There are many different styles of trip reports here, some have more detail than you'll find in a guidebook, others are mostly pictures. I prefer to write a story, and that's what you'll find here. If your not interested in what I have to say, just stop right here. Also still editing to do but out of time for now.
Castle Towers August 30, 2016
Do we choose the mountains or do they choose us? I think the later obvious on my attempt on Castle Towers this Tuesday. Without any logical connection, Castle Towers has been the source of turbulence in my life the last month. It would take too much, I'd be asking the reader to suffer far too long a story to explain all, but when I saw the forecast, snow starting to hit the higher peaks Wednesday, shutting down another all too short swbc scrambling season. I knew I needed one more peak to close out my season, Wednesday the window starts to close, Tuesday will be my day. I tossed a few ideas off some partners, but when Castle Towers called me, I knew I must go and I knew I had to go alone.
I secured a place on my buddy Jer's couch in Whistler for Monday night. He's a great friend, partner in many adventures, he joined me for the start of my journey, drove me to the trail as my work truck was too laden to be safely left there. We walked and talked, I was glad for the company, and he gives great advice. All too soon his responsibilities called him back, we parted just before Helm campground.
1 1/2 hours after starting, I had second breakfast on a tent platform in Helm campground. It was a relaxed sit down affair. A brief chat with a man from Ontario, who had bad blisters on both feet. I must have seemed strange to him, he noticed my ice axe and inquired, where I could possibly be headed this early? I named my goal and made small talk while I filled with water and calories.
I left established trail a bit above the campground, and headed for the ridge I'd used years ago to access Helm peak. That miserable pile of untrustworthy rock still leads to bad memories. A vague idea of the direction I needed to go, plus a gps locked on Gentian pass, my route appeared before me. I sidehilled, and traversed, making good time. A few icy snow patches, tried to slow my progress, but careful footwork, or crampons on one, and soon I was at the top of the glacier above Gentian pass.
My first views of Castle Towers, helped stock my energy. But looking at the drop below me, down to Gentian pass and back up Polemonium ridge, stole that energy back away. So steep it was, I slipped and fell at one point, sliding down the vegetation. I reached the bottom, and celebrated with another meal. But secretly wishing there was an easier way back.
With grand views I headed up Polemonium ridge, now with Castle Towers in sight. It's open country out here, and many routes are possible. Cresting the top of Polemonium, I see towers on the ridge below. I'm sure there's a way to bypass, but I just went over them. I might have done some fifth class, but if you ask i'd just say forth.
Now starting on the Castle, I start to see some cairns. Always in the gullies, people want to go. I kept to the ridge line, I find it much more enjoyable. Then I hit the talus, and straighlined towards the summit. A band of snow, still icy in the morning, had me take a pause. It was steep enough for crampons, I was glad I brought my pair. The transitions take up time, but I prefer the safety. Back on talus, I watch the elevation climb on my altimeter.
I hit the top of the east peak, and down the other side. The gulley is straightforward, but steep enough to require focus. I cross the col and up the other side, a block below the summit required commitment to surpass. I stick the move and soon finish, the summit had been close. A break on top with cell service, I could update some friends. I hung out on the summit for a while, photos, food, and facebook were done. Then I turned around, the summit is only the halfway point.
One move below the summit gave me pause, exposure and a small hold for my foot. I had to pull on my big boy panties, but stick it I did. Then a long walk back over Polemonium ridge, this time traversing around the towers. I stopped again in Gentian pass, for water and fuel, the climb back up looked miserable, but it had to be done. I hoped an hour is all it would take but was happy to do it in half. Energy, I still had, would it last all day?
I took a look at the glacier, but decided to traverse back on my right. I passed some landmarks from the morning, and the gps showed I was doing alright. I climbed a little higher and found a trail back down. Through the meadows above the campground, with Black Tusk in view. From here, I made the call, set up my pickup time. Jer had a meeting, so I couldn't dawdle, or I'd be walking back to town.
I hit the trail and shifted gears, even doing some running. I passed Helm campground, watching the clock, would I make it? After 12 hours on trail I wasn't tired, but I knew it would come soon. I chased salvation that only comes after hard effort. I turned off the brain, my mind disappeared, I started going primal. I pushed so hard with an empty tank, my reserves were tapped. I don't know why, but several times, I let out grunts and calls. No words were left, just a focus and a connection to the world.
When I crossed, cheakamus bridge, I knew I was close. That last flat km took a while, but I pushed hard. I ran and ran, looking for what I don't know. When I saw Jer waiting for me, I knew it was over. I broke the bond with the mountains, as I stopped by his car. His offer of water was greatly appreciated. I stopped the clock at hour 13. I still don't know the answer to my initial question. I had gone to the mountain with heavy thoughts on my mind, but in the end found the quiet place I needed.
--I think I'm done with the story now, just sorting out the pictures but that will require computer time that I don't have yet. --
Castle towers done on Tuesday
13 hours car to car
Conditions were good, but they wont be anymore as there is snow in the forecast for today.
Great peak, go do it!