Castle Peak in the Sky / 空中之城堡峯

 Castle Peak in clouds
Castle Peak in clouds

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This outing was our last backpacking trip to wrap up the climbing season. This year, I got to spend more time outdoors with the pups. I finally finished the Bulger List first week in July.

Yellow pup and I went into the Northern Picket Range for the first time in June. Together, we climbed the beautiful Luna Peak. We got to ride the water taxi on Ross Lake, not to mention seeing the most rugged Cascades. All in all, the trip was one of our most memorable ones.

Access: Monument 78-83 Trailhead
Round Trip: TBD
Elevation Range: 3700′-8306′
Gear: helmet
GPS Track: available

The Preface

Back in August while climbing West McMillan Spire, friends and I talked about going up Hozomeen Campground. We wanted to go by water taxi so that they could climb Hozomeen Mountain while I went after Castle Peak.

Unfortunately, the rainy Labor Day weekend made us scratch our plan. On the other hand, the weather in the last weekend in September looked promising. So, instead of paying $350 RT on water taxi through Hozomeen Campground, pup and I approached from the north.

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Hiking the Monument 78-83 Trail

Other a washed-out section, the Monument 78 Trail was in excellent shape. But there was enough flagging to guide the way. Other than birds chirping, there wasn’t much to see from the trail. Just the occasional views of Windy Joe Mountain as trail wrapped around its south side. Before long, we were at the border camp and took a breather there.

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Crossing the Border through International Crop Line

East of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) was the bridge next to the border camp. Upon crossing, we began the brushy approach while pole vaulting through down trees. This approach was comparable to some of the worst bushwhacking trips on the Bulger List. Pup and I spent most of our time traveling in the forest. One of the occasional clearings happened to be the international crop line.

We saw a couple of people (presumably PCT finishers) standing by the northern terminus monument east of Castle Creek. Two more clearings ahead provided momentary relief from bushwhacking, albeit muddy and swampy.

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Approach to Castle Creek Basin

The terrain was relatively flat until Castle Creek took a turn due west at 4500′. There we started heading uphill while trying to bypass numerous trees. A report had recommended not to stay too high on the north side of the creek. But what did we do? We did just that became trapped in endless alder nightmare.

Eventually, we fought our way through to 5500′, good water source and camp with a view of Castle Creek Basin.

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Castle Peak Climb

It rained overnight. By the time morning arrived, clouds had shrouded the top half of Castle Peak. I contemplated packing up and leave since views up top were probably going to be nonexistent. Then suddenly, thoughts of the painful approach resurfaced, and so I scrapped the idea.

We got to the base of the wide gully on the south face shortly after leaving camp. Just then the weather looked as if it were taking a turn for the better. It was looking promising as the sun was letting in some light through thick clouds.

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Zero Views on Castle Peak Summit

We got inside a northeast-trending gully at 6800′. While aiming for the 7400′ notch, we ended up higher on the ridge by 200′. From there, we stayed south of the southeast ridgeline and slowly worked our way up. We got through slabs, boulders, and snow to get to the south of the summit block. Then a short scramble put us atop Castle Peak.

Wish we had views! I was so looking forward to looking into Canada and getting photos of the surrounding peaks. The view of Hozomeen would have been awe-inspiring from this summit. Alas, another time.

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Descent Back to Camp

On the way down, we got on the southwest ridge to get a quick glimpse of Freezeout Creek Basin. It was impressive! From there, I scoped out Castle Peak’s south face ridge, and it looked doable. It just had lots of the typical choss and scree. At 6800′, we reconnected with our up track and safely landed in camp at 1300′ below.


I found a better way to exit the area. By following Castle Creek on the south side, we bypassed the massive alder encountered on the approach. At 5400′, we found a perfect place to cross the creek. The crossing, in turn, put us on the north side while bypassing the 5200′-5300′ cliffs on the south side.

At the bottom of the cliffs at 5200′, we headed northeastward to 5000′ and reconnected with our up track. Then got back down to 4500′, where Castle Creek took a turn due north. From there, it’s just more of the same bushwhack but in reverse.

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We got to the border camp just after dark. Then I quickly set up camp and turned in for the night. Next morning, we headed south on Monument 78 Trail to check out the PCT northern terminus monument. Two through hikers showed up shortly after our arrival. I congratulated them for their hard work and effort to get here from the Mexican border.

Back to Canada

We got back to camp an hour later. Then we packed up and hiked out on a sunny Monday morning. The drive west through BC Manning Provincial Park and Sunshine Valley was very scenic. The gorgeous Canadian mountains ranges and valleys were at almost every turn. We will be back for sure!

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