Castle Mountain, Eisenhower Tower, and The Dragon’s Back
My name is Tim Ricci and I’m an Internationally Certified Canadian Mountain Guide. My job takes me to some of the most remote mountain venues with some of the most difficult off-road terrain Canada has to offer. To do my job well, I don’t need good … I need the best. That’s why I’m testing out the 2022 Land Rover Defender.
This week’s adventures saw two of my long-time clients return to us in order to continue pushing through some big adventure objectives.
Both have spent the last few years getting into climbing and they have been training hard, making huge strides with each trip into the mountains with us. Last year they summitted their first 11,000 ft peak! In the Canadian Rockies, no less.
Our goal this week was lofty: to summit Eisenhower Tower on Castle Mountain. When staring up at Castle Mountain, Eisenhower is the largest peak on the Southeast side. It’s roughly 325m of climbing and graded AD- 5.6. (Translation: Steep climbing or long snow/ice slopes above 50º; for experienced alpine climbers only.)
This being their first alpine multi-pitch climbing , we needed a day to train prior to tackling the objective.
Day 1: Rugged Travel in the 2022 Defender
We loaded up the Defender with all our gear and headed towards Banff to a place called Rundle Rock. It’s out by the Banff Springs Golf course, a perfect venue for instructional rock climbing as it offers up a few beginner multi-pitch routes.
- Thus far, the Defender is what I would describe as worry-free driving for quite literally all my needs:
- We maxed out the space with our climbing gear (enough for myself and several clients)
- Spent 5 nights bivvying in the back with a single mattress
- Used it as a cooking shelter
- Pulled a camper trailer
- Crossed over some of the most scenic highways in the Canadian Rockies
It is truly a machine built for rugged travel in the most demanding parts of the world.
Day 2: Some Trying Moments on the Dragon’s Back
With a few multi-pitch routes under our belts, we once again loaded up the Defender and headed out from Canmore at 3 AM, driving to the trailhead beneath Castle Mountain. It is about a 2.5 hr approach to where the climbing begins, so we ended up doing most of it by headlamp.
Once at the base, we racked up with all our climbing gear and began the climbing approach to the base of Eisenhower. Not only were we faced with the long approach, but there was some technical climbing to get to the base of the Tower itself.
There is an amazing section of rock named the Dragon’s Back that you must bob and weave your way through to eventually reach the base. The team was doing great and moving quite well despite this being their first time on something of this magnitude.
I’m not going to lie; it wasn’t all fun and games. Once on the tower itself, there were some trying moments, but the team pushed on and we summited!
High fives were had … but the top is only the halfway mark of our journey. The descent off Eisenhower is technical and involves several rappels with short sections of down climbing. Considering the first rappels were done the day before, the crew crushed the technical descent.
All in all, an amazing day, and a proud one at that! We were a total of 14 hrs Defender to Defender and with views of the objective the crew felt a sense of pride and accomplishment.
These two will be back in three weeks time to take on the Bugaboos in British Columbia. Stay tuned for the outcome!
About Tim Ricci
Tim moved to the mountains over 20 years ago and has not looked back since. Tim is a fully certified Mountain Guide and holds Canadian Avalanche Association Level 3 and Society of Professional Rope Access Technicians (SPRAT) Level 3 certifications. Since September 2018 Tim has worked as Yamnuska Mountain Adventures Assistant Director of Operations. Located in Canmore, Alberta at the Banff National Park gates, Yamnuska is a premier provider of mountaineering, ice climbing, rock climbing, backcountry skiing, avalanche training and trekking experiences in the Canadian Rockies for over 40 years. Tim Resides in Canmore, AB, where he lives with his wife Wanessa and two kids, Ella and Miles.