Castle Mountain: The Hike, The Hut & The Throne

My man-friend and I planned to do a climb called, “Brewer’s Buttress” while I was visiting this week. It’s located on Castle Mountain. There’s a hut on top of the ridge that you can sleep in, so we planned to hike up Sunday evening, sleep in the hut, then climb all day Monday and hike back out.

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The Hike:

securedownloadThis is the guide for the last two hours of the approach, the faint, red line was the scary section.

This next photo was taken an hour and a half in, at the Lookout Site. I was still in “happy hiker” mode here. Next came freak out, “survivor” mode so my phone stayed in the pack for the duration of the evening.

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This hike isn’t just walking on a trail. NOPE. It’s 3 and a half hours of hiking, scrambling, climbing up STEEP trails and rocks, and hoping you don’t trip and fall off the side of the mountain. You’re on a steep trail for about an hour and a half to the lookout, then it’s a ton of scrambling and climbing for the next two hours. We anchored in to a couple parts and short-roped others. I’m glad I did it and finished  it, but I’m also glad I didn’t die. I could see how that’s easily done on this type of exposed terrain. Ten minutes into this hike, I was already breathing hard and dreading the rest of it. Pretty much everywhere you hike, climb, or ride in the Canadian Rockies is steep as shit. Add to that the elevation (we were going up to 7,800 feet), the several pounds of climbing gear, clothes, and food in my pack, and my lack of long cardio training and I had the perfect recipe for two small asthma-like attacks. I don’t have asthma, but I did get the closing of my airway and the increasing difficulty to breathe, which caused me to get really dizzy and weak… Which is extremely scary when you’re up that high and having to climb up exposed areas. Don’t know if I’ve ever been so fatigued on an approach before…

The Rainbow:

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This rainbow appeared at just the right time… the first time I needed a huge break from the steepness of the hike. I totally needed to stop and breathe (and not retreat back down to the comfort of a lower altitude, like I desperately wanted to). It was nice to see this beautiful site from way up here. It was my motivator for the rest of the climb. There were actually 2 rainbows, but the other one was nearly gone by the time we pulled out the cameras.

The Hut:

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The hut at the plateau of Castle Mountain is operated by the Alpine Club of Canada and costs $40 per person per night. It seems pricey and it’s cramped, but it’s worth it when you don’t have to climb several hours immediately AFTER  hiking up. It’s also great because it comes equipped with cooking gear, utensils, water, toilet paper, etc, so you don’t have to carry all that ish up (along with the other gear). Totally worth it. The hut consists of two bunk beds, spaced about two feet apart. When we arrived, there were already 2 other couples there, so we had to break out the wood sheets from under the beds to bridge across the top and bottom beds of the two bunks. Now 3 people slept along the top row, and 3 along the bottom row. It’s often been said about the hut: “It sleeps 8, but you wouldn’t want to be one of them.” We were a little cramped with 6 people so I can’t imagine 8, unless you were really good buds with the other 7.

The Throne:

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“This unique structure is a credit to the skill, vision and sense of humour of those who created it.” says the Banff Rock Guidebook. And it’s completely true. They’ve made a toilet at the very edge of this 1,000(ish) foot  cliff, so you can look out onto this vast land and admire its beauty… and relieve your bladder, all at the same time. I’ll admit it was a nice switch from having to squat in the woods, hoping that you’re not near poison oak or peeing on your shoes. My man-friend told me about The Throne long before we planned to climb here and I thought it was hilarious. Here’s “The Throne,” the view from the seat, and a photo I’ll probably regret posting on the internet:

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The best peeing view ever:

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Because I was completely drained and feeling awful from the previous night’s hike and the fact that it was raining and freezing at 5am when we were supposed to start our climb, we chose not to do Brewer’s Buttress. I felt like a total weak-ass coming all this way and not doing the climb, but it’s best to listen to your body when you NEED it to work all day long. Brewer’s Buttress has thirteen pitches, which seemed exhausting. That would take most of the day, along with the descent back out. We opted instead to sleep in, chat up our bunkmates in the morning, practice building trad anchors (for me) and work our way down at a leisurely pace, which only took 2.5 hours! It was an eventful couple days, but I’m glad I did it and looking forward to the next trip!

My handsome Alpine Guide on the descent:

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