Castle Mountain
Climbed: July, 1997 (2nd attempt).
Elevation: 2766 m = 9,072'
Elev. gain: 1300 m = 4,264'
Ascent time:6.5 hours (very long approach)
Difficulty: Easy scrambling via NE side.
Location: Banff NP
Trail head: 300m E of Castle Junction.
Topo map: 82 O/5 Castle Mountain

summit from lower route
I made my first attempt of Castle Mountain in July 1995 but was forced back due torain and a late start. 1995 was a poor year for weather and after waiting severaldays for better weather, I took a chance on a mostly cloudy day.

Fortunately Ihad much better weather on my second attempt in July 1997. From the Castle Mountaincampground, I made my way to the Rockbound Lake trail and followed it for over two hours(8.4km) passing Tower Lake and Eisenhower Tower along the way. As Rockbound lake comesinto view, the steep walls of the Castle Mountain massif provide a suitable name forthe lake. The summit is the high point to the far left in the photo. Technically, thissummit is not the true high point -- the true summit lies some 3 km NW but israrely visited.

lower ascent gullyI made my way to the right along the lake shore to reach a small runoff stream. Fromthere I ascended a gully east of the lake leading to a rock band. A beaten pathleads you through a break in the rockband. This section is really just strenuoushiking with a few handholds needed through the break. In the photo to the right, thisascent gully begins from the lake shore between the two stands of trees.

hump above knollI made my way across the knoll following a faint foot path leading to a hump with avisible trail making its way to the top. One can either use the trail to ascendthe hump or circle around to the left along the exposed foot. I attempted thecircle route but the exposure was just a little too unsettling for me (I definitelywould not recommend it in wet weather) so I regained the normal route to reachthe top of the hump.

Helena RidgeAt this point, you must make the decision to either tackle Helena Ridge (2862m/9387')to your right and traverse the massif along the upper ridge or descend down the hillto the grassy terrace. Helena Ridge was my goal on my first attempt in July 1995but part way up, a long, heavy cold rain forced me back down. You will need to ascenda talus slope angling towards the gully at the far right in the photo. Fromthere, slog up the scree slope and make your way to the backside to ascend through the rockbands.

Television PeakLooking across the lake below, you can see Television Peak (2970m/9741'), the slopesbelow which one must reach to tackle the summit to the left (not shown in photo).

grassy terraceMy goal on the second attempt was the summit so I searched for a descent route to thegrassy terrace below. There are a few ways down to the grassy terrace, others no doubtmore challenging than others. The easiest way is not obvious on the descent so Idescended a more difficult section with frequent hand holds.From here, hike along the grassy terrace until it almost peters out. About 15 minutesof walking along this terrace I decided to take the high route closer to the walls (afaint but discernible trail is evident) to reach the gully. In hindsight, keeping nearthe grass may have been a better option. The high route involves more scrambling andsome boulder hopping. A tricky section around a small but steep drainage channel addssome excitement. You will then reach a fair sized gully to scramble up to the upperbench. You may want to make a mental note of land features to recognize this gully on return.

Stuart KnobFrom there, a nice closeup of Stuart Knob ((2850m/9348') from the upper benchprovides another reason to stop for a rest break. You would need to circle aroundto the left to reach the easy slopes to the top. I did not attempt it due to time constraints.

summit from upper benchFrom the upper bench, find the best line to the summit over mainly hiking terrain. Icame across a reddish scree slope to reach terrain above this upper bench. Scratchesof trail and a bit of route finding will provide clues as to the best route to follow.Essentially you will need to find a route far enough to the right of the steep wallsabove Rockbound Lake, yet not too far that you run into cliff bands below Stuart Knobon your right.

CK on summitAs you reach the final summit mass, a brief stint ot scrambling is needed to reachthe top. A summit register can be found in the cairn marking the top.

Eisenhower TowerFrom the summit, you can see the top of Eisenhower Tower (2751m/9,026'), which is passedon the opposite side on the way to Rockbound Lake. Castle Mountain was aptly named byJames Hector in 1858 given its suggestive appearance. However, almost a century later,Castle Mountain was changed to Eisenhower to commemorate the post war visit of US presidentDwight Eisenhower. With public pressure though, the original name was restored in 1983 butthis isolated pinnacle was given the name of Eisenhower Tower.

summit view along massifLooking back across the massif from the summit, Stuart Knob (foreground) and TelevisionPeak (background) provide a backdrop for the upper bench ascended earlier.

Helena Ridge from summitFarther to the right is Helena Ridge, providing a better perpective of the gully one musttackle to reach this higher point along the Castle Mountain massif.

summit viewRetrace your ascent route to Rockbound Lake and back to the trail head. I didnot have time to attempt Stuart Knob, TV peak or Helena Ridge. The descent from the summitto Rockbound Lake took me just over 2 hours.

lower ascent gullyAs you reach the knoll above Rockbound Lake, you get a view of Tower Lake and Eisenhower towerpassed earlier in the day. Just beyond Tower lake, you must ascend switchbacks up a steeprock wall (the trees in the photo sit atop this wall) before reaching Rockbound Lake.

In all, with rest stops and lunch, the round trip time was just under 12 hours,a long day on the trail.

On July 27, 2000 I returned to Castle Mountain and summitted Helena Ridge (2862m/9387').

Back to my scrambles/hiking history.


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©1998 All images by Craig Knelsen. All rights reserved.
Created: Dec 6, 1998.  Revised: Nov 11, 2002.