Monday, July 17, 2017

GR 339269 "Mt. Potts" - Solo Scramble | South gully, South East Ridge

Mt. Potts is a hidden gem, hiding behind Opal Ridge, with only a glimpse available up the narrow walls of lower Grizzly Creek from Highway 40. Major summit, approximately 3000m and about the 5 or 6 th highest in the Opal Range. Back in 2014, Raff and I attempted the South East Ridge from the col between Potts/Evan-Thomas, but it was late October and a lot of snow along the summit ridge proved to slow for the short fall days and we bailed. 

I could find three routes described, a lot of routes for such an obscure mountain. The standard route appears to the South East ridge route, with access from a variety lines from the cirque between Potts and Evan-Thomas; this is the line of the first ascent in 1954. I believe most parties that ascend the SE ridge access the ridgeline close to the low point along the col, providing for a fun lengthy journey up the ridge. Rick Collier solo’ed the West Ridge in 2008, vaguely suggest at 5.7/8+ ish terrain; likely this route is unrepeated.  A more direct line up a low angled gully to the SE ridge, closer to the summit, exists on the South Face. This south gully route is now published in Alan Kane’s third edition of “Scrambles in the Canadian Rockies”, so likely this peak will become busier and more known. 

View to Mt. Potts from Grizzly Creek trail

Nearing cirque between Potts and Evan-Thomas

View to north end of Opal Ridge. Gentleman I met on approach is in the photo.

I solo scrambled the south gully to the SE ridge on Friday, July 14 with prefect weather and conditions.  Fantastic solo day in the hills. Almost too hot, but really, a perfect summer day. With a late start, left the trail head about noon, the hike up the steep creek side trail gains elevation quickly.  Soon after leaving the car I spied another solo hiker heading up the trail.  I caught up to this gentleman and discovered he was traversing the northern section of Opal Ridge, descending to the trail at Fortress Junction. We had a fun conservation and said goodbye as I headed towards the cirque between Potts and Evan-Thomas and he up to the saddle between Potts/Opal Ridge. Made quick time up the scree and just below the low angled rock band at the end of cirque, I stopped for my first break and spied the route described by Alan Kane (also the route taken by the Nugara’s), 2 hours to this rest spot. The route is a golden highway (okay light brown) that quickly ascends moderate terrain (and turns out mostly solid) to just below the summit.  What a cool little direct route!
From lunch spot, view to Opal Ridge

From lunch spot, view to south gully route, most right and widest brown gully

Approaching gully route

Upper section of south gully route marked.
No getting lost in on this route, just keep heading up the gully

Getting closer to base of gully

Over the scrappy slabby rockband, across one snow patch in the drainage gully, then an easy hike to the base of the golden highway. The lowest section was beautiful hard water worn rock without scree, a pleasure to ascend, then above a steep step and chokestone, the gully got less steep, but did have rock litter over the solid base, but overall, a pleasant ascent.  Well the gully is, of course foreshortened, and the slog continued.  Overall a very enjoyable moderate scramble, not sure if this gully would rank as difficult, but not a simple hike either.  The exit to the summit ridge, just above another short steep step with a chokestone, is steep, very loose scree, but short.

View up gully.

Constant gully, but least the views get better

View to final summit ridge, out of the gully, yeah!

Summit ridge

Nearing summit block

The final ridge section is exposed, but the rock quality wasn’t too bad.  I think this final ridge section is more moderate than difficult, but not a cake walk for sure.  5 hours from the car, I reached the large summit cairn of Mount Potts.  The name is unofficial, but is well used by local scramblers/climbers. Very cool old school summit register, a thick copper pipe.  It still contains the original 1954 register! I spent nearly an hour on the summit, enjoying the beautiful weather and views. 
Summit view to Mt. Evan-Thomas and the minor Grizzly Peak to right

OSWB on summit

Cool old copper tubing register

Original summit entry, FA team thought they were on Mt. Evan-Thomas; not so.

Summit view to double summit of Mt. Denny

Summit view to Mt. Evan-Thomas

Summit view to northern end of Opal Ridge

Cool steep, outlier tower off of West Ridge, Grizzly Peak behind

View from ridge down south gully route

Last view to gully route

Turned out I was only 3 hours back to the car.  Nice quick descent.  Car to car I was 9 hours and had a great time on this scramble. Considering how close to Calgary, and how close to the road, this peak is, I am sure it will become popular as a nice trip day from town.

Evening light on north side of Grizzly Peak from Grizzly Creek

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