Return to the Goldmine
By Sam Eastman
Castle Mountain is a rock climber’s goldmine. Yes the approach is long and somewhat tedious, yet a day spent climbing the solid golden dolomite is worth the price of admission. This year, Sam Lambert and myself returned to the lower buttress, below Eisenhower tower, to look at and eventually climb a line both of us had been thinking about all year. We had spotted a line from the top of Castles in the Sky, a sun kissed slightly overhung wall that seemed to drop for more than a few pitches!
Although the rock seems solid on Castle the dreaded top down approach is a far less stylish and seemingly medieval, although effective, method of equipping choss. Loaded up with six ropes, a drill, and bags of bolts, we made most of the approach dry, which was surprising as the brewing clouds overhead seemed ready to pounce. As we began the final 4th class scramble clouds opened and scrambling in the rain with heavy packs began to be quite the task. It seemed like a pattern started to set in. Each time we would get off the couch to get to work, a storm would set in. When a storm wasn't crackling around, loose rock would cut a rope, packrats would destroy fixed ropes or a gear stash. All said and done, Sam and I could tell the climbing was worth dealing with some rats and very manky ropes. Each time I would rap the lip, a yellow abyss would span out in front of me. Sequences would unlock, holds appeared. Every time down the fixed lines, Sam and I would get more and more exited to try and free climb the bad boy!
When the time came to free the line I almost couldn't believe it. Setting off on the first pitch fueled by Mars bars and Redbull bought from the gas station, It seemed like the beginning of the end. Laying in to a 12+ crux on dirty holds, I wondered why I didn’t put another bolt in, and just like that, dreading a long and slightly sideways fall a foothold broke and I was off. I hauled the bag up; Sam flew up the pitch, grabbed some gear and was of on a very exciting dihedral roof pitch. Stemming wide with a sloping under cling, Sam pulled hard to a jug in a roof crack. Without much trouble, he finished the 45 meter 5.12+ pitch like a champ.
As the weather continued to get worse, we carried on, up a 5.13a pitch a 5.11, a 5.12c and the top. Alpine cragging never gets old!
The send eventually came, although It seemed like a part of me was still up there above some clouds, taping core shots, laughing as Sam pounds Monster’s and burns out drillbits. I guess the process is more important than the finish line. I think so anyways!!!!
Here is the breakdown.
1st 5.12+ 35M. Slightly overhung and cryptic.
2nd. 5.12+ 45M. Dihedral to Burly roof!
3rd. 5.13. 52M. Overhung corner/face to savage boulder problem.
4th. 5.11. 22M. Sidepulls on some of the best rock..ever.
5th. 5.12. 35M. The best pitch on the route, possibly the best pitch ever, perfect crimps to a very very exposed Arête feature!