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Castleguard Mountain by Igloo (option 3)
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TOPIC: Castleguard Mountain by Igloo (option 3)
#264
Castleguard Mountain by Igloo (option 3) 5 Years, 3 Months ago  
Trip Title: Hector Lakes by Igloo, Mount Coleman by Igloo, Mount Castleguard by Igloo

Success is a subjective quantity defined by what the trip goals were, and everyone has different goals. So I am going to claim the trip was a success with adversity. No mountains were summitted, and no epic turns were had. However, the trip description was snow camping practice with an attempt at an objective. A full snow camp was created complete with 2 snow caves, 1 igloo, a kitchen and a latrine followed by a full-hearted attempt at Mount Castleguard which was only stymied 400 m horizontally from the summit in complete whiteout conditions. Not making the summit was not due to our choice of sleeping in a snow drift.

We abandoned Mount Hector because the CAOC was also leading a large trip to the same area and had plans for fires. The best part of Hector lake is the isolation, so we decided to try somewhere else. Mount Cirrus and Coleman seemed like a reasonable alternative and the book recommended a camp if they are to be attempted. Unknown to us at the time, this trip has been removed from the updated version of Chic Scott’s guide book.

We left the car around 10:30 which should have been enough time to go 6 km with 600 m of elevation. The weather was miserable with temperatures of -1C in fairly steady slush. We made it 0.5 km from the car as a crow flies with an elevation gain of 230 m in 3 hours. Travel was brutal due to the steep terrain, facets, dense trees and breakable crust. I was expecting a hard slog, but not that hard and for less distance. The GPS track had our total switch back distance at 3.5 km. We were soaking wet, beaten, and a little down-trodden. I was amazed at the groups ability to shrug of the defeat, head to a hostel to dry out and try again the next day. We headed to COE and joined up with Nordegg Ice Review crew in a nice, dry building. If anyone has ever been to Coleman lakes in winter, I’d love to hear your experience.

Our third choice was Castleguard Meadows, which was significantly further, with more elevation than Coleman and just across the valley. However, the travel was much easier due to the military road, strong winds and glacier travel. We set off from the big bend at 9:30 and were in camp at 15:00. We had an igloo, two snow shelters, kitchen with wind wall and latrine built before dark, and spent the rest of the evening talking, melting snow and enjoying the -23C temperatures. Our objective for the next day was Mount Castleguard.

Everyone slept well that night and we had as early a start as one could expect for waking up in a snowdrift at -17C before sunrise (it actually warmed up overnight). We followed the high route above the cliff band that parallels the Saskatchewan Glacier and eventually meets up with the Castleguard Glacier. Mike and Lida somehow found the north-east face of Mount Castlegar in a complete white out and howling winds. As the terrain steepened, we found wind slab and massive cornices. We couldn’t see more than 100 m and without the ability to mitigate avalanche or cornice threat, the group turned around and headed home. The ski out from Castleguard Meadows was more of a slog than I was expecting taking almost 3 hours. There was almost no snow in the alluvial flats and bare ice was showing at the toe of the Saskatchewan glacier, better than facets I guess.

I think the trip was a success and had significantly less suffering than was possible or has happened on past winter camping trips. Lots was learned, some of the things I learned:
1) Sun screen freezes solid at -20C
2) Canister stoves work in temps warmer than -20C, but not below. Don’t even try to get them to work.
3) Crusted facets in steep trees will win every time, but don’t worry, the next valley over could be just fine.
4) ACCers are a tough, hard to beat down crowd.
Matthew Breakey
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