Gladstone, Mount

elevation: 2,458 m. height gain: 980 m.
area: Castle Wilderness,AB map 82 G/8

Ref: Nugara's More Scrambles in the Canadian Rockies -2nd Edition

Walking along the barbed-wire fence at the start.
Scramble: RT 9.0; 4.5 up. Following a fabulous long weekend in this region last weekend, I was keen to come back. I invited Alison to join me for some hiking on saturday and sunday. The plan was to scramble Mount Gladstone on saturday, stay in Pincher Creek overnight then climb a shorter objective on sunday. I drove out to Pincher Creek friday afternoon. Alison joined me saturday morning and we drove out to the trailhead together. A recent snowfall had the access roads plastered with a fair amount of snow; luckily, I had the truck and the roads were packed down by other vehicles. After making a wrong turn on private property and talking to some friendly farmers, we made it to the trailhead. We started hiking along the barbed-wire fence in ankle-deep snow. Shortly thereafter, we located the horse trail and followed it until we neared the Mill Creek crossing. The creekbed was dry and snow-covered, we travelled along it looking for the trail going up the drainage between the distinctive outlier and Gladstone's south-east slopes. The start of the trail wasn't obvious, cairns were hard to distinguish with the snow. We used the GPS and located the drainage, that's when I noticed a blaze on a tree that indicated the trail going up the draw. Even with boot-top snow, the trail was easy to follow; it led us to Gladstone's ascent slopes. From there we had two options, climb the wind-scoured slopes exposed to the brutal wind or go climber's left of a side drainage and trudge in deep snow sheltered in the trees; we chose the windswept slopes. The grade was steepish and the ground was mostly frozen but I think the worst factor was the wind, there wasn't much stopping... As we proceeded to the summit, we lost visibility. We were happy to step on the summit, we took pictures of the featureless abyss and headed down after a short stay. Our tracks were partially covered and hard to follow, the lack of visibility made it difficult to orient ourselves. By trying to avoid dipping down too early, we ended up compensating and going too far skier's right on the west ridge. When we started to descend the summit slopes and regaining some visibility, it dawned on me that we were possibly going down the wrong aspect; I didn't recognize the features ahead of me on the opposite side of the valley. We pulled out the GPS and topo map to verify our location. Sure enough, we had strayed towards Larry Mountain (west instead of south), we corrected with an easy traverse. Although our detour was kinda trivial, it was a great opportunity to practice navigational skills. Back on track, we descended the side drainage in the deeper snow in the trees instead of retracing our steps down the wind-exposed slopes. We had a nice break in the trees when we reached the trail below. The rest of the hike was uneventful; we pulled out our headlamps for the last bit, it was a full day! We drove back to Pincher Creek, had some food and hung out before retiring for the night. We planned to go hike Hillcrest Mountain tomorrow, no rush, no stress!!
horse trail

On the obvious horse trail.

mill creek

Walking along Mill Creek, looking for the secondary trail.

secondary trail

The trail is easy to follow once located.

wooden bridge

A little log bridge across an eroded slope.

following the trail

Following the trail into the draw.

on the creekbed

Dipping down to the creekbed below.

south-east slopes

These south-east slopes grant easy access to Gladstone's upper mountain.

ascent rib

We chose to ascend the wind-scoured rib on the right and descend the treed, snow-ladden rib on the left of the side drainage.

castle peak

Castle Peak is engulfed by low cloud as the weather quickly moves in.

windy as hell

Steep ascent and windy as hell!

looking down

Looking down.

head of the draw

The head of the draw and Castle Peak to the south.

prairie bluff

Prairie Bluff to the east is still under blue sky but not for long.

south-west ridge

The south-west ridge behind Alison eventually leads to North Castle.

distinctive outlier

The unnamed distinctive outlier on the eastern side of the secondary trail.

downright wintery

Downright wintery.

upper mountain

Ascending the upper mountain.
Picture courtesy of Alison Sekera.

final steps

Alison in hot pursuit.

summit cairn

Finally, we find the highpoint and summit cairn.

featureless abyss

Featureless abyss...

little view

The ridges are all we can see.



where are we going

OK, where are we going?

doesn't look familiar

Hummm, doesn't look familiar; lets check our position please!

easy traverse

An easy traverse to the proper aspect to correct our position.
Picture courtesy of Alison Sekera.

that's more like it

That's more like it, I recognize the mountains ahead, our ascent rib and the runout zone below.

choosing deep snow

Choosing deep snow and shelter over hardpack and crazy winds for the descent!

back on the trail

Back on the secondary trail.

at the truck

At the truck after a good long day.
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