4:30am. I’ve never been one for alpine starts but climbing Castle Mountain is a big day. 1400m elevation gain and 13 pitches of beautiful rock.
I met Fred at 5am at the Castle Lookout parking lot and we headed up the trail in the dark. As we got up to the lookout an hour later the sun peeked over the horizon and we were treated to great views of Mount Temple basked in warm light. A rough trail continues past the lookout and scrambles up a gully to gain Goat Plateau. Here you’ll find an ACC hut. What a great place that would be to spend a night.
Technically, the climb is quite easy. The hardest pitch is only 5.6+ but this is a real alpine climb and it’s fairly committing. Bailing on the route requires a series of awkward rappels off fixed bolts.
After a 4-hour hike & scramble we finally got to the base of the climb. Two other climbers were just starting. Rockfall is a serious risk and we wanted to get ahead so we combined the first two pitches into one. I’m glad we did. Passing them further up on the climb would have been really difficult.
Two hours later a rain storm blew in and pinned us to the wall. Luckily we had a comfortable 1-foot wide ledge to stand on and debate our options. We looked down to see the other climbers only 3 pitches off the plateau and preparing to rappel. Their climbing day was over. But we were much higher, halfway up the climb. Rappelling down would take two hours and it would be a real pain.
For 10 minutes we debated what to do. Getting caught in a thunderstorm in a place like this is extremely dangerous. Dave Brewer, who the route is named after, was struck and killed by lightning. Fortunately, it looked like the weather was lifting and we decided to push on before the forecasted thunderstorm arrived.
At 1pm we topped out at the summit, very happy to have made it and to have escaped lightening strikes and more rain. We were surprised when we saw two people already at the summit. They hiked up via Rockbound Lake. When Michael and I visited Rockbound in May, it was completely socked in with deep avalanching snow.
We asked the hikers what time they’d started their day. We were shocked when they said 9am – they beat us by 4 hours! Apparently, hiking is more efficient than climbing. But the climbing was incredibly fun and getting caught on a huge cliff face as a storm blows in is about as exhilarating as it gets.