Table Mountain – Scrambler’s Route

June 4, 2019. A straight-forward scramble to the summit of one of the gems of Castle Provincial Park.

Distance: 11 km

Total Ascent: 877 m

Elevation of Objective: 2225 m

Hiking Time: 4h 3m round-trip

Two years ago I climbed the usual on-trail route to the summit of Table Mountain. That trail is varied and steep, and has a couple of sections which may qualify as scrambling. The full trail report is here. There is, however, another route to the mountain’s plateau. It’s off the main trail, not too difficult and more of a “true” scramble. Nugara describes it in More Scrambles in the Canadian Rockies. I decided to give it a shot today.

Trail access is unchanged from my prior report. The scrambling route starts off following the usual trail through the low-lying forest. As the trail ascends onto clearer slopes, a clear view of open slopes heading towards two large rocky outliers appears. When the main hiking trail veers right to a gently climbing traverse, there’s some conspicuously arranged rock steps with a faint trail heading straight up towards the gully between the outliers. I set off in this direction, aiming towards the centre of the gully.

The faint trail doesn’t actually continue on towards the gully, but it’s easy enough to see where to go and the terrain isn’t difficult. In retrospect, looking at Google Earth, if I’d been on the lookout there is a pretty conspicuous trail that heads up the scrambling route which departs the main trail a short distance before my departure point. I’ll point it out in the pictures below.

Once heading uphill, I angled leftwards and eventually crossed over to the left side of the creek bed at the bottom of the gully. From there I ascended, following the creek bed. Sometimes it was easier to be off to the left slightly, but eventually there was minimal debris and deadfall in the creek bed, so I climbed directly up its solid black rock. I did discover this rock was very slippery when wet.

Eventually, I could see a low rock band marked with orange lichen. It had a rather distinctive dead tree atop it. I headed directly up to it. Negotiating the rock band required no difficult maneuvers and I continued to the tree.  Beyond that point, the route went slightly to the right and then continued up the gully. The red and yellow rock of the cliffs below the western plateau were clearly in view by this point. Beyond one more low band of black rock, the route continued up onto a scree field. I continued upwards, and the easiest climbing took me slightly right. On the cliff ahead, there was an obvious notch towards the left side, marking a weakness that could be easily scrambled. I reached the cliff, turned left and walked to the notch. The final climb up the notch was a fun bit of scrambling which deposited me up on the plateau of Table Mountain.

From there, I followed the hiking trail to tag the summit and returned via the normal hiking route (taking the shortcut I described in my original post). I was very luck to once again be on Table Mountain on a clear day. I spent a fair amount of time taking in the scenery, both while on top and on the descent.

Click on the pictures below to access full-sized images.

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Topographic map of the route, which was done clockwise. The red flag is the site of the distinct tree which is a handy guidepost.
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For some reason, the maximal elevation on this profile doesn’t match the summit elevation that this same app provided.
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Route overview.
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A view of the scrambling route. S = start of the route, where it departs the main trail; T = approximate location of the distinct tree; N = notch in the upper cliff band; * = another trail, which is obvious on Google Earth, which departs earlier and stays to the left of the creek.
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A distinctively arranged rock step. The hiking trail continues to the right. This is where I went straight and began climbing to the gully.
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Looking up at the rocky outliers and the gully from where the route leaves the main trail. I went up the open areas then trended left as I got closer to the rock walls.
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Crossing over from the right to the left side of the gully, above where the debris and deadfall sit.
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I think that the trail which is visible on Google Earth is on the top of the slope, up high on the left side. I just followed the creek bed upwards, sometimes along the left side, sometimes right on the rocks of the creek bed itself.
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Eventually a low rock wall with orange lichen and a distinctive tree (arrow) come into view. I made my way to the tree.
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Closer to the tree now. The orange lichen on the rock wall becomes evident.
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It really is convenient that this tree is here to mark the way.
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Fun, easy climbing beyond the tree.
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Continuing to ascend, the route goes into this green and grey section. A low wall of black rock (arrow) is at the top. Beyond, there’s orange scree and the final red and yellow cliff band.
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Something died up here, not too long ago.
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The final push, up some scree. The notch on the cliffs on the left side is the eventual goal, but the easiest climbing trends towards the right. Don’t fight it – the rock of the cliff bands is worth walking along and spending some time with. Go to the right-hand side of the cliff then go left to the notch.
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The final cliff band. From here I walked to the left until I reached the notch.
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Fascinating colours on the cliffs.
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Looking back across the cliff face and across the valley.
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Looking up through the notch – easy scrambling to the plateau.
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Up on the plateau, looking west.
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Looking back at the western edge of the plateau from the summit.

 

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Telephoto view of the plateau, with Mount Syncline in the background.
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Another angle, looking past the plateau at the high peaks along the continental divide. I keep trying to figure out their names. I think I’ll need to bring a paper map and compass some time.
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Another shot of the same peaks. The day was gorgeous – I kept stopping every few steps to take more pictures.
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Windsor Mountain and Castle Peak.
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Looking down at Beaver Mines Lake.
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Descending along the usual hiking trail. Perfect day.

 

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