Castle Mountain - Fernie - British Columbia
Date Walked: 12th October 2014
Distance: 6.1 miles (9.8km)
Actual Ascent: 1751 ft (534m)
Time Taken: 3.5 hours
During a long weekend in Fernie Sarah and I bought a map of the local trails and found our way to a beautiful hike just south of the town. We first took Coal Creek Road from the town centre heading east for 2km, then we turned right onto River Road for a further 1.5km. River road is a well packed dirt road with some pretty significant holes here and there and has some beautiful views as you ascend the short section to the trailhead.
We parked in a pullout at the northern end of a trail named 'Roots'. Even in the shade the colours of autumn lit up the embankment at the trailhead. The ground was very dry and easy going with gentle ascent (as might be expected from a shared hike/bike trail)
As we made the first few hundred metres it was not possible to avoid turning around again and again to look over the sparsely treed lowlands and across to the mountains still shaded by wonderful clouds.
We were not going too long before the immortal words "It's warmer than I thought" caused a short stoppage to remove the fleece and provided another excuse to look back at the beauty of our surroundings.
Suitably cooled Sarah is keen to be on point and head off up the hill through the fire red ground cover and varying greens and yellows of the trees,
The well worn and well maintained pathway demands to be photographed again and again as the autumn colours burst out from all sides and the sun blazes down on us, what a wonderful day to be hiking.
The trails here have some fantastic names and as we reached the junction with 'Hyper Ventilation' we made a left turn and followed it upward. The red box here is a donation box for trail upkeep, we bypassed it only because we had made a $5 donation to the same trail maintenance in the outdoor shop this morning.
As we ascended the trail became a little steeper and the forest a little more dense but we were still afforded those wide open spaces to the west where the mountains now began to move to the distance.
We met a few people on the trail but considering it's a Sunday on a holiday weekend we were surprised that we met only a few groups on the way up.
'Hyper Ventilation' climbs more rigorously now as it enters the forest though it is still a comfortable hike. It would be considerably more difficult for the mountain bikes we saw huffing and puffing up there.
In some areas the leaves have reached their peak and dispersed to the forest floor where they provide a carpet of soft yellow cushioning. The trail makes long easy switchbacks gaining ascent at a very comfortable pace.
We soon arrive at the first of 3 benches we came across on the hike and we made good use of it to rest a little while and take in the views across the town site, a family of 7 came by and Sarah took a shot of them all for their keepsake, it was the 60th birthday of one of the family members. We laughed as one of the young lads said "can we go back down now"
We were soon leaving the bench and continuing upward, no real target in mind just yet, all we were doing was following the trial and seeing where it took us. The view to the west still remained open as we climbed.
There was the odd occasion where the trail required a bit more effort but for the most part it is a nice easy hike, but that doesn't stop us from making use of the odd tree stump here and there along the way.
Sarah was in a determined mood today and kept on going up the switchbacks gaining more and more elevation without the usual struggle against the steep sided beasts of Kananaskis.
Soon we reached another intersection, this time with a trail called 'Castle Rocks' to the right was the sheer wall of 'Castle Mountain' poking up out of the forest. We were some way off it yet but Sarah chose to keep heading toward it rather than turn downhill.
Not long after the turn we found a second bench perched on a scree slop facing west. Directly across on the mountainside is Fernie Ski Resort, we wondered about taking a lift up to the top and walking back down tomorrow but when we checked later it was closed.
The Castle Rocks trail intersects a final time with three way junction offering routes to 'South Castle', 'Castle Mountain' or 'Castle Rocks' as we are now so close Sarah opts to go for the summit of Castle Mountain and we turn left along the short trail where an open section heading toward the rock-face leaves Sarah unimpressed.
Kudos to Sarah who felt nervous of the trail at this point, but kept going, in fairness to her it did tilt toward the scree slope and made a tight turn up beneath the rock face where it steepened considerably.
Still going strong after the steep ascent beside the rocks where loose scree makes underfoot conditions a little more interesting, I hadn't yet told Sarah that she had beaten her personal best ascent on the way up.
Rounding the edge up onto the summit of Castle Rock is a great feeling, I find it a bit odd that Sarah has fewer concerns about the cliff edge here than she had about the scree trail below it.
The final bench of the trip, a huge family seat at the summit facing west across the valley to a myriad of mountain ranges. It is a beautiful spot and really worth the twisting and turning along those switchbacks on the ascent.
The town of Fernie now looks tiny as it sits in the dappled cloud shadows beneath a series of mountains, splashes of yellow are dabbed here and there across the scene adding to wonderful view.
Looking to the south the Lizard Range reaches out along the opposite side of the valley beyond the Elk River which winds its way through the patchwork of greens and yellows to the haze beyond.
After a little bite to eat I explored the summit further while Sarah took in the views, the best of which were directly in front of her. After a short exploration I returned to the huge bench as a family of four arrived huffing and puffing to the top.
We set off down the same route we had ascended, leaving the bench to the family. We had the place to ourselves all the time we were up there but met dozens of people climbing the trial as we descended.
The descent is very easy with the gentle switchbacks making for a casual stroll as we return toward the truck, it's easier to appreciate the colours and scenery when there is no effort involved and we take our time and enjoy the experience.
Back into the more open area along the 'Roots' trail and the colours pop out from all sides, the cloud cover has filled more of the sky and we are pleased ot have had the very best of it by getting out this morning.
Sarah is still smiling as she points out the turreted summit of Castle Mountain 5km back through the forest. Our trail was around to the left, then up through the yellow larch to the lower top before circling in front of the main tower and up the scree side.
Back at the truck we sat on the tailgate swinging our bare feet in the breeze while we had a drink and a granola bar. A personal best for Sarah in terms of ascent and a really enjoyable day for us both. The blue line on the map below shows our route through the mapped trails (there are actually a lot more trails on the ground so a keen eye is needed to keep to your trail)