After some quick pictures from the summit of Helena Ridge, Wietse and I started down the west ridge of Helena, heading towards Stuart Knob. This was fun scrambling and soon we were on the ridge to Stuart Knob. As we traversed over the ridge the weather continued to pull interesting tricks out of its sleeve. First there was some snow, than some rain and obviously some more severe weather was moving up the valley to the south.
I attempted a shortcut up the east side of Stuart Knob but that didn't pan out and so I had to descend again and we both traversed around the east cliffs and came up the south ridge of Stuart. I think you can go up a gully on the North but there was a lot of snow there. We were disappointed to see more dark clouds heading our way once on the summit. Another disappointment was the amount of snow on the traverse to Castle Mountain North.
[Wietse hiking along the ridge to Stuart Knob from Helena Ridge.]
We took some quick summit photos and headed down Stuart, back along the ridge to Helena. There would be no TV peak or Castle North on this day. We cut down the scree slopes to a cairned route through the cliff bands to the broad stony plateau that the Castle Mountain group surrounds. After spending some time taking pictures and exploring the plateau we got our energy back and started up the slope for Castle Mountain South. After stopping for lunch we continued up Castle South's slopes. Wietse didn't notice that his pack was a little lighter.
[Castle North from the summit of Stuart Knob.]
[Vern and Wietse at the summit of Stuart Knob.]
[Wietse on the way down Stuart Knob.]
[Castle North ridge from Stuart Knob.]
[A brooding Eisenhower Tower and Castle Mountain from the descent of Stuart Knob.]
[Helena Ridge as seen on the descent to the plateau.]
[Wietse crosses a small stream in the plateau. Stuart Knob in the background.]
[The only life other than moss on the plateau was on a small rock in a snow-shaft. I bet he didn't expect to end up on the internet! You're not safe anywhere anymore!]
[Wietse marches towards Castle Mountain South.]
We gave up about 1km from the summit due to waist deep snow and the fact that we were rapidly running out of time. At our pace we would have been pushing a 16 hour day which was simply too much for the way we were both feeling. On the way down the alternate descent to the second plateau right above Rockbound Lake, Wietse noticed that his SLR digital camera was gone!! That's when we remembered that he put it down at our lunch spot and didn't pack it up! Thankfully I had my GPS and between that and Wietse's memory we found it back! Ironically it was only about 300m from that alternate descent!
[A bit further up the slope and Wietse is having considerably less fun. Waist deep snow on the way up Castle Mountain.]
[Our line up Helena Ridge is clear from the ascent of Castle Mountain.]
[Rockbound Lake is far below the cliffs surrounding it.]
[Loose rock anyone?]
[The alternate descent (or ascent) route to the second plateau from the high traverse on Castle Mountain.]
We descended without further incident and came out to the parking lot under a light rain shower. All in all and excellent day out but it's funny how even two peaks left us feeling that somehow we had come up short.
[More color on the way down.]
[The second plateau is a very peaceful place.]
[The entire second plateau from the 'bump' on Helena's slope. The ascent through the cliff band is on the far left side.]
[A globe flower.]