Confessions Of A Ski Bum

The Needle

For about 10 years I’ve been looking at the east aspect of Natalko (Talc) Peak and wondering what goes and what doesn’t. A few times I have attempted to ski some of the lines by booting up them but always turned around. After skiing The Mind Shaft I thought maybe the best way to get these would be from the top by flushing the wind slab and skiing the bed. On Feb 8th Nick and I decided to try this idea out and headed towards the Egypt Lake area.

We skinned to the shelter on the 8th, dropped off our overnight gear and headed south to Natalko (Talc) Peak. By now you might wonder what is up with the two names. Officially this peak is unnamed and often people call it Talc Peak because of the lake of the same name below it. As Robb Schell explains in this post at one point Bill Peyto had the mining rights for the talc deposits in the area but he sold them off to the National Talc Company which then named the mountain Natalko (NA – NAtional, TAL – TALc, CO – COmpany but they make the C a K for some reason, maybe just to confuse the situation even more).

Nick climbing a steep snow slope which lead to a steeper rock section.

We started working up the east ridge, which from pictures looked to be our best and shortest option. The slide path in the area had slid to ground but the flank was intact and not safe to get on so we resorted to booting up the rocky shoulder. At 2400m we were forced to climb some steeper rock, which was difficult due to only having one axe and no crampons due to our original plan of using the snow slope to bypass the ridge cliffs. Progress became very slow at the ridge become more technical and as we looked up we could see it was getting to get a lot more difficult. We were out of time and we needed to escape before nightfall.

Nick heading into the unknown…

We started to try to find the entrance of another tight couloir which I had looked at previously but the ridge did not seem to line up with our pictures. Then I noticed a feature that looked like the pictures, a small skinny needle like rock tower but a steep open slope separated us. We climbed up further, checking the time as we went, it was going to be dark soon and we still couldn’t figure out how to even enter the couloir. We reached a flat section and realized we could enter the slope and connect to the couloir. As the slope reached the couloir it looked to get steep and we could not see if it went clean but we were out of time and switched over to ski mode.

I skied down into the open terrain towards the couloir entrance where I found a completely flat area where the tower was. Nick followed me down and we regrouped to try to figure out if the couloir skied clean. From our viewpoint we could only see the top bit and then it rolled away. Nick bootpacked up a short distance to ski cut the soft slab above the couloir entrance in order to not have the extra sluff. He then skied down into the tight couloir, over the roll and out of sight. I waited with hopes of seeing him pop out in the large open area below but didn’t. Then I read him yell something but I couldn’t make it out. A few minutes later I decided to drop in and ski slowly with hopes of not causing too much sluff in case he was stuck mid run.

Nick skiing The Sphinx Couloir

As I skied down I finally saw Nick waiting around the wall to take pictures, I started to ski faster as I came to the large roll feature. The skiing was already steep but as the couloir got wider the slope got steeper. The snow was great where Nick hadn’t removed it on his run and we rejoined to ski the lower rock slide section to rejoin our skin track. The sun had now set but all we had to do was follow our skin track back to the shelter.

Nick climbing up Hall Of Records

We had planned to go back the next day but the weather provided poor vis. Instead we decided to ski The Sphinx Couloir and Hall Of Records. Both skied pretty good but the best snow was found on the fan. It was the second time I had skied Hall Of Records and this round it was less terrifying due to the lack of a runnel, off chamber spines, a 1m choke section and pillows collapsing on me. Even so the run was just as steep and no joke.

Nick in Hall Of Records

On our last day we skied out via the east face Healy 3 Peak and the Healy Creek Glades, both which skied really great and much more fun than the summer trail most people take, (although requires a bit more effort). It was a fun trip but a little sour taste as we didn’t get to the top of Talc but we’d be back…

Marcus skiing Hall Of Records. Photo by Nick Grant

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