St. Eloi Mountain
Castle Wilderness, Alberta
June 30, 2007

Thumbing through my fresh copy of Andrew Nugara's More Scrambles book, we chose to do St. Eloi Mountain first. We parked at a bare spot on the roadside and found the trail hidden behind a berm.

We hiked up Syncline Brook Trail 2.3 km before reaching the drainage. We saw no flagging but there was no mistaking the drainage as it dropped a couple of metres below the trail. The drainage was an unpleasant affair. In its confines we could see little and the rocks, willows, and running water conspired to slow our pace.

When the trees on the left bank gave way to a steep, scrubby slope we left the drainage. The vegetation thinned as we climbed and we found ourselves in a basin. We couldn't see the ridge so we headed to a steep slope on our right. We would end up farther back along the ridge from the mountain, but I was hoping to catch sight of the ridge to get oriented. Even so, we ascended a fair distance before the ridge came into view.

We reached the ridge just before a high point. Beyond that was another high point that Andrew recommends ascending for the views. We did and it was indeed worth the effort. We dropped down the other side to the col and headed up to the summit.

It was a steep ascent but an intermittent trail assisted us up. On the summit we were met with high winds, a small cairn, and a new summit register. We spent half an hour on top taking photos and studying our surroundings before returning to the col where we considered our options.

We could retrace our steps back to the trail which meant following the undulating ridge and descending the ascent drainage, or we could drop down to the drainage below us and find our way back to Syncline Brook Trail. We were up for an adventure so we chose the latter.

We stayed with the drainage until it became too rugged and then headed left to an opening in the trees. More than an opening, it was a long, winding break. We followed this until we hit upon an animal trail. Following this trail – probably a series of trails – was an adventure in itself. It was well trodden but nearly invisible in waist-deep bushes. But it was fast, fun and headed in the right direction.

When we were about a hundred metres above Syncline Brook Valley and the way down was mostly clear, we left the trail and started down. In retrospect, we should have continued on the animal trail. The Syncline Brook Trail wasn't much of a trail at all. We ended up doing some awful bushwhacking along the left bank of the creek until we reached the hiking trail.

This scramble was a worthwhile effort given this area probably sees few ascents. Not surprisingly we saw no one on the mountain. The Castle West area, however, was rife with outdoor enthusiasts on quads and dirt bikes, transportation I'll eschew while I have two good legs!

MOVIE (posted on YouTube)
KML Track


St. Eloi seen from the trail


Pleasant hiking on Syncline Brook Trail


After hiking up the drainage we headed for the semi-open slopes on our left


We leave the drainage far below.


Reaching the ridge. Second summit of Syncline Mountain on the right.


Gravenstafel Ridge and Mount Haig


Reaching a high point. Another high point and St. Eloi ahead.


On the first high point


Descending the first high point


Ascending the second high point (mouse over to see the view from the top)


It was an 80 m drop from the second high point to the col


We spotted elk below the col. Later, when we descended from the col, we passed through this area
but didn't see any elk although the air was thick with their scent.


Final push to the summit. Flat Head Range in the background.


Single entry in summit register


We couldn't resist descending to this drainage (steeper than it looks).


Looking back at the col


Following a break in the trees


The break extends a long way


Typical travel on an animal trail


82 G/8 Beaver Mines

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