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.

Pitch 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.