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Castle Mountain

Summit Elevation (m): 2766
Elevation Gain (m): 1300
Trip Time (hr): 10
Total Trip Distance (km): 27
Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 2 – you fall, you sprain something
Difficulty Notes: Easy to moderate scrambling depending on the route chosen up to the summit and on the return. A long day trip.
Technical Rating: SC5; YDS (Hiking)
Map: Google Maps


On Saturday October 20 2007 Wietse joined me for a repeat slog up into the Castle Mountain environs. This time, thankfully, we actually made it. Don’t get me wrong. I love a nice long hike and after 4 weeks with no scrambling since summiting Mount Temple I was more than ready for an outing to the mountains again. BUT… I’m not sure I was ready for what we got! As we drove up to the parking lot we both commented on the amount of snow above 2500 meters. With the forecast calling for clouds and snow in the afternoon we also knew that the conditions weren’t about to improve for us either.

Castle Mountain (Kane peak) Route Map

Oh well. If we turned back from every nasty weather forecast and little bit of snow we wouldn’t be out here at all so with that positive kick in the tush we started up the trail to Rockbound Lake. This trail is exceedingly boring. If you can’t find a more interesting trail in Banff National Park you are not looking hard enough my friend! If you’re not a peakbagger intent on finishing all of Allan Kane’s scrambles there is almost no reason to hike to Rockbound Lake. I think what made it bad for me was that this was my second time in 3 years up this trail. Tower Lake and Rockbound Lake are very pretty and the rock walls surrounding the area are picturesque. There are even larches around Rockbound Lake that must look very pretty in the fall. But I’m here to assure you that there are a lot of lakes and larches and cliffs in the Rockies that are the result of much nicer hiking trails and you should concentrate on them first – unless you really like 8 km approach hikes on rock-hard fire roads with no views whatsoever. Your choice, you’ve been warned.

The trail between Tower and Rockbound Lake.

I was fighting a head cold all day but other than that I felt 110%. The past few weeks found me running quite a bit and I don’t know of a better sport to keep you in shape for climbing mountains than running 20-40 km / week. Right from the start I knew that the day was going to be a long one because I simply didn’t feel like being on Castle Mountain this particular day! After an eternity (where eternity = 2.5 hours) we came to Rockbound Lake. The sun was actually still out and Wietse and I managed to get some nice photos of the Lake. We had already been hiking in snow for over an hour and looking above the lake we could see that it only got deeper.

Eisenhower Tower and Castle Mountain with Rockbound Lake below.

We skirted around the lake and up the scramble route for Castle. There were a few tricky steps traversing over to the lower hanging valley above the far end of the lake. A slip here would have resulted in a very unpleasant cliff ‘dive’ to the water below. While I struggled into my gators , Wietse scrambled up the steep and loose access gully to the upper tier on the southwest corner of Rockbound Lake from the lower hanging valley. Once on top of the cliffs it was a slog through ankle to knee deep snow all the way to the summit. Just to make things more pleasant, there were hardly any views thanks to the clouds that only thickened and dumped more snow as the day progressed.

Wietse and Vern on the summit of Castle Mountain. Great views eh?!

I honestly wasn’t sure I was in the mood for this – but the only thing worse than continuing was the thought of coming all the way back again if we turned around! So we kept going, and going and going and going… You get the point! After six hours we finally stood on the summit in a total grey-out. After finding a strange artifact in the summit register and some quick photos we were headed back down.

A 1954 time capsule buried by Walter Perren and Ed Carleton.

An uneventful, 4 hour plod brought us back to the parking lot. A 10 hour day that had some good conversation and some good views but I’m sure glad I don’t have to repeat it any time soon.

On the lower Rockbound Lake trail.
On the lower Rockbound Lake trail.
Wietse nears Tower Lake. Lots of snow already!
Wietse nears Tower Lake. Lots of snow already!
Approaching Tower Lake.
Approaching Tower Lake.
Tower Lake and the cliffs below the summit of Castle and Eisenhower Tower.
Tower Lake and the cliffs below the summit of Castle and Eisenhower Tower.
The trail between Tower and Rockbound Lake.
The trail between Tower and Rockbound Lake.
Wietse on the trail going up the headwall between Tower and Rockbound Lakes.
Wietse on the trail going up the headwall between Tower and Rockbound Lakes.
Ascending the headwall beneath Rockbound Lake.
Ascending the headwall beneath Rockbound Lake.
Ascending the headwall beneath Rockbound Lake.
Ascending the headwall beneath Rockbound Lake.
Ascending the headwall beneath Rockbound Lake.
Ascending the headwall beneath Rockbound Lake.
Ascending the headwall beneath Rockbound Lake.
Ascending the headwall beneath Rockbound Lake.
Ascending the headwall beneath Rockbound Lake.
Ascending the headwall beneath Rockbound Lake.
Rockbound Lake.
Rockbound Lake.
Rockbound Lake.
Rockbound Lake.
A wide-angle view of the cliffs again - this time from Rockbound Lake.
A wide-angle view of the cliffs again - this time from Rockbound Lake.
One more wide-angle shot of Rockbound Lake with some blue sky and fresh snow.
One more wide-angle shot of Rockbound Lake with some blue sky and fresh snow.
Eisenhower Tower.
Eisenhower Tower.
The weather is changing as we climb above Rockbound Lake. It's depressing to see how far around we still have to go!
The weather is changing as we climb above Rockbound Lake. It's depressing to see how far around we still have to go!
Eisenhower Tower and Castle Mountain with Rockbound Lake below.
Eisenhower Tower and Castle Mountain with Rockbound Lake below.
Wietse and a cliff gap that falls to Rockbound Lake. Lots of cool scenery here.
Wietse and a cliff gap that falls to Rockbound Lake. Lots of cool scenery here.
Wietse hiking on the lower plateau.
Wietse hiking on the lower plateau.
Looking forward to our summit goal. Wait a minute. We can't see the summit!
Looking forward to our summit goal. Wait a minute. We can't see the summit!
Wietse comes up behind me. Travel was slippery and slow.
Wietse comes up behind me. Travel was slippery and slow.
More snow and weather as we ascend.
More snow and weather as we ascend.
More snow and weather as we ascend.
More snow and weather as we ascend.
A dramatic shot of the clouds over the summit.
A dramatic shot of the clouds over the summit.
Wietse coming up the final summit block.
Wietse coming up the final summit block.
Wietse and Vern on the summit of Castle Mountain. Great views eh?!
Wietse and Vern on the summit of Castle Mountain. Great views eh?!
A 1954 time capsule buried by Walter Perren and Ed Carleton.
A 1954 time capsule buried by Walter Perren and Ed Carleton.
Descending a snowy mountain.
Descending a snowy mountain.
Can't see much - Wietse is just barely visible through the snow / cloud.
Can't see much - Wietse is just barely visible through the snow / cloud.
Descending a snowy mountain.
Descending a snowy mountain.
Descending a snowy mountain.
Descending a snowy mountain.
A snowy, slippery and bouldery ramp down to a plateau above Rockbound Lake.
A snowy, slippery and bouldery ramp down to a plateau above Rockbound Lake.
The views have not improved down at Rockbound Lake.
The views have not improved down at Rockbound Lake.

One thought on Castle Mountain

  1. Comment from Erik Carleton from July 2018;

    “Hi Vern,

    I appreciate your great trip reports, and happened upon this one when looking into some of the surrounding peaks. It is a bit of a long story, but I know what mystery object is. It was exactly what my family was looking for in 2014. We had searched for it in the 1990s, without success. Here is a newspaper article that explains the story.

    https://www.rmoutlook.com/article/clues-found-in-search-for-lost-treasur

    By 2014, the top of the capsule was missing, as were any remaining contents. The outside was much more faded, and I didn’t recognize it at first. We still don’t know where the capsule was between the 1950s and 1990s.

    Cheers and see you out there!
    Erik”

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