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AUG
25
2017

CASTLE Mountain Route: Super Brewers Buttress (5.9, 2000', 14-21p) = Ultra Brewers (5.9, 1000', 7-8p) + Brewers Buttress (5.7, 1000', 7-13p) 

Category: British Columbia/Alberta      Trip Report #265
Partner: Chris Cox
Rock Type: Dolomite, Shale, & Limestone
Summit Elev: 2,895 m / 9,498 ft

A classic 2000' moderate Rockies climb.


INTRO

Castle Mountain is an elongated massif almost 6km long, paralleling the Bow Valley between Banff and Lake Louise. The mountain has two distinct tiers of cliffs each about 300m high and separated by a wide scree ledge called The Goat Plateau. The lower cliffs are formed by resistant Cathedral dolomite, the intermediate scree band is formed of soft Stephen shale, while the upper cliff band is firm Eldon limestone. A small climber's cabin called Castle Mountain Hut is on Goat Plateau near the southeast end of the massif.

One of the classic long rock routes in the Canadian Rockies is Super Brewers Buttress, which links Ultra Brewers on the lower tier of Castle with Brewers Buttress on the upper tier (both of these routes can be climbed separately). This link-up gives about 600 m (2000 feet) of excellent climbing on a natural line that leads directly to the summit of Castle Mountain. Combining it with a stay at Castle Mountain Hut (either between climbs or at the end of the day) would be possible, but would mean climbing with some overnight gear up Ultra Brewers or stashing stuff at the hut and descending back down to the climb.

Some notes on the pitch breakdown: The pitch breakdown of most route descriptions gives 21 pitches for Super Brewers. But these are short pitches, a couple of them simply scrambles and many easily combined. For us, the link-up was 14 pitches. Some specific notes are as follows. Ultra Brewers: The guidebook gives this route 8 pitches, but "Pitch 3" just moves the belay 10m over 3rd class terrain, so the route is more like 7 full pitches. We also belayed higher on the second-to-last pitch ("Pitch 7") than the anchors, which seemed to make more sense because then this pitch ends at a nice ledge rather than mid-crack. Brewers Buttress: The guidebook gives this route 13 pitches, but we climbed it in 7 pitches (or 6 if you don't count the solo pitch) by soloing the first pitch and linking every pair of pitches after that, which worked without any significant simulclimbing using a 60m rope. Other options of pairing up pitches would work as well. We also climbed a variation of the original route for the last two pitches, or at least I think so after reading the route description; the variation was up a polished corner that was a little more challenging (~5.7) and quite good.

Chris and I thought this was a fun day in the mountains. The quality of the rock— compact dolomite on Ultra Brewers and juggy limestone on Brewers Buttress—was very good by Canadian Rockies standards. Most of the climbing was pretty moderate, but the steep juggy nature of the climbing made it quite fun even if it was not overly challenging. The bolted anchors made belay interchanges quick and easy, and would make rappelling from either route possible (with 2 ropes) in case of a storm. Either route is worth doing on its own, and I think that Brewers Buttress would be a great route for someone to take a beginning climber on (it's probably a popular guided route for this reason). Chris and I climbed this link-up car-to-car in 17.5 hours. We never rushed things, but it did end up to be a slightly longer day than anticipated (although the climbing is easy, it is over 2000 feet of it, combined with an approach and descent and a few minutes checking out the hut).

The following page gives photos from the climb. Enjoy!


TIME STATS

Approach to base of Ultra Brewers (dark): 2 hours, 40 minutes
Climb Ultra Brewers: 5 hours, 30 minutes
Climb Brewers Buttress : 3 hours, 40 minutes
Descent (summit to car): 3 hours, 30 minutes
Total car-to-car: 17 hours, 30 minutes


OVERLAY



PHOTOS


Photos:
Photo descriptions:
Approach 
Castle Mtn Hut trail to base of rock then head rightward along base of wall, 2-3 hrs from HWY 1A.
1.   
2.   
3.   
   
   
   
 
   
 
   
   
   
   
   
   
 

   
   
   
   
   
  
   
1. At base of route at dawn (we got an early start since we did not want to come down the descent in the dark).
2. The start of the route is notorious for being difficult to find. We spotted this arrow at the base of the route. There are also a couple of protection bolts just left of the initial crack system and a belay bolt at the base of the route.
3. View looking out towards Highway 1 from the base of the route. Morning sun just hitting peaks. The temperatures were hovering just above freezing in the morning shade but unfortunately the sun was still a few hours away from us.

Ultra Brewers
(5.9, 7-8p, ~1000')
Pitch 
1
(we went to upper belay past traverse)
5.8
4.   
5.   
6.   
7.   
8.
4. Starting up Pitch 1.
5. For some reason, packrats have chosen the crack on Pitch 1 to deposit their feces. But you can climb around it, and we did not see any of the actual critters.
6. Rat piss. Ug.
7. The traverse on Pitch 1. There are nice juggy holds. You can set an optional belay before this, but we chose to do the traverse and climb to the higher bolted anchor on a nice ledge.
8. Belay bolts at the top of Pitch 1. The belays on this route have all been bolted, which is nice.
Pitch 
2
5.7-5.8
9.   
10.   
9. Starting up Pitch 2. I was supposed to lead this pitch but my hands were completely numb. 
10. Top of Pitch 2 has some fun face climbing, which is well-protected by bolts.
"Pitch 
3"
(Jones guidebook calls this Pitch 3, but it is hardly a pitch, just moves belay 10m)
3rd
11.   
11. From the top of Pitch 2, move the belay around the left side of the buttress to the base of the next pitch. The Jones guidebook calls this scramble Pitch 3, but it is hardly worth calling an actual pitch.
Pitch 
4
5.8
12.   
12. Looking up Pitch 4, which starts with some steep face climbing on good holds with marginal pro, and finishes up an easy corner. I led this pitch, but it was a bit heady with my cold hands.
Pitch 
5
5.7
13.   
14.   
13. Looking up Pitch 5. The rock quality improves now.
14. A crack higher up on Pitch 5. The belay anchor is on a ledge about 20 feet left of the tree in the photo.
Pitch 
6
5.5
15.   
15. Grassy cracks on Pitch 6.
Pitch 
7
(we extended pitch to ledge 10m above bolt anchor)
5.9
16.   
17.   
18.   
19.   
16. The wide crack along the right side of the detached pinnacle on the crest.
17. A #4 protects this part reasonably well. But there are enough features that you can avoid any offwidth climbing by stemming.
18. The fun corner crack on the upper part of Pitch 7. There is a bolted belay station halfway up the crack (semi-hanging belay), but a much more comfortable ledge about 10 m above, so we went all the way to the ledge. This was the best pitch of the Ultra Brewers route.
19. Steph at top of Pitch 7, just before the ledge belay 10m above the bolt anchor. (Photo by Chris.)
Pitch 
8
(we started off ledge 10m above bolt anchor)
5.7
(5.9 if you go from bolt anchor)
20.   
21.    
20. The fun cracks on the face that finish off the route.
21. Looking down while climbing Pitch 8.
Goat Plateau

22.   
23.   
24.   
25.   
26.   
22.  Chris on Goat Plateau, hiking towards our next objective: Brewers Buttress.
23. Panoramic view from Goat Plateau, with Bow Valley (and Highway 1) below.
24. Looking north along Goat Plateau. Going this way would get you to Castle Mountain Hut and the Castle Mountain Trail back to Highway 1A.
25. Looking south along Goat Plateau. Going this way would get you to Eisenhower Peak and I think you could also hike around Castle and get to Rockbound Lake and the trail out to Highway 1A that way.
26. Looking up at our next objective: Brewers Buttress.
Brewers Buttress
(5.7, 7-13p, ~1000')
Pitch 
1/9
(we soloed)
5.5
27.   
28.   
29.   
30.   
27. Looking up from the base of the route.
28. A plaque at the base of the route in memory of Dave Brewer, who put up the route with Lisle Irwin in 1961. There is a belay bolt just up and left of the plaque.
29. Looking up Pitch 1. We decided to solo this. There is not much great protection anyway, and it is mostly steppy 4th with a single exposed 5.5 move.
30. Chris soloing the first pitch.
Pitch 
2/10
(we linked with Pitch 3)
5.5
31.   
31. Looking up from the belay anchor. Pitch 2 climbs left and into the chimney system.
Pitch 
3/11
(we linked with Pitch 2)
5.4
32.   
32. Pitch 3.
Pitch 
4/12
(we linked with Pitch 5)
5.4
33.   
33. Chris starting up Pitch 4.
Pitch 
5/13
(we linked with Pitch 4)
5.5
34.   
35.   
34. The chimney at the start of Pitch 5, which you climb to the right of.
35. An old piton on Pitch 5. There are a fair number of pitons scattered on this route.
Pitch 
6/14
(we linked with Pitch 7)
5.5
36.   
37.     
36. The start of Pitch 6 is on the left side of the buttress (need to move belay to here). From here you can look down and see Castle Mountain Hut.
37. Looking up Pitch 6.
Pitch 
7/15
(we linked with Pitch 6)
5.6
38.   
39.   
40.    
38. The corner on Pitch 7. I thought this section of climbing was one of the better sections on th eroute. Make sure not to go all the way to the top of the roof, but to traverse right at a piton maybe 20 feet or so below the roof.
39. Chris climbing the corner.
40. Looking down the buttress from the belay ledge on the crest at the top of the pitch.
Pitch 
8/16
(we linked with Pitch 9)
5.6
41.   
41. The route description for this pitch is correct but could apply to a lot of the terrain nearby. Basically climb to the bolted anchor at the notch in the photo.
Pitch 
9/17
(we linked with Pitch 8)
5.6-5.7
42.   
42. This pitch climbs a corner with a wide crack. There are a couple cruxy moves. There are a couple of pitons too if you did not bring a wide cam.
Pitch 
10/18
(we linked with Pitch 11)
4th
43.   
44.   
45.   
43. 4th class climbing on solid rock.
44-45. Looking down at Goat Plateau and Eisenhower Peak.
Pitch 
11/19
(we linked with Pitch 10)
5.6
46.   
47.   
46. The start of Pitch 11. This is some fun moves across the slab and under the roof.
47. The wide crack above the roof. This part is too big to protect with a #4 but the climbing is indeed 5.6 even though it might look harder from below. The climbing is sustained at the grade, and the exposure and steepness make it even more exciting—one of the better sections of climbing on the upper buttress.
Pitch 
12/20
(we linked with Pitch 13; we climbed a variation to the left of the original route)
~5.7
(5.5 for original route option)
48.  Here's a photo of the original route option (5.6 to top), from mountainproject.com. 
48. For the final pitch to the top, we climbed the aesthetic right-facing corner shown in the photo. Upon reading other route descriptions, I believe this is a variation of the original route, which goes up and right up a different (and slightly easier, at 5.5ish) right-facing corner. The corner we climbed was good climbing and protectable, and I would recommend it if you want something a bit more challenging (5.7 ish).
Pitch 
13/21
(we linked with Pitch 12; we climbed a variation to the left of the original route)
~5.6
(5.6 for original route too)
48.    
49. A piton at a belay alcove at the top of the right-facing corner we climbed as Pitch 12. We continued to the top rather than setting a belay here. The original route climbs a 5.6ish crack somewhere to the right.
Top! 
2,895m / 9,498 ft
50.   
51.   
52.   
53.    
50. Panoramic view from the top, with Bow Valley below and Eisenhower Peak on left.
51. The flat summit of Castle Mountain, looking north.
52. Rockbound Lake as seen from Castle Mountain.

53. "topo-map rock" According to my go-to geologist consult Doug McKeever: "Corners of the rock in the photo show thin layers. As a surface weathers, the wavy lines are like contour lines on a topo map. They are edges of differently-colored thin strata. Each line connect "elevations" in the "mini-landscape"."
Descent 
Descent gully (scrambling + 4 single-rope raps)
54.   
55.   
56.   
57.   
58.   
59.   
60.   
61.   
62.   
63.   
64.   
65.   
66.   
67.   
68.   
69.   
70.   
71.   
72.   
73.   
54. This narrow gully is called Epic Gully. Don't descend this way unless you want an epic.
55. Hiking towards the correct descent gully.
56. The correct descent gully.
57. Starting down the descent gully, which starts with about 200m of scrambling down choss.
58. Rap 1 (of 4). This rap anchor is bolted and on skiers right just as the gully begins to cliff out.
59. Rap 2 (of 4). This slung block is to skiers right below Rap 1 and visible from the Rap 1 anchor.
60. Rap 3 (of 4). This anchor was on skiers right about 20 feet along edge from ends of rope and difficult to spot. The guidebook beta said to go to skiers left of you have 1 rope but this would have been a sketchy downclimb to a sketchy anchor. Going to skiers right worked for us, and we had a single 60m rope.
61. Rap 4 (of 4). This rappels past the giant chockstone to the end of the gully.
62. View out from the base of the descent gully. From here you can see Castle Mountain Hut on the edge of the plateau.

63. Castle Mountain Hut. We dropped our packs at the beginning of the descent trail down the lower tier, and hiked about 5 min to the hut to check it out.
64. The hut is small, but sleeps 6. Basically the beds take up all the room in the hut, plus a small table area.
65. Basically the beds take up all the room in the hut, plus a small table area. There is a window you can open above the table to let light in. It would be a cozy place to sleep. Technically it sleeps 6 (have to make reservations with Alpine Club of Canada), but it would be much more comfortable with 4 or less.
66. An outhouse with a view.
67. Looking over at Brewers Buttress from Castle Mountain Hut.
68. Hiking down the descent trail down the lower tier. This is mostly 2nd and 3rd with a short 4th class step (optional rappel).
69. Contouring between cliffbands on the Castle Mountain Trail.
70. The short 4th class step at the base of the lower tier (optional rappel).
71. Looking back up after exiting the lower descent gully. The Castle Mountain Trail to Castle Mountain Hut and Goat Plateau starts at the diagonal 4th class weakness on the middle-left of the photo.
72. Evening light on Bow Valley below.
73. Looking down Bow Valley towards mountains above Banff. I think Mt. Louis (which we climbed earlier in the week) is in this group.