February 13, 2016
Coquihalla Pass, BC
Nak Peak is one of the three peaks (together with Yak Peak and Thar Peak) that form the Zopkios Ridge north of the Coquihalla Pass, and thank to the proximity to this pass all three are fairly sought-after objectives. Yak Peak is famous for its impressive south face slabs and the other two are more often ascended in winter conditions. Nak Peak is the easiest among the three and offers a somewhat protected run down its sparsely forested south ridge/slopes. And with a very direct approach it’s also perhaps the shortest outing in this area.
With some mixed weather in the forecast Alex, Ben and I were seriously struggling to find an objective. It’s very difficult to pinpoint that exact line between what’s “too aggressive for the conditions” and what’s “too easy” even by Friday night. The weather was looking terrible with precipitation falling pretty much anywhere everywhere but we just had to take advantage of the low temperature (thus, snow in the alpine instead of rain), and the associated “moderate” avalanche rating. It seemed like the most precipitation fell in Coquihalla area so that’s where we’d go, but we couldn’t make our final mind until actually arriving at the pass. It was snowing and the visibility was terrible so Nak Peak and that’s it. Both Alex and Ben had done it multiple times and there’s nothing magic about it.
The parking lot was a bit interesting to find. We had to exit at Falls Lake, cross the highway and drive backwards for a few kilometers before parking at the unsigned pull-out. The first few hundred meters was done by skinning up a pipeline cut-block and then Ben made the call to enter the forest at a “reasonable” place. It’s amazing to see how much snow had melted during the last warm spell and the condition looked very shitty. There’s some alders to bash through and the snow was icy and crusty making the skin tracks very difficult to follow. But with some good perseverance the condition did improve a bit about halfway up the slope.
The wind picked up and we lost the tracks. It didn’t matter as we just had to follow the broad south ridge up, but then there’s some micro-terrain to choose from. The new snow did not bond well to the old surface and we constantly slipped on the icy crust underneath as soon as we picked a steeper line. It was pretty tedious at places and we had to go back and forth to find some “not-so-steep” areas. The overall terrain grade was not “steep” by my definition but there were certainly some steeper rolls on the upper slopes. Eventually after a bit more struggling and cursing we arrived at the final summit ridge and the broad ridge was easily followed to the summit.
It was a full-on blizzard on the summit with strong wind and no view what-so-ever. Switching the touring mode into down-hill mode was miserable in this conditions and for some reasons I couldn’t lock my right boot. I ended up having to take it off and thankfully it eventually happened (somehow), but again, it was very frustrating in the wind. But thankfully it’s all down-hill from now on. The skiing was actually much better than I thought at least for the upper half of the mountain and we could do some easy turns. The final 200 vertical meters was very bad though and was mostly done by side-slipping and kick-turns (at least for me anyway). Back to the pipeline we briefly thought about doing something else, but decided against it, demotivated by the worsening conditions.
Back to the car it was only 1 pm or so and that’s certainly one of the shortest trips I’ve done. I’ll probably have to go back up this peak for the views that I missed but overall I do agree that this is a great skiing objective even in less-than-ideal weather/conditions.