Ultra Brewers, located on a distinct lower buttress (sharp prow) of Castle Mountain, is heralded in the “book of lies” (Sean Dougherty’s Selected Alpine Climbs in the Canadian Rockies) as “undoubtedly the best of the harder climbs on the mountain”. After climbing the route, I would have to contribute this statement more to a lack of “harder” routes published in Sean’s book versus Ultra Brewers actually being a worthy route. In any regard, since Ultra Brewers has been bolted to oblivion as recent as 2010, it has found traction with the younger, less experienced, guides looking for a safe route to explore their trad skills on. A trio of Auger, Sheehan and White established the route in 1987. Have no idea the grade III rating came from, the "book of lies" and/or the FAer's, but it was a short day of climbing for us.
Many skip the first two pitches due to the amount of dung (bird/squirrel/bat) oozing out of the first pitch and the laden-with-loose-blocks second pitch. There is a ramp up left that cuts above these two pitches. These first pitches are worth doing in my opinion, if simply for the adventure of it all and to complete the route in whole. The first pitch is the second most challenging lead of the day (5.8). The third pitch is about as chossy as the first two but does offer a crack up a corner which leads to much better rock above. The fourth pitch is better rock, but not overly sustained at the grade (5.7). The fifth pitch is what this route is all about but you will find yourself asking if the approach, dirty and loose climbing and descent are all worth it: a full 60m pitch of 5.8-9 crack and stem climbing in a limestone corner. The last pitch is a clean and short pitch to finish the route to the goat’s plateau above.
The start of this route is notorious for being hard to find with limited existing beta resources. Let’s see if I can add to that confusion. From the Castle Fire Lookout trail head, hike up to the lookout (50 minutes if fast and fit). From there follow any one of several trails that will take you up and right to the base of the descent gully from the Goat’s Plateau (alpine hut) above. Leave your packs here as this is where you will descend. Rack up and hike/scramble southeast along the base of the wall having to descend into a large gully fairly immediately (not the descent gully, next one over). Ascend the other side back to the base of the wall. The next real gully to cross had good water flow in July (last opportunity for water en-route) and can be crossed close to the wall. After this drainage, start looking for the route. There are two bolts (2012) that lead into a left facing corner, not even 5 minutes from that before-mentioned drainage. Total time from your packs can easily be 30 minutes. There are three clumps of low-to-the-ground shrubs, stacked high to low, that also help identify the start.
Route Description1000’+/-, 6 Pitches, 5.9
1st Pitch- 55m- 5.8/ Climb past the two lower bolts and into the corner. At first, you are probably saying to yourself that this first pitch is not as bad as made out by previous accounts, but then the shit, literally, just keeps coming until it is almost impossible to keep your gear, rope and hands out of it. The rock quality leaves a lot to be desired as you test every hold. But the crack does afford decent protection. I advise you pass up a fixed (bolts-2012) belay station along the way. As you near the roof above, look for an airy traverse out right on horrible rock. I placed a small piece a bit high before down-climbing back to this traverse. Traverse right into a chimney with an old piton (2012). Either belay here on gear due to rope drag or if you ran your ropes well, continue up another 10 meters to a fixed belay on a comfortable ledge.
2nd Pitch- 55m- 5.7/ Continue up the chimney passing a bolt and breaking out left up a loose block corner moving as delicately as possible. Several bolts (2012) have been added to this pitch near the end as you face climb up to a broad ledge.
3rd Pitch- 30m- 5.8/ Move the belay up and left to the larger left facing corner with a sure crack in it. Pull on a few chossy holds to enter the corner and stem your way up to a slot above, move up and left over run out textured face, but much better rock, to a 4th class gully. Follow it up and right to the top of a small block and fixed belay. There is a bolt up and left that has no use. This option might be a bit stiff for 5.8 climbers, which if an issue, the original notes appear to have you run up a much easier corner just to the left, but without much real climbing involved.
4th Pitch- 50m- 5.7/ The rock quality starts to improve on this pitch. From the fixed belay, move left and up a small right facing corner or take a crack straight up the wall. At the top, traverse up and right via a short corner and traverse right into an easy crack that leads to a substantial ledge below the final headwall.
5th Pitch- 60m- 5.9/ Climb the short section of off-width up the right side of the pedestal block to its top. I advise extending any pro you place here to avoid rope drag on the long corner section above. Climb past two bolts (2012) up the short face above angling right up and into the corner on positive edges. Follow the corner past numerous bolts (2012) and plenty of gear placements (bolts should actually be removed on this pitch past the first two) and continue with finger and hand jams, stemming your way up the aesthetic corner. A two bolt belay stops 10m short of a comfortable belay ledge. I advise continuing past this fixed belay to the small ledge out left. There you will find one bolt that is easily backed up with a smaller piece (.3).
6th Pitch- 35m- 5.7/ Move left to a hand crack and follow it to the top on easy solid ground.
DescentHead all the way straight up to the second tier wall of Castle Mountain. Locate a trail at the base that circumvents it back northwest all the way to the hut. From there continue the well-traveled descent from the hut with one rap at the end above where you left your packs.
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