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post #1 of (permalink) Old 07-27-2020, 04:01 PM Thread Starter
Headed for the Mountains
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Join Date: Dec 2010
Location: Calgary, AB, Canada.
Posts: 153
Default Opoca (Redpoll)

In between Mount Wintour to the north and Gap Mountain to the south lies a small peak that displays the typical Opal Range contours.

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Back in October '88 I soloed this peak, ascending by the north ridge and descending the south ridge. On reaching the summit I found a cairn and PVC pipe register. Inside I found a record of one other ascent. This party called the peak Mount Redpoll, noted they had found a summit cairn, and called their ascent the first recorded ascent of the south ridge. With that information I called my ascent the first recorded ascent of the north ridge. With mention of the previous party's ascent of the south ridge I decided to traverse the peak and descend that way.

A recent party put up a 5.7 route on the east face and found the cairn and remains of the PVC pipe but no paper record. They called the peak Opoca after Opal Creek and Elpoca Creek on either side. They descended the south ridge, rapping off at a steep cliff band. I recall some extreme difficulty with descending the south ridge but after 32 years, that folly has faded into the mists. On a subsequent trip to the area, I chose a different route up Opal Creek to access the bumps and meadows to the east of Opoca. Old map annotations indicate trudges on both the north and south sides around Opal Falls but which one was preferable, I could no longer say.

My memory of the north ridge route on Opoca was that it was just a scramble so Doug and I headed out for a visit. The Elpoca Viewpoint road is blocked with a gate and the area to the south has been closed for sometime due to bears. We followed a long road beyond the gate, passed several piles of bear scat, looped back to the picnic area below the falls, and then hit the bush on a good trail. This soon deteriorated after what we presumed, was a branch to the Opal Falls lookout, and we entered steep terrain heading up to some dark cliffs. These cliffs are composed of very solid rock, unlike the usual fractured, lighter colored rock typical of the Opals. If these dark cliffs were located closer to the road they'd sport all sorts of rock routes. We chose a steep gully splitting the cliffs and thrutched our way up. It was not pleasant, although the views back west were nice. Part way up, sweat dripping in my eyes, I disturbed a wasp nest and suddenly dozens of them were swarming. Fatigue forgotten, I put it in overdrive to get out of there but suffered a couple stings on my bare thigh. I employed some mud first aid treatment higher up. Other flying aggravation included lots of skeeters and many, always annoying, horse flies. Since they react slowly, despite Park admonitions not to disturb the wildlife, I diminished their population throughout the day, including several ski pole hits.

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In the ascent gully.

At the top there was an open forested plateau with moss and flowers with a good look at the north ridge on Gap Mountain.

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Gap Mountain. Doug and I climbed this ridge (hard 5.5) in '86.

We found another animal trail that headed up, high on the Opoca side above Opal Creek with a great view of the south ridge on Mount Wintour.

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Mt Wintour

This trail made a rising traverse through rock and small trees below the imposing cliffs above.

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Trail crew at work.

We came on a small herd of sheep and soon after reached a spot where the projected scramble through cliffs and rubble led us to call "Time". We didn't round the north end of Opoca enough to give a glimpse of the route I must have taken. All we could see was very steep cliffs above the rubble.

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Looking up.

I'm thinking I must have come up on the north side of Opal Creek which would have given a more expansive view of a potential route to the top of the north ridge.

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Heading down.

Retracing our steps we chose a different gully down through the dark cliff band which offered more scree trundle options.

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Coming down the descent gully.

From above we could see that a short descent through the bush, straight down from the picnic site, would intersect the approach road and cut off the loop and long road trudge. Compared to last weekend's bush fest, this was easy, and we were soon back at the cars.
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