Distance: 6 km
Elevation gain: 1000 m View map Download GPS track
The Castle Wilderness is an area we've just started to explore, and for both our trips there this year we've camped at Beaver Mines Lake. Driving to the campground along Highway 774 I've been repeatedly impressed by the large mountain that looms up from the rolling foothills as we approached the campground. That mountain is Syncline Mountain. While the mountain has three separate summits, the official one (oddly, the lowest of the three) is the most impressive one as viewed from Highway 774 and is also an easy scramble (tagging the other two summits requires some serious scrambling). I figured it would make a great early-morning scramble for us.
While the ascent would be murderously steep - 1000 m over just 3 km - we figured the crux of the day would be the heat and so got an early start to try and beat it. Immediately after leaving the truck, however, we encountered the real crux of the day - the terrible bush! The trees themselves are far apart, but seasonal growth about 3 feet high hid every obstacle and had us stumbling about for the first 600 m. We got a bit of relief from it by moving onto the overflowing rubble of a dry creek bed, but this was short lived and not particularly fun either.
As we ascended the foliage thinned, but bushes and deadfall plagued the first half of the ascent. The heat also became a significant factor. For some unknown reason I'd only brought 2 L of water and by the halfway point I was already rationing it and overheating. Miraculously we came across a snow patch a very short time later and I filled my pockets and hat with snow for some fantastic cooling that lasted all the way to the summit.
Past the brush and deadfall we entered a larch forest, which while a bit cluttered with bushes in spots made for easy travel. Near the top things got quite steep, but remained nothing more than a hike all the way through a wide gap in the cliff band guarding the summit plateau. An easy stroll then led us to the summit, marked with a cairn holding a geocache/register. Surprisingly we were only the fourth party to sign it this year. Most other parties also seem to traverse to the other two summits, but that was beyond our abilities (and motivations) and so we simply descended the way we came. After a quick detour for some ice cream in Beaver Mines we headed back to the trailer for an afternoon nap; after 3000 m of vertical in three days both were well deserved!