Castle Mountain/Stuart Knob/Helena Ridge
It's probably fitting that I chose Labour Day (6 September 2004) to bag Castle Mountain, Stuart Knob and Helena Ridge in Banff National Park all in one go because it really was an awful lot of work!  Getting off to a nice, "early" start at 10:38 AM, I hiked up the wide, easy trail leading to Tower and Rockbound Lakes.

About a kilometre before reaching Tower Lake, I passed what looked like a Buddhist monk and his assistant making very slow progress up the trail.  It turned out that the monk was stopping and kneeling to kiss the ground after every four or five steps while his assistant dutifully trailed behind him.  As I passed them, I couldn't help wondering if they had been going like this all the way from the trailhead (about 7 kilometres back) and if the monk was developing chapped lips!  I also wondered whose situation was more maddening--the monk or the assistant?

Past Rockbound Lake, I climbed onto the grassy terrace as per Alan Kane's route description, and after a lengthy plod with some easy scrambling thrown in for good measure, I tagged the south summit of Castle Mountain just after 3:00 PM.  During much of the ascent, being able to see the summit cairn was both a blessing and a curse for me.  It was a blessing because every time I looked up I could see how far I had left to go, and it was a curse because every time I looked up I could see how far I had left to go.  This would become a recurring theme throughout the day.

Leaving the south summit, I proceeded over much snow-covered rubble toward the north (true) summit of Castle Mountain.  Hoping to minimize excessive height gains and losses, I chose a line that was well below the crest of the massif but still fairly high above the rocky basin northwest of the aforementioned grassy terrace.  Much of this traverse is simply tedious, but that day, the snow made some sections downright miserable.  It was almost 6:00 PM by the time I stumbled onto the north summit of Castle Mountain.  At this point, I knew I would be hiking out in the dark, but I was more worried about my slow pace and the prospect of having to forego Helena Ridge and perhaps even Stuart Knob.
Nice lake.  I like it. Tower Lake sports a remarkably green hue.
That south summit looks awfully far away! This view from near the access gully to the upper terrace includes (clockwise from top left) Eisenhower Peak, the south summit of Castle Mountain, Rockbound Lake, and Tower Lake.
It's much nicer up here than down there. This is the view of Rockbound Lake from the grassy terrace to the northwest.
Are we there yet?! Sonny trudges toward the south summit of Castle Mountain.
It took me about 4.5 hours to get here, and this is just the beginning... Sonny reaches the 2766-metre south summit of Castle Mountain.
Objects may APPEAR closer than they are... The south summit of Castle Mountain is a good place to survey the remaining objectives for the day including the north summit of Castle Mountain (far left), Stuart Knob (at left in front of snow-covered TV Peak on the horizon), and the north peak of Helena Ridge (at right).
Do I really need to bag this peak?? About 2.5 hours of miserable trudging from the south summit grants this view of the final approach to the north summit (left) of Castle Mountain.
While climbing the mountain called "Castle", This guy thought the hike was a hassle.  "This peak sucks!" he hissed.  On the register he pissed!  Now this guy is truly an asshole! Sonny stands on the 2850-metre north (true) summit of Castle Mountain.
I already know that I will be hiking out in the dark from here... This is looking from the north summit back along the length of Castle Mountain to the south summit.
After signing the register at the north summit of Castle Mountain, I easily tramped over to Stuart Knob and was standing on top 30 minutes later (no register canister).    The relative quickness of this ascent boosted my spirits, and I was now determined to bag Helena Ridge.
Looks sorta like 'Squaw's Tit', eh? The approach to Stuart Knob from the north summit of Castle Mountain is relatively short.
Too easy! The best scrambling of the day--going up the north side of Stuart Knob--is unfortunately short-lived.
It's 6:30 PM!  Can we go home now? Sonny tags the 2849-metre summit of Stuart Knob.
Mon dieu!  Am I ever far away from my car! This is looking southeast from the top of Stuart Knob.  At far right is the south summit of Castle Mountain, and at far left is the north peak of Helena Ridge--the final objective for the day.
After only five minutes on top of Stuart Knob, I descended the west ridge briefly before traversing eastward below the south-facing cliff bands.  Dropping to a broad saddle, I resumed a gentle but steady climb up to Helena Ridge's north peak.  While this traverse is lengthy, it is far easier than the Castle Mountain traverse, and despite a lot of snow on Helena Ridge, I had no serious difficulties scrambling up to the top of the north peak (about 1 hour 10 minutes from Stuart Knob).  The register canister was sealed so tightly that I couldn't open it, but at that point, I really didn't care.  I just wanted to get back down to the Rockbound Lake trail before it got too dark to find it!

Leaving the top of Helena Ridge at about 8:00 PM, I quickly descended the southeast slopes and managed to get back to Rockbound Lake just a little after sunset.  I hiked for almost another hour before taking out my headlamp.  After a long and tiresome walk, I was back at my car at 10:33 PM (round-trip time just under 12 hours).  My feet were sore, but I felt deeply satisfied with my accomplishments that day.  I wondered if the monk felt the same.
The Never-ending Scramble!  Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz... The walk from Stuart Knob to the north peak of Helena Ridge is easy but very long.
If I bag this one, I'll never have to come back this way again! This is where the final climb of the day starts in earnest.
<Grunt> Sonny sits on the summit cairn of the 2880-metre north (highest) peak of Helena Ridge.
The sun will set in about 20 minutes. From the north peak of Helena Ridge, Sonny looks back at the south summit of Castle Mountain where he was about 4.5 hours ago.
It's 7:50 PM.  Time to make like hockey players and get the puck outta here! This view from the north peak of Helena Ridge includes the north summit of Castle Mountain (far left), Stuart Knob (centre), and TV Peak (far right).