Castle Peak in the Sky / 空中之城堡峯

Castle Peak was our last backpacking trip to wrap up the climbing season. This year, I was able to spend more time outdoors with the pups. To top it off, I finished the Bulger List first week in July finally.

 Castle Peak in the clouds
Castle Peak in the clouds

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Castle Peak at a Glance

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

The Preface

Friends and I climbed West McMillan Spire in August. Back then, we had talked about going up to Hozomeen Campground by water taxi. So they could go up Hozomeen Mountain while I went after Castle Peak.

But the bad weather over Labor Day weekend changed our plans. Then the last week in September, the weather looked promising. Since my friends weren’t available, the $350 boat fare was a bit much. So the pup and I went in from the north.

A beautiful morning over Similkameen River
A beautiful morning over Similkameen River

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Monument 78-83 Trail

Other than the one washed-out section, the Monument 78 Trail was in excellent shape. Plus, there was plenty of flagging to guide the way. Along the way, the birds were chirping. But there wasn’t much to see from the trail.

We sometimes had the view of Windy Joe Mountain to the right. At the same time, the trail wrapped around the mountains south side. Frosty Mountain would have been on the right as well. But I don’t think I ever see it. Before long, we were at the border camp and then rested a bit.

Windy Joe Mountain
Windy Joe Mountain

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International Crop Line

Next to the border camp was the bridge over Castle Creek. The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) continued north through here. Once we crossed the water, we began the brushy approach along the creek. At the same time, we pole-vaulted through down trees. This approach reminded me of some of the worst brush-fighting trips on the Bulger List.

The pup and I traveled through the forest. Soon, we came out into a broad clearing. It happened to be the international crop line. Two people, presumably PCT finishers, stood by the northern terminus monument to the east. Later, two more clearings provided momentary relief from the brush. But it was quite swampy.

A momentary relief
A momentary relief

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Going up to Castle Creek Basin

The terrain was relatively flat until Castle Creek turned west at 4500′. From there, we started going uphill. At the same time, we tried various ways to bypass massive down trees. A report I found suggested not to stay high on the north side of the creek.

But of course, we did just the opposite. Soon, we found ourselves trapped in the continuous alder paradise. But we eventually made our way up through to 5500′. From there, we found water sources and a decent place to set up our tent. The campsite also came with a full view of the basin.

Castle Creek Basin below Castle Peak
Castle Creek Basin below Castle Peak

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Castle Peak Climb

It rained overnight. By the time morning arrived, the clouds had covered the top of Castle Peak. I considered leaving since we likely wouldn’t have had any views at the top. But then the thoughts of our unpleasant approach resurfaced. So I dismissed the idea.

We left camp right after breakfast. Then we went up to the base of the wide gully on the south side. Right then, the weather seemed to be taking a turn for the better. It looked promising as the sun had seeped through the thick clouds.

Castle Peak south gully
Castle Peak south gully

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Castle Peak Summit Minus the Views

At 6800′, we went inside a northeast-trending gully. We aimed for the notch at 7400′ notch. But we ended up higher on the ridge at 7600′. Then we worked our way up just below the southeast ridgeline. We went through granite slabs, boulders, and snow patches to the south of the summit.

A short scramble put us up on top of Castle Peak. But I wish we had views! I was very much looking forward to seeing into Canada and photographing the neighboring peaks. The view of Hozomeen Mountain would have been awe-inspiring from this summit. Alas, another time perhaps.

Looking into Freezeout Creek Basin
Looking into Freezeout Creek Basin

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Going Back to Camp

On the way down, we took the southwest ridge. So I could get a quick glimpse of the Freezeout Creek Basin. It looked impressive just as the clouds drifted away for a brief moment! At least we got some views.

Then from there, I checked out the terrain on Castle Peak’s south face. And it looked doable. There were just lots of the typical Cascade choss and scree. Down at 6800′, we joined our up route and safely landed in camp at 1300′ below.

Castle Peak south face
Castle Peak south face

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Leaving Castle Creek Basin

After packing up, I found a much better exit. By staying on the south side of Castle Creek, we bypassed the alder swatch altogether. Then at 5400′, we found a decent spot to cross the creek. That put us back on the north side while allowing us to bypass the cliffs at 5300′.

Right below the cliffs, we moved northeast down to 5000′. Soon, we joined our up route. Afterward, we went back to 4500′ where Castle Creek turned north. From there, everything was the same, but in reverse.

Castle Creek Basin panoramic view
Castle Creek Basin panoramic view

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Outro

We made it back to the border camp just after dark. Then the next morning, we walked south on Monument 78 Trail. So we could see the PCT northern terminus monument. Two through hikers appeared shortly after us. I praised them for their effort in getting here from the Mexican border.

We went 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 quite scenic. The gorgeous Canadian mountain ranges and valleys were at every turn.

PCT northern terminus monument
PCT northern terminus monument

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