Okay, so there are too many mountains called “Castle Peak” in the United States, much less the world. There are 26 in the United States and three of them are in Washington. How many Castles does one climbing kingdom need?
And what’s so special about this here Castle?
Castle is a special place. With its 3226 feet of prominence, it ranks as the 42nd-most-prominent peak in Washington
out of 3600+ peaks in the state. Furthermore, with its 8306 feet of elevation, it ranks as No. 100 among the Washington Top 100 by 400 feet of prominence
. Any peak that can be on two important lists ought to be on summitpost. So here it is, crenellations and all…
This Castle Peak is located in the northwest corner of the Pasayten Wilderness
. (It ranks as the 16th-highest and 5th-most-prominent peak in that vast wilderness.) The mountain is 1.2 miles south of the Canadian Border. It also happens to reside on the Whatcom-Okanogan county line. It is the highest summit for miles around. The next-higher peak in the chain is 8,400+ ft Azurite Peak
20 miles to the south. Between them, Holman Pass, at 5080 feet, is the low point by which Castle’s prominence is calculated.
The Castle massif is fairly complex, like a fortification should be, I guess. There are five principle drainages and four ridges descending from its upper ramparts. Pass Creek is on the northwest. It flows into Canada but winds up in Lightning Creek, which itself flows back into the United States. Freezeout Creek is on the west. It also flows to Lightning Creek. On the south is Castle Creek. And on the east is Crow Creek, flowing to Castle Creek.
Castle’s long North Face is an imposing wall of granite ribs, gullies, and couloirs with ice sheets or remnants of ice sheets. There are several rock climbing lines available on the face. Some have been tried and completed. Still others await the intrepid stormtroopers among us. The southeast side of the mountain drops in a series of chossy gullies and ribs to Castle Creek. It’s probably the mountain’s ugliest side. The west side above Freezeout Creek would be the aesthetic contribution. From this angle—especially from the mountainsides above the valley floor—the mountain has a Karakorum aspect (when snowcovered). In short, it’s a pretty cool looking mountain and a worthy objective to more than just the oddball prominencian or onehundredian.
May you successfully plunder this Castle too. Try to avoid the boiling oil pouring down one of its many gullies…
This Castle Peak is hard to get to. So before you enact your siege tactics, you had better figure out how you’re going to trek there. The shortest approach is from the north but this is no walk in the park (Manning Provincial Park in British Columbia, to be exact). There is another approach from the east (from the Pacific Crest Trail) and still another from the west from Freezeout Creek. It was the last of these approaches that we did and so therefore the one I’m most familiar with.
For the Freezeout Creek Route, click here
Done by Mike Collins and Dave Creeden in late May 2006. Click here
for the trip report.
Boiling Red Tape
The International Border is one long ribbon of red tape. Figure out your own way across. I’m not going to spell it out for you. Do you acquire permission ahead of time? Do you simply cross the border quasi-illegally? Do you think anyone will care?
For the beginning of the Freezeout Creek approach, while in the Hozomeen Creek drainage, you are in the Ross Lake National Recreation Area where permits are apparently required for camping. Once you cross Lightning Creek at Turner Bridge and ascend the abandoned Freezeout Creek Trail for a couple of miles you will cross into the Pasayten Wilderness where standard wilderness policy applies: leave no trace, take no bikes, but take your time if you like.
For the Freezeout Creek approach several campsites are available but the most useful ones will be Willow Camp at Willow Lake (5 miles in), Nightmare Camp at Turner Bridge (7.5 miles in), at the cabin at 3,500 ft in Freezeout Creek (11.3 miles).
Some things to note:
Stromberg Cabin just before Willow Lake apparently does not exist anymore.
The cabin in Freezeout Creek is about 75 vertical feet higher up than shown on the map. Basically, it’s right on the trail so if you’re on the trail you can’t miss it. If the ground is snowcovered, take the time to find the cabin on the way in. This cabin is in very good shape and can be bunked in without problems (that lock on the door might be a ploy). The cabin is obviously kept up (fresh chopped wood available for the iron stove inside) with loving care, so please don’t destroy or trash it.
When to Lay Siege
You could climb Castle Peak in the winter in the right conditions. Avalanching will certainly be a problem, as would access. For the Freezeout Creek approach, you’ll have to wait until Silver-Skagit Road opens over the 1900-ft pass. From Hope to the border is something like 38 miles, too far to go on foot or bike. This road did not open until early May in 2007. The gate at the border allowing entry into the United States usually opens by Memorial Day weekend (late May). Otherwise the Hozomeen Lake Trailhead is another 2 miles away from the gate (take a bike).
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