Forget-Me-Not Pothole in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada.
The reference book, 'Caves of the Canadian Rockies and Columbia Mountains', by Jon Rollins, discloses the general location of the pothole on an outlying ridge of Forget-Me-Not Mountain.
The approach into Kananaskis Country begins west on Highway 22x/66 via Bragg Creek. There are three possible access routes and today's hike will begin from the McLean Creek off-road, recreational vehicle area which contains a labyrinth of intentionally terrible road. A topographical map or GPS reference is important. The back roads are rugged with steep hills, huge erosion, mud, ice and tank traps. A seat belt is required to remain in the high clearance vehicle.
When the 4X4 Toyota pickup can navigate no further, gear is assembled and the remainder of the mission continues on foot through a large cut block, a bog and a dense, old-growth, evergreen forest with trees laced by hanging, sphagnum moss. Quite beautiful.
Under clear sky, sketchy trail leaves the forest to face a short, rugged scramble followed by navigation, first on talus, then on scree. Even though there is only 1,000 ft. (320 M) of elevation gain required, the steep slope is challenging. Heavy packs loaded with climbing and caving gear compromise balance.
Arrival at the top of the grassy, sparsely treed, whale back ridge, marks the beginning of a coordinated grid search for the Pothole.
Navigating the sub-alpine terrain is like trying to find a needle in a haystack but the discovery is made within a half-hour. The appearance of the Pothole is different from the reference photo from an old volume of the Kananaskis Country Trail Guide.
Rock edges have collapsed inward and nearly plug the hole into the narrow 80 M (262 ft) vertical cave. This is a dangerous place unsuitable for entry without significant cleanup. Purportedly, the bottom of the Pothole is littered with the skeletons of small animals that have inadvertently ventured into absolute darkness.
Old versus new photos of the Forget-Me-Not Pothole in Kananaskis Country
Throughout the day a cloud formation called a Chinook Arch has continued to form up. As the front rolls in, the arch forms south to north, and westerly wind at the exposed elevation becomes quite brisk.
Lunch is consumed quickly in the shelter of a stand of evergreens, surrounded by snow and warmed by the reflection of bright sun. Calgary and Cochrane, 70 KM (44 miles) away, are clearly visible from the ridge.
The Pothole will require a lot of debris removal prior to safe technical entry. It is a dangerous place deserving of absolute caution and negotiation by well-trained and experienced caving professionals.
To avoid the steep descent down scree slopes, the return hike begins on an angle off the ridge into a valley, then the hike off-trail continues through forest along the edge of Howard Creek where a vicious snowball fight ensues.
On the hike back to the truck, a large herd of wild horses are roaming and feeding in the cut block. These magnificent horses with long manes stampede away when human presence is detected. This awesome spectacle in the orange light of low sun reflection is a spectacular audible and visual event and a special memory.
The drive out in darkness is long, difficult and initially bone jarring until the truck is back on Highway 22.
Once again the driver demonstrates outstanding driving skills while another walks ahead to perform forward reconnaissance and advice on the best way to negotiate obstacles in the path.
As the sun sets, time is taken to capture photos of the Chinook Arch with Mammatus formations, turning crimson. Awesome!
The location of the Pothole is known. In the future, there may be another mission to return and clear entrance rubble to make the descent into the bottom of the 80 M (250 ft) deep vertical cave. The requirement will be to rappel in, explore and photograph, then ascend back to the surface.
Major research is required to ensure safety on this very physical and technical project. Common sense would make it sensible to contact the Alberta Speleological Society (ASS) for information and assistance to keep the mission safe.