Here we have a mountain with an interesting name that is plainly visible from the village of Stehekin, but which never gets climbed. Why is this? Technically speaking, the easiest route is no harder than Class 3 and is 90 percent Class 2. The easy answer to its forgotten status as a climbing objective is mostly due to its location relative to Stehekin. If you want to climb it, you've got to either A) make a long cross-country approach or B) find a way to get across the lake (by boat) then climb directly up from there. Moreover, the peak is short shrifted by higher Flora Mountain
one mile to the south. And while Flora is a member of the Washington Top 100 and therefore a more compelling objective for the list-bagger, Castle is relegated to the more obscure Top 101-200 by 400P list (coming in tied with Wolframite Mountain at 144th-highest in the state).
So Flora is higher. Well Castle Rock is more interesting to behold from the east and north. The mountain towers over Lake Chelan with precipitous walls. From Stehekin it does indeed look like a Castle. The west side is less interesting and not as picturesque as double-summited Flora.
The peak also rises a whopping 7,000 feet from the shores of Lake Chelan in less than 2.5 horizontal miles. The three creeks draining its flanks--Castle Creek on the west and north but still empyting into the lake, Canyon Creek on the northeast, and Bridal Veil Creek on the east--become an array of cataracts in spring. They are also very much forbidding places to climb in (i.e., you don't hike up them to get to the summit).
The first recorded
ascent was on September 11, 1940 by Joe Leuthold and Eldon Metzger after a traverse from Flora Mountain. However, they found a cairn already erected at the summit. Photographs by Barney Zell in 1910-1920 indicate he was on or near the summit so he may have made the first ascent. The register at the summit has been there since the 1980s. Only about 12 entries were in it.
This Castle Rock is not to be confused with the much less obscure rock climbing area near Leavenworth
The first order of business is to find one's way up Lake Chelan. See the Getting There
section on the Dark Peak page
The standard approach for Castle Rock is the same as for Flora Mountain: the Devore Creek Trail then cross-country. The route up from the lake (from Manley Wham Cabin) is slightly different and will appear on its own route page just as soon as Blake puts it up.
Either of the two options listed on the Flora Mountain route page
for the Devore Creek approach can be used to make the final approach to Castle. However, the first (Option 1) is much more direct and recommended. It is likely that you would wish to climb Flora while there. In this regard, one could use Option 2 in a loop trip. The Devore Creek approach and Option 1 are reprinted below.
Approach and Climb
Note that Castle Rock can be combined with nearby Flora Mountain and Devore and Tupshin peaks. All can be climbed from the same camp at 5,800 ft in the Bird Creek drainage or from a camp on the Devore Creek Trail called "Bird Creek Camp" on the GreenTrails map.
Take the $5 shuttle bus (or catch a ride or ride a bike or walk it) from Stehekin Landing 4.4 miles up the road to Harlequin Bridge (rust-colored). Cross the bridge and continue for 300 yards, going past the Harlequin Camp road on the left to a wye. Go left at the wye and follow the road around past the town maintenance yard to the Stehekin Airport (grass airfield). Follow a dirt track southeastward on the east side of the airfield to its corner. The Stehekin River Trail
more or less starts here. It first crosses on boardwalks over marshy ground to the other side of the airfield to a trail junction. Go left at the junction and follow the mostly flat trail southeastward for 3 miles to the signed Devore Creek Trail junction
(1,160 ft). This junction coincides with the short trail continuance to Weaver Point on the shores of Lake Chelan.
If you take a float plane to Stehekin you can arrange to be dropped off at Weaver Point thus saving 3.7 miles of flat valley walking to get from the Stehekin River Road to the start of the Devore Creek Trail. The only stipulation is that your party size on the plane has to be least two people.
Devore Creek Trail
The trail first ascends in 30-something switchbacks in approximately 2 miles to reach the Glacier Peak Wilderness boundary at 2,300 ft. I'm referring to the point where you come upon the wilderness sign, not the supposed boundary as shown on maps. After that, with a brief respite from the up
, you'll be thinking your work is done for the day. But, ah, not so.
For the next 3+ miles the trail climbs up and up and up, never easing off. To make matters worse, the trail does not see much traffic and is therefore brushy in the middle third. It's never hard to follow just that the encroachment from the sides adds to the insulting incline. Your imprecations would be even louder if the brush were wet too.
As a helpful hint, if you can manage it, do the trail in the late afternoon when the sun has descended behind the mountain slope. It's a grind and who needs the thermal truncheon above you adding to your woes?
Finally, at about 4,100 ft, the trail enters significant timber beyond a creek (the creek draining the east side of Tupshin). Shortly thereafter the trail reaches Bird Creek at 4,200 ft. Bird Creek Camp is about 50 yards before
the creek crossing. It is the ONLY designated camp in that area of trail. There is space enough for three tents + a cook area. This is a good staging camp. Unless you will be carrying over to Holden, there is no real need to hike farther up the trail for a closer camp. That is, you should be able to climb Flora from Bird Creek Camp and back in one long day.
From Harlequin Bridge, allow for 4 hours to get to Bird Creek Camp.
Cross-country Route to Castle
From camp, continue up the trail for about 1.3 miles to 4,620 ft where West Fork Devore Creek comes down from the right. There is an open swath here (might be brushy). At either edge of the open area, descend to Devore Creek in trees. Once across the creek bear ESE to the open basin thence up to the 7,200-ft saddle between "Puzzle Peak" (Pk 7660) and "Enigma Peak" (Pk 8015). There are some short cliffs to contend with but a gully should be locatable to get up through these.
Now at the saddle take a direct easterly bearing toward Castle's south ridge, dropping 800 feet to Castle Creek in the process. Cross the creek in a quaint meadow (blueberry heaven?), aiming for the obvious basin on Castle's southwest side. There is some open timber then a short talus and scree slog to the ridgeline. Turn left and climb to the summit. You generally stay on the east side of the crest avoiding the few gendarmes as necessary. There are one or two minor Class 3 breaks. Mostly it is just steep talus. However, beware of steep sidehilling
. In early season an ice axe would be mandatory.
Allow 4-5 hours from Bird Creek Camp (or even less if you're speedy). The total gain is about 4,600 ft.
There is no red tape for this part of the Glacier Peak Wilderness. Leave No Trace ethics should be prescribed to.
When To Climb
Castle Rock is a summer and fall kind of climb.
For the Devore Creek approach, the best camp spot is at Bird Creek Camp (see the Devore Creek Trail section). This is the first viable campsite one arrives at on the trail from Stehekin. There are other sites farther up the valley. Good camping is also availabe in the flat of Castle Creek but there's no point in lugging heavy gear over to there unless you have a reason to (as if to carryover).
Views from the Mountain