We knew that we had a tough slog ahead of us as we left the summit of Gravenstafel Ridge and started our traverse to Haig. Since Mount Haig was an 1100 meter height gain and Gravenstafel Ridge was only 950 meters, with a 300 meter drop to the col between Gravenstafel and Haig, we figured that we had to gain another 500 meters from the col to the summit of Mount Haig. It didn't look like 500 meters but we were actually bang on with this number so don't say I didn't warn you! The descent down Gravenstafel was fast and easy. We took a quick break at the col - the weather and views were sublime at this spot!
[Looking back at the oddly pyramidal slopes of Gravenstafel Ridge from near the col with Haig.]
[Wietse leads up snow slopes to the impressive summit of Haig.]
The ridge connecting the col to the final 300 vertical meters of Haig's west ridge looked a bit daunting from this angle, but it proved to be fun, hands-on scrambling almost all the way up. We were both thinking that doing the loop in this direction was working out pretty good so far. The final 300 vertical meters almost killed me. My pack was still way too heavy and so Wietse took control of the situation and broke trail to the summit.
[It's further and more height gain then it looks.]
[Incredible views back to Gravenstafel (L) and over the Haig tarn below. Barnaby Ridge to the right.]
[Never ending snow slopes to the summit!]
The summit view was incredible and we were very surprised to only be the 8th unique summit party (one guy from Pincher Creek was in there 3 times) since the Centennial register was placed. It is quite a slog but well worth it - and considering how prominent it is to a popular ski resort, I would think more people would visit this summit. I'm sure Andrew's book will attract more traffic to this peak. We had a hard time getting off the summit - not because we couldn't down climb but because the weather was so nice and the ground was warm and comfortable! We both dozed off for a few minutes, it felt like winter finally left in that moment.
[Gorgeous summit views! ++]
[Summit panorama includes, Castle Peak, Barnaby Ridge, Gravenstafel Ridge, Syncline, St. Eloi, Packhorse, Tombstone (R to L). ++]
[Looking north over the tarn towards the ski resort and Barnaby Ridge from the summit.]
[Looking towards Mount Darrah over St. Eloi.]
[Darrah now at far right, looking up the Flathead River drainage at the Border Ranges. ++]
[Looking over Gravenstafel and the Castle Ski Resort to the prairies beyond. ++]
[Telephoto of Mount Darrah to the north which is very impressive from this angle.]
[The obvious and impressive summit of Castle Peak to the west.]
[Another impressive angle on Castle Peak (R) with Victoria Peak rising to the left of it.]
The way down the Southeast ridge was interesting and fun. Good scree with solid down climbing and colorful scenery made the time fly by. Until we got to the little lake, that is. Here time slowed down again. This was the perfect spot to set up a small camp for the night. Unfortunately we didn't have bivy sacks or a tent and we had to regain the ridge ahead of us before hiking out via the ski hill. We underestimated how high up the ridge we had to go. I was hoping we could go up halfway and follow a bench around the nose and onto the ski hill, but that turned out to be a false hope. We'd have been better off just to go right to the top of this ridge and follow it out.
[Wietse descends the SE ridge under the summit of Haig.]
[The going is initially very quick and easy.]
[Great views to the south include Tombstone Mountain.]
[Wietse route finding on a rocky outcrop on descent.]
[Looking back up the SE ridge to the summit of Haig.]
It's a 200 meter height gain, and it hurts at this point, but you're either going to gain that height or do some really nasty bushwhacking and side-hill traversing - so pick your demon and get it done and over with! The top of the lift is actually 100 meters lower than the top of this ridge, which is longer then we were expecting. Eventually we found the chair lift and had an easy hike out from there.
[Time to slog back up the NE ridge...]
[At least it's a lovely day.]
[Last glance back from the NE ridge we crossed, looking at Haig and the SE ridge running down to the left.]
Our final round trip time was just over 9 hours at a steady pace. It took over 4 hours to descend from Mount Haig to the parking lot - so if you do the loop in reverse like we did be prepared for that final 200 meter gain from the lake. One of the best one day, multi peak trips I've done in a long time. Andrew (and those who helped him discover the Castle area) deserves big 'kudos' for writing about this area and opening up new possibilities for peak baggers in the Rockies!