As usual, I gonna start my trip report with the planning part. Our trip plan for Canada Day long weekend changed a dozen times. Originally, I signed for an ACC trip led by Eric Coulthard back in early May, to Victoria Cross Range traverse, starting from Pyramid Mountain ending at Elysium Mountain. As the date coming close, we found out only 1 more member was interested in this trip. I was quite surprised that nobody wanted the 8-peak-in-3-day-trip. Seems like people only like to go for the mountains covered in guidebooks... Because the traverse requires 2 cars, we had to change our plan. "Zengel to Buttress to Snaring Mountain", an ambitious 3-day backpacking trip. However, the snow condition and the high water level made this trip questionable, especially when we had to ford Snaring River after dropping down from Buttress Mountain to the valley floor. Two days before the trip, we looked at the weather forecast, which showed rain to the north, and better weather towards the south. Okay then, I though about joining Jeff and Andrea for the backpacking trip to Castle and Waterton. Both of them invited me though, but I'd like to hear Eric's plan first. His idea was to join Raff for an ascent of Mount McLaren and Mount Coulthard in Crowsnest Pass for obvious reason, and two more day-trips for the other two days. That sounds okay to me as well. Regarding the traverse from Victoria Peak to Avion Ridge, Eric and I agreed that doing it in 2 separate days. Drywood to Loaf to Victoria Ridge to Victoria Peak in one day; Newman Peak to Spionkop Ridge to GR127513 to Avion Ridge in another day. However, on Friday morning, Raff canceled the plan on Mount Coulthard due to the bad weather in Crowsnest, and he told us to meet at Pincher Creek on 8:30AM, Saturday morning. Okay then... At 3:30pm Friday afternoon, Eric and I departed from Edmonton without knowing exactly what we were planning to do.
On Saturday morning, we met Raff at Pincher Creek, and he asked us if we'd like to join on his 400th summit to "Barnaby Ridge to Unnamed to Southfork Mountain", and we both agreed. The only information I knew regarding this traverse was that, they are the mountains in West Castle, just east of Gravelstafel Ridge and Mount Haig, while planning on the trip to "Syncline Mountain to Gravelstafel Ridge 4-peak-traverse" with Dan Kim 3 weeks ago.
The gravel road to Castle Ski Resort was surprisingly good, much better than Smith Dorrien Road for sure. I thought that's because of the less traffic on this road. There were campgrounds everywhere along the road. Because this area is outside the parks, I think you can free camp anywhere you want (actual camping, not sleeping in car though). We parked at Castle Ski Resort, and soon started the 1.2km approach along the muddy logging road. It requires a 4WD so we couldn't drive there. Despite Raff had a GPS, we still had a bit trouble fining the correct gully to ascend. They looked all doable from below, so rather then figuring out what was the "correct" one according to information, we just chose the one that was the closest. The bush looked okay from far away, but after getting into it, it was far worse.
There was little to describe for this gully apart from bushwhacking. We were able to even find flagging here and there. The bush got better about 1/3 of the way up, and non-existence about 1/2 way up. We had lots of talking during the ascent, so we were on a relatively slow pace. You gonna have to ascend more than 1000m elevation in this foreshortened gully, and plus the tiring bushwhacking below, I felt it took us forever to get through. Once out of the gully, we were treated by the view towards the other side (East Castle area). The most impressive feature was Castle Peak, a 5.9 climb according to Raff. The reddish peak immediately to our left is an unnamed peak at GR907662, while Barnaby Ridge is to our right. A scenic ridge walk brought us to the summit of Barnaby Ridge. To our surprise, there was even a register on the summit. Not to our surprise, we were the 2nd party signing the register apart from the guys who brought it up... That makes sense because I believe the majority peak-baggers don't even have a clue about this peak. We cheered by beers for Raff's great achievement. Towards NW is the 4-peak-traverse that I've mentioned before, Syncline Mountain to St. Eloi Mountain to Mount Haig to Gravelstefal Ridge. Towards SW is another interesting traverse, Middle Kootenay Mountain to Rainy Ridge to Three Lakes Ridge. Before leaving for Southfork Mountain, we went to a slightly lower east point for better photos towards East Castle area.