By: John Cheslick
The sky was clear and there were no bugs as I gathered our small climbing group together to start hiking up towards Pothole. Our group of five consisted of Patty Rambert and me as leaders along with Judy Hummerich, Harry Langenbacher and Susan Livingston. This was the first time in recent memory that I lead a trip that did not have a full rooster at anytime before the date of the trip. (Note to prospective participants: Not all SPS trips fill up plus there are always cancellations.)
We started up the Shepherd Pass trail at 8:15 after doing quick introductions. Harry had brought a scale along and weighed our packs. Harry's was the lightest, I believe it was 26 pounds but he was not carrying any water and mine was the heaviest weighting about 37 pounds with 2 quarts of water. We were all carrying ice axes and crampons.
We made in up to the notch before the infamous 500 descent in 21/2 hours. I was feeling like we were making good time. However, after the descent, it got both warmer and the trail seemed longer. I am always amazed that it is only 7 miles to the Pothole. It always seems longer when you hike this trail.
We finally made it to Pothole at 4 pm. Seven hours and 45 minutes to camp, including our lunch stop. When I measured the gain at home, it came to 5,050. No wonder I was tired.
We looked up at our planed route during happy hour. As usual, the group debated which route to take. I was hoping for a snow climb of the south face but there was only snow for about the last 1,000 feet of gain. We decided to leave the crampons at camp since it was fairly warm at Pothole and still no bugs.
The next morning, we woke up at 4:45 and were climbing by 5:30. Some old maps have the trail going up to Junction Pass starting at the two northern streams on the map but the trail actually starts by the two south-western streams near the trail going to the pass. We stayed on the trail for a short time and then headed cross-country up the gully on the southern part of the peak. The guide book says this is loose and makes a good descent route but it worked fairly well going up as well. Once we got to the snow, which was hard but was of Styrofoam consistency with many places to plant your feet, we moved a little faster. Judy decided at this point to wait for the group.
The gully leads up to a notch west of the peak. From there it was an easy scramble to the summit. After some time on the summit, we started heading down.
The rest of the trip was uneventful but long. We took it slow on the way down since a number of us had either sore feet or blisters.
It took us 2 hours to descend the peak and then another 5 hours after breaking camp to reach the trailhead at 5:30 pm.
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