Confessions Of A Ski Bum

Natalko (Talc) Peak FWA

Earlier this month Nick and I attempted to get up Natalko (Talc) Peak but were turned away for a few reasons during our 3 day trip to Egypt Lake. After looking at more pictures and satellite imagery we decided to give it another go on Feb 22 2020. The forecast didn’t look good, possible whiteout conditions and extreme wind but the silver lining was that the storm should break mid afternoon. We figured we would give it a shot and hoped to find some luck.

We started skinning up Healy Creek just after 7am and by 11am we were already at 2000m ASL on the south-east aspect of the peak. We were doing good for time but the weather was insane with extreme winds and heavy snowfall. We made our way up to 2600m via a series of rocky ridges by just before 1pm, “not much vert left and the topo makes the summit ridge look mostly flat”, “not sure that means much, we could run into anything up there”. We didn’t know how technical the summit ridge was and due to the weather we could only see about 3 or 4 meters in front of us – we were now in the depths of a thick cloud.

We worked our way up the ridge slowly, making sure there was rock under the snow where we stepped. Soon we could see house sized cornices on the climber’s right and cliffs to the left. We made it to a high point and realized there was a large cliff and notch in the summit ridge. We started to climb down steep snow hoping to find a workaround but as the sun started to poke up we realized we were descending to nowhere.

Skinning towards the summit. Photo by Nick Grant

Now with some vis we could see that without rappelling we weren’t going anywhere, we climbed back up and skied down and around the high point into a large bowl feature. The winds had died off, the sun was out and we were surrounded by fresh soft slab. We booted up a section of thin snow/rock back to the summit ridge where we didn’t find any fresh wind slab. Nick proceeded to skin over to the summit where we had to switch over to axes and crampons to climb the steep snow gargoyles. At 4:30pm we reached the summit and we climbed down the other steep side to continue along the ridge. We were looking for the entrance to a line we wanted to ski on the east face but the massive overhanging cornices stopped us at every attempt to have a look. As we climbed the last small highpoint we realized we had already walked past it and with the sun setting soon we knew it wasn’t going to work out.

Taking a break just below the summit. Photo by Nick Grant

We backtracked a short distance to a ridge feature on the south aspect, skiing down here was our only quick escape at this point but it was hard to know if it cliffed out lower down. We made our way down the ridge, the left side holding a soft/powder slab and the right wind hammered. We arrived at a large cliff and decided to quickly make our way through the skier’s right bowl which lead to a short couloir feature. The bowl above at already slid but the days new snow had reloaded the bed surface. After getting through the feature we traversed around the whole of the peak using a series of ridge safe points and semi-supportive terrain before arriving to the edge of the burnt valley forest.

The sun set as we reached our access track from earlier in the day and we followed it back to the top of the Monarch Ramparts using headlamps arriving by 8:30pm. We skied some great powder snow down to the track leading to the summer trail and we were back at the parking lot for 10pm.

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