There are four alpine routes up Castle Mountain listed in Sean Dougherty’s “Selected Alpine Climbs in the Canadian Rockies”. Eisenhower Tower, Bass Buttress, Ultra-Brewers and Brewer Buttress. Quite a few other routes can be contemplated at Tabvar.org. Bass Buttress, Brewer Buttress and Eisenhower are the “classics” and therefore most common routes. What makes Bass Buttress popular no doubt is the access via the tiny Castle Mountain Hut (photo provided) managed by the Alpine Club of Canada. Don’t have any grand illusions of throwing a party up there. Although advertised to sleep six, I feel sorry for the last two of six to arrive. It is a very cool location for a hut though and even though you can do Bass Buttress easy in a day from the car (as we did), the hut is an experience in and of itself not to miss. And perhaps even more unique is the open air pit toilet on the edge of a dramatic cliff.
Bass Buttress was put in by Brian Greenwood and Joe Farrand in 1968. Bass Buttress Direct, the version I did, was put up by Bugs McKeith and John Calvert in 1972 and I much recommend this line over the original, which involves three alternate pitches raising the rating from 5.6 to 5.7. It is a shaded route for much of the day, which is a huge advantage on hot summer days, but at this elevation, we are only talking a few days of the year that this would be seen as an advantage. Bass Buttress has less pins than Brewers Buttress and is climbed somewhat less because it normally is considerably colder. The direct route makes it a much cleaner line.
This is a 4600’+/- total ascent trip, car to car. The guidebook discusses some 3.5-5 hours to achieve the hut from the parking area via the Castle Lookout Trail. However I typically take only 2 hours.
The trailhead is located off of the Bow Valley Parkway less than 5 kilometers northwest of the Castle Mountain Village area at Castle Mountain Junction. Turn right into a parking lot marked as Castle Lookout. From here a marked trail takes you half the distance to the hut. After the trail ends at 3.5kms (an overlook area, no building) you will see several faint trails branch out. They all probably work, but the easiest one is furthest to the right as you face the ascent. Traverse the lower treed slopes of Castle Mountain south until you get to a significant drainage. Head up from there and start the 4th class scrambling to the left of this drainage. There are rappel chains at the top of the first (and most difficult) pitch of scrambling. Start the scramble to the hut up this class 4 pitch and turn right at the top of the drainage and circumvent right to the Castle Hut. Continue on a trail as you head for the wall and fork left for the Bass Buttress start(s) on the Goat Plateau. The start of Bass Buttress is but 5-10 minutes from the hut. The “Direct” start can be located under some clayish rock that follows a corner up three pitches. There are few pins on this route and you will not see any evidence of any at the direct start. However the corner is obvious (photo). All belay stances are comfortable on this climb and fixed as of 2007. I found none of the pitches combinable, most are fairly long.
DescentThe descent gully can be difficult to find if there are no tracks in the snow and snow lingers on the summit ridge for much of the year. You are looking for a gully north of where you top out on the summit ridge. Descend to the north and past the first notch (gully) you come to. Do not get sucked down the east slopes of Castle Mountain by cairns that represent the scramble route up from Rockbound Lake and exits a completely different side of the mountain. After descending to and passing the first notch, angle straight across or up searching for the next gully which will not come into view until you reach it.
The gully you are looking for is below a cairned summit that stands considerably off to the north. Stay to the western edge of the summit ridge where you will be forced to descend and have to gain elevation again as your circumvent this cairned summit on its eastern flank. The gully just north of it is a wide and easy gully to start your descent. Since it is open and south facing, the gully stays relatively dry and the scree makes for an easy descent until you reach the “chock stone” area. Here you will find several mixed rappel stations starting on the right hand side of the gully. You will end up making about three rappels to maneuver through the different chock stones and waterfalls. This gully puts you above where you topped out to go to the hut. Descend scree and talus back to the trail that heads back south to the hut or descend back to the Castle Lookout trail.
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