Thursday, August 31, 2017

"Crown" and "South Tower" of Mt. Willingdon - Scramble

Beautiful weather and dry conditions continued into late August and Raff and I debated and considered several options for another multi day trip.  Turns out we ended up with Plan B and headed to Devon Lakes to scramble up a “new” 11,000 foot+ summit, the south outlier of Mt. Willingdon, "Crown", and its southern neighbour, “South Tower” of Willingdon.  Hot n dry, but smokey, early start at from Mosquito Creek , up into the high country on the north branch of the creek and over the infamous Quartzite Col .

Crown (l) and South Tower (r) from Devon Lakes bivy.
We had no trouble finding the proper col and easily descended steep loose scree into the Siffleur River Valley.  I day tripped Mt. Willingdon back in 2010, just less than 16 hours, car to car.  Trip report on my Summitpost pages since this was in the pre blog days. Taking it easy and enjoying the summer weather, we reached Devon Lakes in about 7 hours.  Set up very near the shore of lower Devon Lake and had time to enjoy some whiskey on the beach and soak our feet in the clear water.

Enroute to Quartizite Col, beautiful potential camp site with water and lots of cool bouldering problems. Man I camp here for days. 
View to Quartizite Col, low spot, right of central bump, darker grey scree.
From Quartizite Col, view to Willingdon, Crown and South Tower across the Suffiluer River Valley and Clearwater Pass.
Late summer colours in the valley.
View to Willingdon from Devon Lakes.
View to Crown and South Tower from Devon Lakes.
Sipping whiskey at Devon Lake.
Camp with Willingdon and Crown summits.
Smokey sunset on camp and lake. Tent visible far right.

Beautiful summer evening and a relaxing bivy, up about 5am on August 30, ready for an easy ascent, but intended on hiking back to the truck and home, so a long day ahead. When the sun came up, it was very, very smokey. We did an easy scree plod up to the Willingdon/Crown col, cool alpine glacier tarn at the col, was actually quite large.  Easy plod to the summit of Crown.  Interesting, Raff’s GPS typically reads about 10 metres above the official elevation, his GPS read up to 3367 metres (11,047 feet), so Raff thought for sure over 11,000 feet.  Easy hike to the summit of South Tower, below 11,000.  Smoke cleared a bit as we headed down. 
Scree slog to the Willingdon/Crown col.
Cool glacial tarn at col, on the way up.
Raff nearing summit of Crown.
OSWB and Raff on the summit of 11,000+ foot "Crown".
Enroute to South Tower from Crown, Willingdon in the background.
Approaching smokey summit of South Tower.

Back to our bivy, just under 6 hours from bivy to the two summits and back to camp.  Quick coffee and lunch break and we loaded up for the hike out.  Beautiful and hot summer day on the hike, enjoyable trek across to Quartizite Col, then back to the truck.  Great couple of days out with an old friend.  
View north to Willingdon and Crown from summit of South Tower.

Old relic register on the summit of South Tower.

View to Crown and Willingdon to the north.

OSWB selfie on summit of South Tower.

Raff on the hike back to the col.

Descent to Willingdon/Crown col, cool glacial tarn at col, pretty big for a high col.

Glacial tarn at col.

Cool outlier tower on Willingdon.  Wonder if it has been climbed?

Heading home.  Willingdon, Crown and South Tower behind.

Mt. Goodsir, Centre Peak - SW Face, 5.2, Alpine III

Mt. Goodsir, or “The Goodsirs”, is a beautiful trio of 11,000 foot+ summits in southern Yoho National Park.  This peak is prominent and recognizable from a far distance and these summits are shoulders above their neighbours with a striking profile.  This gorgeous peak has been on my wish list for decades, long before the current fad of bagging the Canadian Rockies 11,000’ers became a thing. When I was a rookie alpinist, Tim B. and I headed into climb the highest summit, the South Tower, back in August of 1994, but an unexpected dumped of snow sent us running.  I did a few exploratory ski trips in the Ice River in February 2009, but I didn’t have the opportunity to attempt this mountain until this August.

My old friend and hard core mountaineer Raff K. was also keen to attempt this peak, so we headed to the Ice River on August 21, hoping to reach the summit of both the North Tower and the Centre Peak of Mt. Goodsir.  The summer of 2017 has been exceptionally warm and dry, and we were hoping for ideal conditions.  Raff had attempted the South Tower of Mt. Goodsir back in July, using the recently promoted Moose Creek approach, but he felt the Ice River was a better approach for a few reasons.  I trust Raff’s opinion (he likely has over 1000 summits in the Rockies), so I was fine with this approach. 

The drive described in Corbett’s guide book is bag on, except the last 400 metres of skinny logging road which was blocked by fallen trees, so we parked in the large cut block as described.  After hiking the old logging roads, the trail drops to the Ice River and is well marked with rock lining the trail’s edge. Soon after dropping to river level, an old relic wooden Parks Canada sign posts shows the turn to the Ice River trail.  The section 1 km or so of the trail is in great shape to the signed park boundary.  About 2 km into the hike an avalanche slope from the winter has destroyed the trail, leaving an icy mess under the fallen trees, very, very slippery. Overall an easy hike to the old Upper Ice River warden cabins, just over 2 hours from the truck.
Turn to Ice River road.

Tree blocking last 400m of driveable road.

Sign near start of trail with turn to Ice River trail. 

Slick ice under trees on slope.

Old warden cabin, about 2 hours from the truck.

Consensus on the web seems to be head into the Ice River and stay in the river until at the avalanche slope before (south) of on the confluence of Zinc Creek; this avoids a horrible bushwack.  We did a bit of both, starting hiking up the Ice River, just upstream of the warden cabin, for about half the distance to this avalanche slope, the water was mostly knee deep, slow moving and quite refreshing on this hot day. The remaining distance was on dry marsh islands, just west of the main river channel.  This summer these were mostly dry, could be more mud in other summers. Near the avalanche slope below Zinc Creek, we headed up the open slope and found blue flagging about 200 metres up the slopes.  This flagging disappeared really quickly, and we bushwached moderate bush until we head to GR referenced by Corbett for the splitting of the trail near Zinc Creek.

Once across Zinc Creek you are home free and an easy plod up the creek heads to the open alpine meadows where you are free to choose any line you desire to bivy near the north or south tower approach.  We camped below a large buttress that splits the drainage below the North and Centre peaks. Fairly causal pace and we arrived at our bivy site just over 7 hours from the truck.  Overall not a bad approach, have done many worse ones.
Start of our morning, leaving bivy site, yellow tent is visible, sort of in the middle of the photo.
Zinc Mtn. lighting up nicely in the early morning light. 

Beautiful night and up about 5am, hoping to summit both North and Centre peaks. Plod up the scree slope below the North Tower, lower section all scree, and some travel on snow as we neared the bottom on the glacier.  Once on the bench below the toe of the small glacier, we could not spy an easy line to gain the bottom of the “V” ledge system.  In fact, the approach to the lower part of the face looked nasty, Raff suggested travelling up the glacier to North Tower/Centre Peak col to look for other lines.  Of course the travel up the glacier took longer than we thought, bigger glacier than we thought. From the col there was no easy line, Raff suggested, "heh the Centre Peak is right here, lets climb it and then climb the North Tower"; sure, why not. Then we did not like the look of the north ridge route, the standard route up looked wet, we decided to climb a new route up of the South West face. Sure why not.

Start of the big scree slog below the North Tower approach. 

Just below the glacier, view to the North Tower and the famous "V" ledges.The V is not as obvious without snow.
Approach to gain the start of the "V" had chossy steep terrain below, the line was not apparent, this was part of the reason we head up the glacier to scope other lines.

On our new variation on the SW Face of Centre Peak.  Raff is just visible in the bottom of the photo. Raff is seconding the fourth pitch on our new line. 

Same view to top of North Tower. 

After our 5 pitches of roped climbing, we reached easy terrain in a basin below the summit of Centre Peak.
From here is it moderate scrambling to the top. Our first view to South Tower.

OSWB and Raff on summit of Centre Peak, South Tower behind.

North Tower from summit.
Route shown on SW Face. Red line is 5 pitches of 5.2, green line was a scramble to the summit. Orange line is approximately the descent line, shows approximate location of the rappel station we found in place.

SW face of Centre Peak.

Actually Raff had spied a nice looking right trending ramp that headed towards the summit.  Turn out to be a nice line, mostly steep, difficult scrambling with steps to 5.2/5.3. We did pitch it all, in a total of five pitches, mostly with runout pitches, but solid piton belay stations.  We removed all pitons and left no trace on the route.  After the five pitches, we ended up in the steep basin below the summit and we scrambled to the summit of Centre Peak.  Because of pitching our new route, we were too late to attempt the North Tower summit, so we lingered and enjoyed the beautiful day on the summit of the Center Peak. 

We debated the descent; Raff was keen on downclimbing the route we took up, I knew it would be a very difficult downclimb, one that would, IMHO, required belays; which would take forever.  I suggested we descent the “standard” route, even though we didn’t ascend it.  Raff didn’t like that idea, but we decided to descend and make the call lower down. Turns out we easily found the regular route and did downclimb it; much easier downclimb then the way we ascended.  We found a rap station near the bottom of the descent and we used it to rap a short steep section.  Then down eastern edge of the glacier, back down the snow and scree to camp. Poor Raff did get hit by rock fall on the descent of the face which hit his ankle/heel area, causing pain and swelling which slowed his descent.

Back to camp, Raff soaked his foot in the cold creek, then off to bed. Returned to the truck the next with hot temperatures and beautiful views.  Great trip and great beta for the return trip.

Monday, July 17, 2017

GR 339269 "Mt. Potts" - 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