Barnaby Ridge and Southfork Mountain

November 1, 2008

Mountain heights:                   2474 m, 2350 m
Total elevation gain:               approx. 1300 m
Ascent time to Barnaby:         3:35
Traverse time to Southfork:    2.00
Descent time:                         1:45

Scrambling with Mark.

No matter how dull a potential ascent route in the Castle Crown area may look from the road, it is virtually guaranteed to have you slack-jawed on one or multiple occasions throughout the ascent. Such was definitely the case for Barnaby Ridge and Southfork Mountain.

Barnaby Ridge had been the recipient of ascents by The Southern Scramblers and Linda and Antri, in recent months; Southfork Mountain was ascended by Bob, Dinah, and Sonny a week previous to our ascent and fortunately I found their trip reports while “scrambling” the internet for potential trip ideas, early Saturday morning.

Bob, Dinah and Sonny had ascended Southfork Mountain via Southfork Lakes and that was the route we intended to try. However, upon arriving at the Castle Mountain ski resort, we decided to try Barnaby first for a number of reasons:

  1. We would be doing most of the elevation gain at the beginning of the day and then have the luxury of descending to Southfork Mountain, time and energy permitting.
  2. We would not be facing the Sun all day and hiking more or less with the wind if it was coming from the southwest, as the satellite photo hinted at. 
  3. This route eliminated the need to cross the West Castle River and, as most know, we HATE river crossings!
  4. Pure laziness! You can drive to a point only 3 horizontal km west of Barnaby’s summit, making for the shortest route possible to the top.

The first part of the route was very easy – clear-cutting virtually eliminating any bushwhacking. We then followed the obvious drainage towards the ridge, just north of the summit. Higher up, we spotted an interesting rock-band to our left and deviated from the easy descent route to check it out. This detour turned into “slack-jaw” moment number 1. The near vertical, gray rock-band was covered in greenish/yellow and rust coloured lichen – it was absolutely stunning to look at, especially with the clear sky behind.  We spent a good three quarters of an hour exploring the area and then ascended through a weakness in the rock-band. This put us on a ridge between two drainages. The ridge was a pleasure to ascend, highlighted by a multitude of sun-bleached, twisted, dead trees and the first view of the beautiful, red argillite summit to the north - slack-jaw #2.  

After reaching an intermediate highpoint, we hiked south to the summit of Barnaby Ridge. There are three highpoints on the summit, the middle one registering the highest altitude. We first went to the lowest and western-most summit, to take in an excellent panorama in that direction. While Mount Haig dominated the view, there were also several unnamed summits south of Haig, which looked particularly interesting. Over at the eastern summit, the usual suspects (Table, Victoria, Castle Peak) provided a wonderful vista. As well, the massive vertical walls of Barnaby’s east face were most impressive (slack-jaw 3).

The hike north to Southfork Mountain was very easy and thoroughly enjoyable, highlighted by the amazing plethora of rock types and colours, characteristic of the area (slack-jaw 4). The red argillite summit measured only 10 metres lower than the true summit of Barnaby and also sported a very interesting panorama. From there, it was mostly downhill to the summit of Southfork.       

At this point, the excellent weather we had been enjoying all day began to deteriorate. Though it would have been nice to visit the Southfork Lakes and make our descent via that route, we would have liked perfect weather and so we took the shortest possible route back to the car, down west facing slopes below the summit. This route was generally easy and very fast, taking less than 2 hours.

Yet another unexpectedly awesome day in The Castle.  

Mark ascends a gully, with the interesting rock-band above

Dead trees

Approaching one of the most interesting and colourful rock-bands we've ever seen

At the rock; note the chockstone in the centre

One side of the rock

Another side

The lichen-covered rock

Mark ascends the weakness in the rock-band

More striking colours

Typical posturing - I had as about as much intention of climbing this as I do calling Jenny Craig;
definitely some of the coolest rock we've ever seen 

Same as above

A huge pinnacle

The other side of the pinnacle

Checking out the aforementioned chockstone

Marks leads the way through the upper section of the rock-band

Gaining the upper ridge; Mount Haig in the background

Haig and a dead tree


More dead trees

Red argillite and other stuff

Same as above

On the ridge between Barnaby and the unnamed RED summit, south of Southfork

More posturing - usually when I take a break I don't sit right on the edge of a 200 metre vertical drop

From the lower, west summit, looking back to the true summit (right), with RED to the left and Southfork Mountain just visible to the left of RED

Mark at the lower summit

Seeking respite from the wind

Heading back to the true summit

Heading down

The view to the east: Table, Whistler, Gladstone, Victoria, Castle, and Windsor are visible.

One of many great viewpoints along the way to RED

Lots or red argillite on the way to RED

More interesting rock scenery and colours

BIG square rocks

More rocks

Taking another break; Syncline Mountain stands at the left and Southfork is in the centre

Scenery to the east

Looking down to Southfork

The view to the southeast

More big drops down the east face of the ridge


Same as above


Same as above

Completing the trip

Mark at the summit of Southfork