Distance: 13 km
Elevation gain: 1010 m View map Download GPS track
Gravenstafel Ridge is the mountain on which the Castle Mountain ski resort is based and consequently there is a service road that runs to its summit. A very active summer had left Sandra and I a bit tired and so I figured this would make a nice, easy hike for us, despite the 1000 m of elevation required to reach the top. The route up was also rumored to have great huckleberry picking, and as we’d spent the previous day driving around the Castle region looking for berries to pick without much luck I figured it would be a nice bonus if what we’d heard turned out to be true.
We started hiking near mid-morning and immediately paid for it as the sun baked us on the south-facing ascent slope. Sandra did ok, but for the second hike in a row I had trouble breathing and we ended up moving much slower than I expected on such easy terrain. Thankfully about halfway up we encountered a bountiful patch of huckleberries and spent some time picking and eating them in the shade, and while this didn’t do much for my energy level it did give me a nice mental boost.
After passing the mid-mountain ski station we ended up trying to shortcut up the slope to avoid a very long switchback in the road, but this turned out to be a silly mistake and we had a miserable time on slippery grass and very loose scree before we finally reconnected with the service road. Near the top the service road ended and we began slogging up scree again, but just meters below the summit we intersected another, decommissioned service road that we would follow on the way down.
I’d planned on continuing along the ridge towards Haig Lake and returning via the Gravenstafel Brook trail, possibly ascending Mount Haig too, but my lung issues hadn’t cleared up and I’ve made it a rule to never descend via an unknown route if I’m not 100% confident I can get back up to my ascent route should things go south. I wasn’t certain of that today and so we returned the way we came, sticking entirely to the service road on the way down (I strongly recommend using the service road on the ascent too; if you think it’s too easy, just jog along it!). We found a big patch of huckleberries on the long switchback we’d avoided on the way up and spent more time picking them, then made our way quickly back to the truck.
Sandra didn’t particularly enjoy the hike – the ski resort infrastructure and a surprising amount of derelict equipment laying around killed the desired wilderness experience – but the general ease of the hike and the huckleberries mostly compensated for it.