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Wandering Across the Castle Massif With an Ascent of Pulsatilla Mountain

Difficulty: 
Easy Scramble
Elevation [m]: 
3084
Round Trip Distance [km]: 
38.0
Net Elevation Gain [m]: 
1480
Total Elevation Gain [m]: 
2700
YDS Difficulty: 
2
Bushwhackyness: 
Maybe three downed trees in total
Tripdate: 
Saturday, October 3, 2015

Liam and I had been trying to get together for a trip for quite some time but our schedules had not been very accommodating.  This weekend it turned out both of us were free and with the hills being very dry it was high time for a trip!  Given the forecast of snow coming down Friday night we didn't want to push for anything too crazy, so opted for going up Pulsatilla Moutain (and possibly Mount Avens) as a traverse coming in through the Rock Bound Lake trail and out the Protection Mountain trail.

 
After leaving a car at the northern end of the traverse we set off from the Rock Bound Lake parking lot at the brisk hour of 1030ish making good time up the trail while chatting away with various happening of the last few months.  The frosty temperatures overnight and dusting of snow were a nice complement to the fall colors and made for interesting pictures.
 

Partway along the Rock Bound Lake trail, a bit of a chill in the air.

 

Great fall colors fringed with frost.

 

Fishies!

 
After reaching Rock Bound Lake we were firmly in the clouds but pleasantly enough there was virtually no wind which made for very comfortable hiking conditions.  It was quite easy to get disoriented with the limited visibility and we narrowly avoided traveling in a comical loop back down to Rock Bound Lake!  With our course corrected progress towards Pulsatilla was steady, the terrain around here would be just hiking if dry but snow-drifts made things a bit more interesting.
 

Rock Bound Lake wasnt the greatest for views today.

 

Up on the Castle Massif thankfully not too much snow.

 

Looking back down towards Rock Bound Lake from higher up.

 

Looking down the other side of the ridge towards Luellen Lake.

 

The clouds started to kind of clear up around Pulsatilla.

 
The terrain below Pulsatilla is populated with numerous small lakes and we picked one to hunker down nearby hoping for clearer skies in the morning.  Thankfully this actually worked out and we were greeted to mostly clear skies to the west for sunrise.  However our intended peak, Pulsatilla, was still cloud-bound and we were not entirely sure which side of the ridge held the actual summit (and both resolved only to use the GPS to check if we needed to).
 

The next morning things were looking much clearer.

 

Looking down at the many lakes in the area partway up Pulsatilla.

 
There are a few small cliffbands on Pulsatilla which we bypassed by heading up further south and then traversing over to a wide scree slope before angling towards a distinct rock pinnacle rising upwards.  Atop the pinnacle visibility was minimal but a small cairn seemed to suggest that this may be the summit.  Liam had brought along a register and after waiting (to no success) for more visibility we filled it out and started on downwards.  A couple minutes into the descent we glanced over and saw that the other side of the ridge was either really close to our pinnacle in height or possible higher, it was certainly worth checking out while in the area.
 

Liam on (what we thought was) the summit in a whiteout.

 

Looking from the false summit views were ephemeral at best.

 

Looking over towards Mount Saint Bride.

 
Traversing over to the other side of the ridge was straightforward and thankfully while en route clouds started to lift and our views went from non-existent, to good, to fabulous!  After reaching the cairn we found a register confirming that this was indeed the true summit (which once the clouds lifted we could tell that our previous pinnacle was lower..).  Hanging out on the summit we were treated to lovely views of the surrounding peaks with tons of interesting lighting from the low clouds.
 

Traversing over to the true summit after we could see more than five feet.

 

Cairn atop the true summit.

 

Looking to the east.

 

Low clouds almost always make for amazing views.

 

Looking west.

 

A wee more zoomed in to the west.

 
Our original plan was to consider going up and over Pulsatilla to reach nearby Mount Avens but after only catching a glimpse of Avens from the lower pinnacle (and spotting crevasses on the glacier below) opted for a lower traverse around the bulk of Pulsatilla.  Much like the rest of the terrain on the trip this was a pleasant stroll with good views and even rays of warming sun!  The Avens plan was based on its description on bivouac which implied it would be easy to ascend from any direction.
 

Onwards traversing towards Mount Avens.

 
After rounding the bend and coming into view of the peak this definition of 'any direction' may have been a fair bit generous as every part of the peak we could see (about half of its circumference) was guarded by what looked like at least 4 to 5 pitches of hard fifth class rockbands!  Suffice to say soloing high 5'th wasn't in the game-plan for today so we snapped some pictures from a nearby viewpoint and rambled back below Pulsatilla to start the voyage back to the road.
 

Around the other side of Pulsatilla, Avens looks more intense than described on bivouac...

 

Clearing clouds reveal a lower set of cliffbands as well!

 

Looking down at the interesting terrain below from a pinnacle.

 

More neat low clouds to the north.

 

Back down below Pulsatilla.

 
Heading up to the Protection/Armor ridge was (like the rest of the terrain) straightforward and steady and soon enough we were at the ridgecrest and could look out at nice views along the Bow Valley to the west.  Traversing the ridge to Armor Peak would have been easily attained but with daylight dwindling we thought to save that for another day.  Descending down we could see the Protection Mine trail and made a beeline for it unaware that we crossed pretty much directly above the entrance to the old time (which looked quite open from down below).  Once on the trail progress was quite quick, this must have been a highway back when the mine was open as the trail is still very wide and the encroachment of bush isn't that intense.  Lower down there were a few downed trees and marshy patches but otherwise this is much better than many 'official' Parks trails I have been on.
 

Across the plateau heading towards the ridge between Protection Mountain and Armor Peak.

 

Interesting river that vanishes into a chasm slightly further down.

 

Up on the ridge good views abound.

 

Liam with Armor Peak in the distance.

 

Lower down looking up at the entrance to the old Protection Mine.

 

Zoomed in towards the entrance.

 

Some kind of old shack that was realted to the mine.

 

The forest around the Protection Mine trail is quite nice.

 
Great to get out with Liam for a trip which turned to be quite a nice hike, I would highly recommend this as an intro to scrambling route based on the terrain and pleasant travel.

Interesting trip, lots of nice views!

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