View from Southfork Mountain

Southfork Mountain and GR909662
Castle Wilderness, Alberta
October 25, 2008

The east slope isn’t the quickest way to reach the summit of Southfork Mountain, but it must be easier and more scenic than the west slope route that Andrew suggests in More Scrambles. Unlike the west slope, the east slope is reached on a good trail, forgoing any routefinding. The trail passes a broad waterfall and teal blue lakes, lakes that set a striking background as you hike to the rocky summit. On the downside, the approach begins with the fording of West Castle River.

We almost cancelled this trip because of a wind warning. The forecast called for 70 kph winds gusting to 90, but by the morning when we left, the wind had abated to 40 kph gusting to 60 and the warning was lifted. I asked Sonny Bou to join Dinah and I. Undeterred by the 6:00 am departure and a blustery day, he agreed.

The trail is accessed from a 4X4 road 10 km past South Castle River bridge on HWY 774. We drove 400 m down the road, turned left and parked at an open area. After hiking 200 m we crossed the river. Keeping left, we went around a bend to meet the main trail. 500 m after crossing a small drainage we took a trail on our right. We soon caught sight of the open west slopes that the trail climbs.

On the slopes, we were blasted by bitter winds, but we found relief when the trail leveled off and entered the trees before the first lake. From there it was a short hike to the second lake.

We were still sheltered as we ascended the open east slopes, but on the summit, the wind hammered us. After freezing for a half-hour on top of Southfork Mountain, we considered turning back, but our sense of adventure got the better of us. We headed south along the ridge. The hike soon warmed us up and we continued to the base of a cliff band. After some easy scrambling, we walked to a high point (GR909662) on the ridge. We could see the summit of Barnaby Ridge, but it was too far to reach with the little daylight we had left. We pretty well had enough of the wind anyway.

As we headed back, we took a meandering course to study the ridge. We had hoped to find an alternate descent back to the upper lakes, but since none was apparent we hiked back over Southfork Mountain. Before heading down to the second lake, however, we diverged to climb a nub overlooking the third lake.

Back at the second lake, we took a close look at the frozen shoreline. The wind had whipped water onto the shore coating everything in ice, creating a frozen wonderland. After taking several photos we hiked back along the trail.

Despite the wind and the cold, we enjoyed our ascent up Southfork Mountain and the ridgewalk to the high point. Had we gone earlier in the season, doubtless we would have had sufficient daylight to also nab Barnaby Ridge. But climbing Barnaby Ridge is a good excuse to return to this area!

Sonny Bou's Trip Report
KML Track

MOVIE (posted on YouTube)


Sonny fords West Castle River


Hiking up the trail


Syncline Mountain in the background


The first lake


Looking back at the first lake while on the way to the second lake


The second lake


The frozen shore of the second lake (mouse over for detail)


Starting up the east slope


Looking down at the second and third lakes (click for a larger image)


We pass a rock prominence that we later climbed on the descent


Well above the lakes now


View to the northeast


On the ridge


On the summit of Southfork


Heading to the high point (left on the skyline)


Mount Haig and Gravenstafel Ridge (click for a larger image)


The traverse to the high point was mostly a hike (click for a larger image)


Looking back at Southfork Mountain


We reached the base of the high point


Easy scrambling ahead


Dinah makes her way up the rocks


The broad slope below the summit


Panorama from the high point


Table Mountain, left, and Whistler Lookout, foreground (click for a larger image)


The summit of Barnaby Ridge (click for a larger image)


Heading back to Southfork Mountain


Victoria Peak and North Castle (left). Castle Peak and Windsor Mountain (right)


Sonny and I headed to the rock prominence above the lakes that we climbed (mouse over)


Looking down at the third Southfork Lake


Back at the second lake


Sonny photographs ice-encrusted vegetation


The ice falls below the second lake


82/G8 Beaver Mines

Nugara | Canada | Home