Castle Mountain

The mountains of the Brooks Range were former sea beds.  As we drove along through Atigun Pass we viewed the dramatic peaks that had once been the layers of ocean bottom.  Compacted together and then pushed up 4,000 – 9,000 feet up into the air, these peaks are hauntingly beautiful.  A very interesting looking hill lies just beyond Pump Station Four.  On the east side of the road there will be a small rock mountain with lots of caves high up on the sides.  Doug had spent a lot of time hiking the various ridges here when he worked at pump station four one summer.  He offered to take us for a hike up onto the mountains behind Castle Mountain.  I took him up on that offer.

We parked the trucks in a parking lot just passed Pump Station Four.  Pump Station Four is located at mile 269.  The parking lot was about a mile further on the same side of the road.  There is no charge to park here and is open to the public. 

After eating lunch, Doug lead the charge across the tundra to the east.  We had enjoyed so many warm sunny days that much of the water on the tundra had dried up making the crossing relatively easy.  Doug charged directly up the first ridge while I took a less steep route to the left side of the hill.  We met back up at the top of the ridge where an open flat meadow was covered in all sorts of wildflowers including Alpine Milk Vetch, Forget-Me-Nots, and Moss Campion.  There is a small stream crossing though the middle of the field. Crossing was easy as Doug demonstrates in the picture.

When we reached the base of Castle Mountain we looked up to see a whole herd of Dall sheep.  They grazed on the vegetation that grew right up to Castle Mountain.  They also had very narrow ledges they could move across to enter the caves in the sheer sides of Castle Mountain.

Doug guided us around the right side of Castle Mountain gaining elevation rather quickly.  Once we reached the saddle above the caves, we saw that the real peaks were back behind the Castle Mountain.  The highest one has now been named “Dougenick Peak”.  There was no more vegetation after this saddle.  We scrambled up the loose stone along one of the ridges to the very highest peak in the group of mountains behind Castle Mountain.  Doug’s topographical map indicated an elevation of just over 5,000 feet.  As we came closer to the top I found several specimens of fossils from the ocean bed.  We heard that these can also be found at the bottom of Castle Mountain.  I just happened to notice them as I made my way through the loose rock up to the top.

The views along the climb are magnificent.   The ridges are relatively wide and extend for quite a ways in several directions.  Doug told me he used to come up onto the mountaintops on his days off to relax and enjoy the unbelievable views.  It took me three hours to make it from the parking lot to the top of the mountain.  Doug probably would have made it in two if I had not been holding him up.  Going down took me just as long and the constant rock shifting really have my muscles a workout. 

The mosquitoes are pretty bad the entire way on these mountains.  There was very little breeze for most of the climb and descent, meaning we had a swarm buzzing us the entire trip.  I had to reapply bug dope on several occasions as I would sweat it off.  Leather gloves are highly recommended as well.  I took a couple of spills as the loose rock would shift under me, and the rocks up on the mountainside are very sharp.  Once I remembered I had my leather lifting gloves with me the trip became much easier.

Bring plenty of water with you.  And you will thank yourself for bringing a snack when you start running out of energy.  We also brought warm layers of clothing and added them when we rested at the top.  This hike was definitely the “high” point of the trip for me!

Last Visited: July 2001

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