A couple years back I pitched the idea to Ben that we should tackle Castle Towers as a day trip. Why? I'm not sure, maybe we like a challenge, maybe we like sleeping in beds, maybe we're gluttons for punishment. Whatever the case, we finally got around to it this past sunday.
We had to make a short rendezvous with the one and only Spring Mclurg in Squampton in order for Ben to receive his goods from some sort of shady back alley deal with Arcteryx where he offered up a bad ass TR for Wahoo Tower in exchange for a pound of flesh...no wait, I'm getting my literature all mixed up. It wasn't a pound of flesh. It was Oxblood and it weighs more like 400 grams. Anyway, I digress.
The subject of our departure point had been somewhat of a debate but I finally caved and an early start (but not too early) saw us arrive at the Cheakamous TH at around 7 AM. Our route would pretty much follow Spectrum and Burndug's 15.5 hour day a couple years back.
We brought one axe between us, and a pair of crampons. "If anything gets hairy, one of us can proceed with the pons and axe and then throw them back to the other...wait a sec!"
The Helm Creek campground was really full.
The hills were alive with the sound of music! That, and mosquitos and snaffle hounds.
I learned something new about Ben on this trip. He's a morainist (someone adamantly opposed to travel on moraines).
Stepping on to Helm was easy enough.
In one of my previous reports, I mentioned that the Helm Glacier was seemingly benign. Of course every glacier covered in snow is seemingly benign. I take it back. The lower half had a lot of visible cracks and several of these cracks had snow coverage. Questionable snow coverage. They averaged about a meter in width and upon probing, our poles would punch through a half meter or so down. It was impossible to tell how much and how fast they narrowed. I kind of suspected given other melted out cracks that most narrowed quite quickly but we still proceeded with caution. We jumped across several and worked our way around a few, until the snow coverage began to thicken. It didn't really give us a lot of comfort.
Ben ascending headwall.
Ben with CT looking over his shoulder.
We'd heard the drop into Gentian can be loose and steep but instead of dicking around looking for a better route, we decided straight down was the best way.
I'd read a couple TR on this particular trek and not many mention that Polemonium or as we'd later call it, Pandemonium ridge, seems to go on forever on the up and the down. I stashed a water bottle on the ridge and would later regret stashing said bottle. We took the loose gully described in the Gunn scrambles but on the way back we just scramble up the ridge line and found it fairly easy and fun. Wayyyy better than the gully
We'd been keeping a pretty good clip until we reached the last bit of up to CT's west summit.
We reached the West summit at around 2 pm, pretty tuckered and ready for a break. We drank in our surroundings a bit and then some liquid on top of that. We both dreamed of a simpler time when zip lines existed from summit to Garibaldi lake.
Then we got down to business. We didn't bring a rope because we figured if the down-sloping ramp was good enough for Doug and Al then it'd be good enough for us. I did however bring a sling in case we needed an extra bit of reach like Muskeeto in his CT effort.
Who really knows after all. On a pile of loose rock like this hill consists of, a route can easily change its complexion from year to year.
I didn't find the way down too bad. It's one of those, well, it's kind of loose and steep and no step can be trusted but if I fall then I most likely will just bruise a bit.
Going up the other side to the true summit isn't really that exposed but given the feel of mobile rock beneath each step, it feels a little uncomfortable at times.
Ben modelling his new Oxblood Arcteryx wear.
Not an easy place to find a spot where your camera won't roll off the summit.
Ben reapproaching notch between summits.
Reascending west summit. It looks worse than it is.
I brought a couple cokes up for celebratory means. We spent the better part of an hour up top, not including the hour we burned moving between the west and true and back.
Heading down the boulder field is probably the sketchiest part.
Scrambling up the ridge line to the top of Polemonium.
We kind of short cut our original line up Polemonium so we inadvertently ended up missing the bottle I'd stashed. In the end I had to climb up another 50meters to find it. Blew about 20 min there.
On our way back we talked about avoiding the bottom of Helm due to its perceived sketchiness (snow bridges much warmer now at by heading straight across to the dirt on the other side and the around the outflow and meeting back up with our original path.
By this time, Helm had taken on a new face. it now contained numerous fast flowing meltwater streams and hidden slush ponds that on the surface looked like old snow. Fun...and wet. Glad to get off and stand on mother earth.
Ben traversing surface of the moon.
On reaching the outflow, we looked up and down to find a good way, but in the end were forced to ford the flow.
Afterwards we argued the over how much fun this was and Ben responded: "I'd better be maybe dead than for sure uncomfortable!" Profound in its simplicity. Worthy of noting for future use.
Campground was empty and only one lone fan to help celebrate our journey.
We arrived back at the car at 10 PM with the help of headlamps. We quickly geared down and made a midnight run like Deniro towards the Squamish Mickey Dees.
Tired and satisfied. Thanks Castle Towers! And til next time!