East Face Ski Descents

Page Type Page Type: Route
Location Lat/Lon: 38.90610°N / 120.0978°W
Additional Information Route Type: Skiing
Additional Information Time Required: Most of a day
Additional Information Difficulty: Experts Only
Sign the Climber's Log


This page describes a number of ski routes that lie in between the more travelled NE Bowl and SE Ramp routes on Mount Tallac. Though they are not all technically on the "east face" of the mountain, I choose to aggregate them under this name for lack of anything more descriptive. These routes are all extremely steep, quite narrow, and some have a tendency to terminate in cliffs depending on snow depth. Don't ski this stuff unless you know what you're doing and have scoped out the route in advance. Caveat Skier!

The best access is via the NE Ridge of the peak. Park at Spring Creek and follow this route to the summit.

Route Description

There are four general routes described here: (i) the Cross couloir; (ii) the east face chutes; (iii) the Cross "right arm"; and (iv) the "front chutes".

1. The Cross Couloir. This is the most prominent feature on the mountain, and can be seen from most anywhere in South Lake Tahoe. Looking at the east face of the peak, one can distinguish an obvious cross formed by one steep central couloir leading down from the SE Ramp. Its "arms" are formed by a broad ledge system that begins high on the left side of the peak and leads to the right at a downward angle across the central couloir. Above the terminus of the right hand arm of the Cross, a moderately steep angling couloir rises up to a gap through the righthand ridge of the east face. This "right arm" couloir leads up to the NE Bowl and can also be skied. It is described below.

To access the Cross couloir, ski down the SE ramp from the summit for about 100-200 feet until you see an obvious notch in the ridge on your left side. The initial drop into the chute is extremely narrow and steep. This is the crux of the descent, as the angle relents further down, and the rock walls open up considerably. If you don't trust your skills, an easier entrance into the Cross couloir can be had by picking your way down the face above the couloir (this face is on the left side as you are looking down the Cross, and is similar to the line seen in this photo.) The first view down the Cross can be intimidating. If you don't feel right about it, the SE ramp affords an awesome, and easier, descent back to the car.

2. East Face Chutes. There are two heinously steep and narrow chutes that drop right off the east face of the mountain for about 500' vertical each. The easier of the two starts off a little bit to the southeast of the actual summit. You kind of have to inch your way out over the edge and look for it. This righthand chute looks to be about 45 degrees, but narrows and steepens at the end. The harder of the two chutes branches off the NE Bowl near the very top. Rarely if ever skied, this chute appears to have a mandatory air or downclimb about 1/3 of the way down the chute. This 50-ish narrow couloir is a mandatory no-fall zone.

3. Cross Couloir "Right Arm". A fun little variation on the NE Bowl route allows you to ski the fun steep upper section of the NE bowl, then cut over to the central bowl below the main cross couloir, dropping into the "right arm" of the cross (when seen from below). This involves "a very steep entry (with a possible air entry, depending on cornice conditions), but then quickly mellows out into a fun chute with dead on views of Fallen Leaf Lake. The "right arm" can be seen in this photo (not the red line indicated here, but rather the mellow chute leading down from the gap at upper right). To access the "right arm", ski the first steep pitch of the NE Bowl and stay to the right hand side. Just as the angle eases up, you will see a narrow gap leading down to the right. Drop into this gap and ski down into the right arm of the cross. While skiing down this chute, you can look up and see the gnarly east face chutes right above you. Also, don't forget to wrap around back to the NE Bowl side at the bottom, else you'll have to hike back to the car and/or get lost.

4. "Front Chutes". The so-called "front chutes" are misnamed. They aren't really on the front of the mountain (they drop off the NE Buttress of the peak), nor are they really chutes. But the name persists. The "front chutes" consist of a steep snowslope that ends in cliffs (the "hanging face"), and two serpentine slots that provide a means of escape when skiing down the hanging face. The two slots are known as the "Central" and the "S-chute" and are intimidating in their own right. Hanging face should only be skied in good snow conditions, where sufficient snow will allow you to drop into either the Central or S-Chute and thereby avoid hurtling off the macking cliff at the end of the hanging face. By the way, that cliff is hard to see when you are ripping down hanging face and having the run of your life. Make sure you scope the route out extremely well before committing to this line.

Essential Gear

Ski/snowboard gear, avalanche gear, common sense.

Miscellaneous Info

If you have information about this route that doesn't pertain to any of the other sections, please add it here.



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