Castle Towers (from Helm Creek)

Whistler, BC, Canada
Roundtrip: 36.0km
Elevation gain: 1780m
High point: 2676m
Time needed: 17 hours
bushwhacking exposed glacier-crossing peak steep-trail logging-road 2WD boulder-field mountaineering meadows lake
DIRECTIONS: Take Highway 99 to the "Function Junction" in Whistler. If you are coming from Vancouver, turn right towards Cheakamus Lake Road. 500m from the junction, turn left on a gravel road, the Eastside Main Cheakamus Lake Road. Follow this road to the end, ignoring all the smaller roads and trails with blue signs.create
SUMMARY: Before you go for this hike make sure you forget about formal elevation gain and check a cumulative one. The cumulative gain is about 3500 m if you choose a glacier and about 4000 m if you choose Gentian ridge option! Be prepared!

From the trailhead, follow the Cheakamus trail for about 1.5 km and turn right at the junction, towards Helm creek. The trail goes down to Cheakamus River and crosses it over a permanent bridge. Then the trail goes up in the forest until the slope levels out when reaching Helm meadows. The Helm creek campground in the open meadow is about 8.5 km from the trailhead. About 1.5 km later, when Helm peak becomes visible, leave the trail and head south through the meadows. The next step is to reach Gentian pass.

There are two options:
1) Scramble up to the Gentian ridge near the Helm peak. Once on the ridge, follow it until you reach Gentian Pass.
2) Head to the bottom of the Helm glacier, walk along a left side of the glacier (with correct equipment! rope up!) towards the Gentian pass.

Then, descend ~400 m (option 1) or ~300 m (option 2) down to the Gentian pass, and ascend on the other side to the top of the Polemonium ridge and follow it towards the Castle Towers mountain. At the end of the ridge that ends with cliffs, scramble down a steep gully to the south, traverse below a tooth and climb back up at the first opportunity to the Polemonium-Castel Towers ridge (there are cairns to help you). Follow the ridge to the west summit scrambling over huge granite boulders. Try to avoid steep (35-40 degrees) snowfields (depends on the time of a year) if you go light or use crampons and an ice axe.

The west summit is usually a final destination and it has a registry there. The true summit is the central summit (out of three), which is on the other side of a steep notch. Most people rappel down to the notch and, may be, the Central summit too, as it is class a 4 scramble or low 5th rock climbing.