Castleguard Mountain

elevation: 3,090 m. height gain: 1,420 m.
area: Columbia Icefield,AB map 83 C/3

Ref: Chic Scott's Summits and Icefields
toe of the glacier

Nearing the toe of the Saskatchewan Glacier at dawn.
Ski mountaineering: RT 14.0; 9.0 up. Last year Fabrice and I attempted this long schlep but our gamble on the weather didn't pay off and we retreated shortly after engaging on the glacier. This time, the weather was fantastic; the air was mild and still, the clouds were very few. After driving through a couple of slides across the highway, we met Charles at the Big Bend parking lot. Jay arrived shortly thereafter and we were gone by 5 AM. We easily crossed the North Saskatchewan River on one of the snow bridges and continued towards the old road in the forest. The trail was well packed, we quietly moved illuminated by headlamps. Once on the gravel flats, the moonlight was especially bright. As dawn turned to day, we reached the toe of the glacier (2.5 hours). We roped up and carried on with our long trek on the mellow glacier. Travelling conditions were very good; we moved steadily at a pleasant pace. Hours passed by, so did some mileage but the scenery changed very slowly. I'm not complaining, the area is intensely beautiful and worth soaking in! As we neared the Columbia Névé, Charles expressed concern about hip pain. Fabrice mentioned it was better to stop in order to be able to return; he offered to hang out with his cousin while we proceeded. Jay and I climbed moderately steep slopes, enthusiastic but slower than earlier... Finally, after 5.5 hours on the glacier, we got our first glimpse of Castleguard up close. We saw another team ahead and joined their track in the gully feature along the east ridge. As we neared the bootpack, they greeted us. One of the team members recognized me from KHMR. In addition, the other fellow told me Fab had worked on his motorcycle; what a small world! From the windy spot where we left the skis, it only took 20 minutes to reach the top. The view is grandiose, with some of the tallest mountains in the Rockies all around. We were very lucky to stand on the summit on a bluebird day with little wind. After some food, conversation and many pictures, we started heading down. We strapped the skis on and went our way. The gully was cruddy but the slopes leading to the névé were surprisingly good. Following a sweet ski run, we rejoined Fab and Charles. We resumed the descent with a couple more good turns then miles and miles of coasting. We followed the up-track closely making it down the glacier safely in a little over two hours from the top. We ditched our packs and had a long break before the final trudge. We decided to put the skins back on only at the end of the flats. The snowpack was isothermal by now, our poles poked right down to ground. We pressed on across the sun-baked slopes keeping a fair distance between us. Back in the trees, we took the skins off again and whooshed back to the car.
castleguard is visible

Castleguard Mountain is visible in the far distance.

roping up

Dealing with "hot spots" and roping up.

good travelling conditions

Very good travelling conditions on the glacier.

looking back

Looking back.

slowly getting closer

After 3 hours of plodding on the glacier, we get closer to the Columbia Névé.

looking back again

Looking back again.

mount saskatchewan

Mount Saskatchewan lies beyond Castleguard Meadows.

nearing the névé

About to crest onto the névé.

mount columbia

Mount Columbia jets out from the snow desert.

climbing towards the objective

We start climbing towards our objective; unfortunately we separate from Fabrice and Charles.

summit block

5.5 hours on the glacier and we finally see the summit block up close.

heading to the east ridge

Heading to the east ridge, another team is ahead of us.

ascending a gully

Ascending along the approach ridge.


The bootpack to the summit ridge.

almost there

Almost there...

summit ridge

Last steps to the top.

at the top

At the top with Jeff, Jesse and Leslie behind Jay; I happen to know Jeff from KHMR (small world).

distant mountains

We can see how far Mount Columbia really is!

view north-east

Looking north-east, our lengthy approach is on the left.

mount saskatchewan and terrace mountain

The view towards Mount Saskatchewan and Terrace Mountain.

mount bryce

Stunning Mount Bryce.

leaving the top

Leaving the top.

back at our skis

Strongest wind at the rocks below where we left the skis.

the twins

The Twins ever so far away!

rejoining with fab and charles

We rejoin with Fab and Charles after a surprisingly fine ski run.

skiing down

Charle's first time on touring gear, quite the initiation!

off the glacier

Off the glacier in little time.

frozen lake

Travelling across the frozen lake.

bye bye castleguard

Bye, bye Castleguard!

crossing sun-baked slopes

Quickly crossing below sun-baked slopes.
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