positive one and in addition to this tour, other central Nevada mountains await.
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