Analysing terrain data
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The exposure grade does not take into account objective hazards (stone fall, seracs, etc) but only the consequences of the skier falling.
Low Exposure (E1): Exposure is limited to that of the slope itself. Getting hurt is still likely if the slope is steep and/or the snow is hard.
Medium Exposure (E2): As well as the slope itself, there are some obstacles (such as rock outcrops) which could aggravate injury.
High Exposure (E3): In case of a fall, death is highly likely.
Extreme Exposure (E4): In case of a fall, the skier faces certain death.
Talking Mountain is a great tour for entry-level backcountry travelers yet still fun for expert skiers because of the terrain features in the area.
For faster hikers, you may want to ski this more than once in a day, which also makes it a great option for a half-day tour if you are pressed for time.
I recommend only doing this tour in the winter when temps are consistently below freezing.
The skin out requires that you skin across Echo Lakes, and if the Lakes aren’t frozen, then your hike becomes a bushwhack on the shoreline, which is treacherous.
Starting off you will need full avalanche rescue equipment, a partner, and a California Sno-Park Pass for parking.
You can purchase the pass at the Chevron Gas Station in Meyers, the town at the bottom of Echo Summit.
Drive south on Highway 50 to the top of Echo Summit.
From there proceed to Johnson Pass Rd., which is 0.25 miles past the end of the double lane heading down hill.
Take a right on Johnson Pass Rd and about 0.5 miles or so on the right is the Sno-Park permit parking area.
From here, you will skin up Atwood Rd., which turns into Echo Lakes Rd.
These roads will be covered in snow and most likely you will not see the road signs.
Approximately 0.25 miles of skinning up the road, you will want to take a sharp left up the hill.
There are many cabins in this area, but there is one in particular that is a two story, standing close to the road by itself.
This is where I start the skin track up the ridge line towards the summit.
It is approximately 3 miles up the ridge to the top of Talking Mtn.
Becker Peak is about a mile away from Talking Mtn., and will be the first peak you come to.
Keep heading past Becker.
It is a really mellow approach (flat - 20 degrees) until the last 0.25 miles at the top.
Here it becomes a little steeper and switchbacks can be difficult because it is on an exposed south, south-east facing aspect that can get hammered by the wind and sun.
Still, it is typically easy to get up if you take a well planned out route.
Stay away from the large cornices that form in the bowl between Becker and Talking.
I don’t recommend choosing your descent under the cornices either.
From the top of Talking Mountain you have many options skier’s left or right.
There can be areas with thick trees but you can see from the top where these spots are.
Skier’s left is the more mellow descent (30-35 degrees) with wide lanes that open up in the trees.
More fall-line and slightly skier’s right can offer more advanced terrain features such as pillows, tight trees, and high speed faces for laying down arcing turns.
Look out for larger cliffs that roll over (you can typically see these features).
The top of Talking Mountain is 8,824 feet and you ski down to Echo Lakes, which is around 1,400 vertical feet of skiing.
If at the end of your run you want to go back up for another, I recommend setting a safe skin track back up through the trees to the top for a reset.
If you decide one is enough, from here you will skin flat across Lower Echo Lake.
If you descend skier’s left you will pop out on Upper Echo Lake.
Go across to the other side of the canal because the right side looking east is more thickly covered with trees and can be a bushwhack.
Once on Lower Echo, take the long skin back to towards the outlet.
Once at the end of the Lake, stay right of the Echo Chalet (which will most likely be covered in snow) and skin up the Echo Lake Rd.
At the top, where there is a wide open parking area, you can take your skins off and ski back towards the parking lot the way you came in.