Ascent of Poteau Mountain on 2010-10-05

Climber: John Hasch

Date:Tuesday, October 5, 2010
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Poteau Mountain
    Elevation:2660 ft / 810 m

Ascent Trip Report

2660+ ft.
Poteau Mountain

Tuesday, 10/5/2010

Leaving Rich Mountain, AR in the dark, I crossed the state line for the third trip as I drove the stretch of US270 back to Heavener, OK. I used my GPS to locate a nearby, convenient Wal-Mart, and I drove the few miles to arrive at nearby Poteau, OK. It was a fairly early evening check-in, so I had time to drive to a local restaurant to find a decent meal.

I drove around town a bit before settling on the local Pizza Hut. The sign in front of the restaurant pointed out that this was a WiFi location. So in addition to the pizza, I was able to get on the internet to begin entering my trip history. While there, I was also able to note the progress of Roy Wallen these past few days. I knew Roy was HPing in Arkansas, and we had discussed the possibility of doing some hikes together if our schedules allowed it. But Roy had arrived in AR on Saturday. His journey began with Mount Magazine, the AR state HP. He then was working his way east toward the Konvention site. So he was several counties ahead of me, and I realized we probably would not be getting together before the Konvention.

I ordered a large pizza, and I only ate a couple pieces at the restaurant. I boxed up the rest and saved it for munching later. Tomorrow’s discussion will revisit this pizza.
I headed back to Wal-Mart to bed down for the night.

The next morning, my first HP target was Poteau Mountain, AR. A successful summit of Poteau Mountain would give me two counties at one stop because the summit is a near-twofer. The HP of Scott County lies near a former lookout tower site, and the HP of Sebastian County lies several feet away to the west.

I relied on my GPS to bring me up the mountain from the Poteau, OK Wal-Mart. Though the town and the mountain shared the same name, the mountain was perhaps 30 miles away. So I just plugged in the HP coordinates and let my GPS get me there.

In retrospect, this was a risky action, and the action had significant consequences. I had been overexerted and got sick with achy bones a couple days ago, and today it was my truck’s turn. Boys and girls, can you say “bone jarring”? That’s great. But can you say “B-B-BONE J-J-JARRING”?

The GPS led me on a southern approach to Poteau Mountain. From Poteau, it was south back to Heavener, where a road took me east and into Arkansas. I followed OK128 east to the state line, where the road became AR28. Sometime later, I came to a turnoff, turning north onto Strip Pit Road.

I had an unsettling feeling as I turned onto this road with the eerie name. But the GPS said I was getting close to my destination. My next turn was 6.4mi ahead. I chose to stick with this route which a later review of maps would be confirmed as the most direct southern approach.

The road began routinely enough with a couple turns past some farms. But it wasn’t too long until I began to hit rocks and ruts. The farther along I drove, the rocks got bigger and the ruts got more intimidating too. I bounced along, up and down, up and down, up and down. I was beginning to get anxious about various possible scenarios, including the chance that a tire might get punctured by one of the sharp, larger rocks. But the road wasn’t too steep, so I pushed on at a slow pace. I got to about the halfway point (3-4 miles to go) when I saw some heavy equipment being operated. The area was a former strip mine (hence the road’s name), and it was now in a reclamation phase. A short distance further, I came to a person sitting beside what looked like a guard shack.

I stopped to chat with the attendant. It is not racist to say that this was one of the most beautiful, 35-ish obviously native-American women I had ever seen. But I digress. I asked her about the condition of the road ahead. She told me it didn’t get any better. She also cautioned about not driving directly through any standing water if I could avoid it. The mud gets slick, and tires spin easily in those conditions. I could get stuck. I had a decision to make. Should I go back and approach from the north as previously described in trip reports? Or should I pull a Nike and “just do it”? I decided to push on, up this road whose various names included Strip Pit Road, CR50 and Poteau Mountain Road.

I drove along, and each time I came to some standing water, I chose a path to bypass the water as much as possible. If necessary, I gunned the engine before I entered the water to keep my truck moving forward and reduce the likelihood of getting stuck. I continued over the boulders, and thankfully the route’s difficulty did not deteriorate too much the higher up the mountain I climbed.

I finally arrived at CR70 which went to the right at a rather acute angle. This is the point at which my route finally joined the northern approach described by others. From here, it was up to the Poteau Mountain summit spur road.

White knuckled, I finally arrived at the summit and parked near where the observation tower used to stand. I got out of my truck, and the first thing I did was inspect my tires. Fortunately, I did not see any serious damage to any surface, and the tire pressures were all holding up just fine. Relieved, I wandered around the summit area to step on the two HPs. Prior trip reports accurately describe this summit which contains several communication towers and buildings. I spent enough time to satisfy myself that I had stepped on the highest ground. I spent some time wandering the area looking for the BM, but I never did find it.

I left the area using the northern approach followed by others. I returned to CR70 and followed it to the acute intersection with CR50. This time, I turned right to travel down to Hartford. After I was off the mountain, I was able to compare the two approaches. Others describe the northern approach as rocky and bone-jarring. But the southern approach was considerably more rugged, in my opinion.

Using a scale of 0-100 to rate the various road surfaces, with 0 being poorest and 100 being the best possible interstate highway, I would give Strip Pit Road a 16: it was rutty, rocky, with water in some low spots. You could get worse, but I wouldn’t envy anyone who would travel such a road. The spur road was a 30. Though rocky (not a gravel surface), it at least was decently graded to make driving on it more tolerable. I would give CR70 a 50: it was both gravel and graded, and I did 35mph when the road slope allowed. I would also rate the upper Poteau Mountain Road a 50 as I drove down the mountain. Closer to Hartford, I would rate the lower Poteau Mountain Road an 85 because it was paved and good to travel.

In conclusion, I would highly recommend approaching this one from the north near Hartford. Trip statistics: Time = about 20min wandering the summit looking for HPs and the BM; Distance = approx 0.60mi to wander around; Elevation gain = 47ft total gain, including 13 basic gain and 34ft of extra elevation.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:47 ft / 14 m
    Extra Gain:17 ft / 5 m
    Round-Trip Distance:0.6 mi / 1 km
    Route:Wandering around the summit
    Trailhead:Parked truck near former observation tower  2647 ft / 806 m
    Quality:5 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Open Country, Bushwhack
    Weather:Pleasant, Breezy, Clear
Ascent Statistics
    Time:10 Minutes

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