Mount Potter

January 22, 2022


Hope / Sunshine Valley, BC

Mt. Potter in the immediate vicinity of Sunshine Valley is by any mean not a “major summit” even though the higher west summit does boasts over 350 m prominence. The access is also not the prettiest as the peak is guarded by steep and unrelenting forest on all sides and a river crossing is also required. Despite the fact it locates right next to Highway 3 with a paved road access this peak rarely sees visitors. About two years ago Vlad, Mel and I ascended Mt. Coulter nearby that has some very similar characteristics but harder. Ever since then I wanted to come back for Mt. Potter but such objective could never be the “Plan A”.

The conditions and weather on this past Saturday lined up perfectly for this ascent. It was supposed to be the first day of a major warming-up trend so the snow stability was a concern for most areas. The standard route of Mt. Potter is almost entirely in the forest. It didn’t take me long to find a few partners to join. Everyone wanted to get out due to the sunny and spring-like weather but the questionable conditions meant we did not have a wide range of objectives to choose from. The crux for Mt. Potter might actually be the river crossing. I anticipated the creek to be fairly low in mid-January but it turned out to be quite a major ford. The transportation logistics were complicated as a few of us did not have their own rides, but by 6:30 am we all did manage to pile into my Tacoma in Abbotsford – Vlad, Alex, Holly, Chris H. and myself. An hour later we arrived at the “trail-head” in Sunshine Valley.

Mt. Potter via standard route. GPX DL

The first 1.5 km or so was plodding up a snow-covered FSR that had seen lots of snowmobile traffic recently, such that we did not need to don snowshoes. And then there came the river crossing. Alex and I had crossed this river one time in April 2020 en route to Mt. Forddred and Mt. Green and surprisingly the river looked to be considerably higher this time. I did not get it as we had not seen a major rain event but oh well. We actually backtracked to check out a downed log bridging the creek but it looked a tad sketchy to a few of us, so the final decision was to just embrace the fast-flowing river at the normal crossing point. It turned out to be worse than appeared with the deepest spot no higher than thigh level, and the water was not very cold neither. Vlad and Holly were smart enough to bring towels so we all dried ourselves before putting the boots back on. The deactivated Potter Creek FSR had not seen any recent traffic but appeared well covered by snow, and the snowshoes had to be donned right from the creek.

Holly fording the frigid Sumallo River. Knee+ deep and flowing fast…

Potter Creek FSR had been deactivated for a long time and seriously chocked with alders. Thankfully we had lots of low-elevation snow to cover them. We did have to deal with a few short stretches of bushwhacking on this road, but nothing really worth noting. About 1 km and 100 m elevation gain later we bailed the road into the forest and from here onward we had just under 1000 vertical meters grunt to reach the east ridge. The crux came at around 950-1150 m elevation where we were forced to weave around some bluffs and the terrain grade was sustained 35-40 degrees, though nothing compared to Mt. Coulter that we did two years ago. Above 1150 m the terrain started to become quite gradual and monotonous and the views did not open up until 1600 m, about 150 m under the east ridge. The temperature felt more like May than January and we took another long break to soak in the views and also to regroup.

Onto the deactivated Potter Creek FSR
Vlad and Alex leading the way
Chris negotiating a bushy stretch on this road
Into the unrelentingly steep forest
Vlad in the lower forest. This is the typical terrain.
Weaving around bluffs on 35-40 degree terrain
At this point the terrain had become more gradual and mellow
Eventually we found a break with views. Vlad playing with his usual sandwich art

Chris then plodded ahead to lay a track onto the east ridge while I took over, laying the track to just under the eastern sub-summit. I checked the GPS and made the decision to bypass the very top of that sub-peak, which was the correct call. It’s then a short ascent to the officially-named eastern summit, followed by a long and more complicated traverse to the higher west summit. The west summit was only 5 m higher but even if it’s only 1 foot higher it’s still higher, so the four peak-baggers here had to tag it. Holly opted to take a longer break on the lower east summit since she didn’t care that much about peak-bagging. The summit ridge of the west peak had some cool cornices scenery and the summit had some slightly more open views.

Chris plodding ahead for a while
Looking back towards Silvertip Mtn., the only “Ultra” of BC Cascades
Vlad and Chris plodding up the east ridge with Mt. Outram behind
Holly marching up..
Alex plodding ahead towards the officially-named east summit
Alex leading the summit ridge of the higher, west peak
Mt. Grant looks pretty darn grand from this angle
Mt. Green at the headwaters of Potter Creek
Mt. Rideout and Mt. Payne
The east and true summits of Eaton Peak
Mt. Coulter to the north
Our group shot on the true summit of Mt. Potter
An artistic shot of me on the summit of Mt. Potter

The ascent had taken much longer than anticipated so we didn’t linger too long. We took another break once getting back to the east peak, then basically just followed our own tracks down. The 1000-m plunge down into the valley was sure hard on the knees as the snow was not the best for downhill snowshoeing, with breakable crust and unexpected weak spots in various places. The strategy was to just focus on one step at a time and eventually we would get there. The river crossing was not much higher than in the morning and finally the road-walking back to the truck. Our round trip time was 8 hours 40 minutes on a fairly leisure pace. While driving home we stopped in Hope for snacks and then Abbotsford for gas and eventually got back to White Rock right in time for a (late) dinner.

Vlad and Chris descending the complicated summit ridge
A review shot of the summit ridge of Mt. Potter’s west peak
Plodding back towards the east peak
Me plodding back to the east summit of Mt. Potter
Our group shot on the lower, east summit of Mt. Potter
A zoomed-in view of Mt. Outram
Macleod Peak with Hope Slide in front
Vlad plodding down with Silvertip Mtn. et al. as a backdrop
Holly having so much fun in the snow.
Vlad and Alex looking tiny in front of Mt. Outram
Chris, Vlad and Alex bailing down the east ridge now into the forest
Holly descending the last stretch of open slopes
The typical forested descent for 1000 vertical meters
Holly negotiating a particularly steep section
Chris H. fording Sumallo River
Holly decided to just somehow walk the final road in shorts…
The road and Sumallo River at the end of the day