Castle/Protection "mini-Mecca" area.
by Raphael Slawinski
The valley between the west
end of Castle Mtn and Protection Mtn offers a mini-Mecca of ice and mixed
climbing, with long traditional climbs in a remote setting. The only one really
visible from the road is the impressive Superlight on the SE face of Protection,
on the left side of the valley. A fork on the right hides another 3 climbs (4
really, but Arian P'tit Grimlin left
of Mon Ami is currently unformed). Mon Ami is an excellent climb up a series of
pillars near the left end of the SW face of Stuartís Knob, and is sort of
visible from the road. (Note that to access Mon Ami, contrary to guidebook
descriptions you traverse on a snow ledge from the right, not left.) Further
right are 2 recent climbs that Grant Meekins and I recently completed.
The best approach is up the
drainage. Park at a pullout on the S side of the 1A 10.5 km west of Castle
junction. Walk another 300 m W before taking to the trees where an unobvious
drainage crosses the road. Walk up on the E side of the drainage through
generally open forest. The deadfall is minimized by staying relatively close to
the creek. When the drainage begins to close in, ascend treed slopes further
right, then angle back left to intersect a treed ridge. Walk easily up this into
the gap between Castle and Protection. A scree slope on the right leads up into
the hanging valley (3 hours, good camping spots). The routes are another 30
minutes-1 hour away.
Right now there is little snow and walking
is easy. Later in the season snowshoes are probably better than skis.
Smothered Hope, 120 m, IV WI5
200 m to the right of the obvious Mon Ami is
a deep gash with ice pouring out of it. It is not visible until you are right
across from it. A bit of a 1-pitch wonder, but it is worth continuing up the
gash for the ambience. A pure ice rack is sufficient.
Walk up into the gash and belay on the left
side of a steep curtain. Pitch 1 climbs the curtain and continues up easy snow
and ice to belay at the base of a shield of good ice. Pitch 2 continues up
moderate ice for another ropelength, passing under a couple of chockstones. Stop
where the gash opens up. Further exploration will reveal expansive views, but no
more ice. Rappel the route.
Guinevere, 160 m, V WI5 R M4+
200-300 m further right is another climb,
possibly the best of the 3 up the east fork. The bottom ice and top pillar are
obvious from down the valley, but the midsection remains hidden until you are
almost at the base. A cool line with lots of varied climbing. Bring 60 m ropes,
a rack of screws (including a healthy selection of stubbies), and a small rock
rack of pitons and Tricams.
1 climbs a mixed gully to a steep curtain of thin ice (crux), and belays at a
ledge on the right (bolt and piton belay). Pitch 2 continues up thin but easy
ice, over an interesting mixed step, to more thinnish ice. Stretch the rope to
reach an unsheltered belay at the base of some thicker ice. Continue up rolling
ice to a good belay on the right side of the final curtain. A short steep
section leads to the top. A desiccated pillar on the right would make for an
exciting finish. The last two pitches could be combined, but the belayer might
not survive. Rappel the route.