Castle Dome (Castle Crags State Park) 14-Aug-2011

Castle Crags State Park California

After finally hiking Mount Lassen the day before, we thought it would be fun to try climbing Castle Dome (4,700 feet) in Castle Crags State Park. We also figured this might be our last chance since the park is slated to be closed next year because of California’s budget woes. The most popular hiking route is the Crags Trail which leads to spectacular views from the base of Castle Dome.  Our goal was to climb the Regular Route (high Class 3 – low Class 4) to the summit of the Dome, where the view was anticipated to be even bigger! Although Sullivan describes climbing the Dome itself (Hike #98 in his Southern Oregon & Northern California guide (Second Edition), his description of the actual climbing route isn’t very detailed, so we used the one from SummitPost. It’s not a technical climb in the strictest sense but (as Sullivan says) it’s only for “confident scramblers” – as there are places where a slip could have very tragic consequences.

The trail from the Vista Point parking lot to just below the Dome is very wide at first, narrowing as it climbs, and then devolving into a maze of use trails in the manzanita at the Dome’s base.

Castle Crags State Park California

The trail to the base of Castle Dome

The trail ended with us facing the south side of the Dome. From there we zigged-zagged up Class 3 ledges and up to a feature called the “Dish” (just beyond the white arrow on the right). This shot was taken after we descend, and another group had started up, so (for scale) look for a person standing on the ledge.

Castle Crags State Park California

Route (black arrows) up the ledges; a person on the ledge (orange arrow); going to the Dish (white arrow)

Once you’re on them, these initial ledges seem fairly wide and are easy to follow.

Castle Crags State Park California

Climbing the lower ledges

Castle Crags State Park California

Climbing the lower ledges

At the far upper right of these ledges, we came to the “Dish”, which is an easy traverse only about 10 feet long, with good hand and foot holds.

Castle Crags State Park California

Crossing the Dish

The catch is that if you slip here, you’d very likely slide 10 feet down a dirt-lubricated trough and over an 800-foot cliff.

Castle Crags State Park California

The Dish is just above the white arrow – the rest is cliff

Immediately past the Dish, we went up a shallow gully,

Castle Crags State Park California

An easy Class 2 gully

which tops out at the base of the final pitch of climbing to the summit.

Castle Crags State Park California

Start of the final pitch (arrow)

I free climbed this last bit but the LovedOne used our rope – not because she isn’t a good climber – but because we had it, knew how to use it, and there was no reason not to have a little something extra in our favor.

Castle Crags State Park California

The LovedOne closes in on the summit

About 50 feet above the end of the gully, the slope eased considerably, and we were on the summit in no time, with a splendid view of Mount Shasta,

Castle Crags State Park California

The LovedOne and Mount Shasta

Castle Crags State Park California

Mount Shasta

and of the Castle Crags themselves.

Castle Crags State Park California

Castle Crags head-on

Getting down went quickly and we were back on the trail in time for lunch and to see some clouds start to form over the Crags and Mount Shasta (but nothing came of it).

Castle Crags State Park California

An attempt at weather over the Castle Crags

While we were eating lunch, a group of college-age people went by and proceeded to scramble up the Dome unencumbered by gear of any sort. It looked like the leader had probably done this climb many times before, which undoubtedly raised his (and their) confidence level (this was our first time). It also showed that the Dome need not be a technical climb. Ultimately, however, anyone thinking about hiking it will have to make their own assessment of the risk involved and whether they want to give it a go (and with what gear). A short (5.4 miles roundtrip; 2,100 feet of elevation gain) but very fun Class 3-4 hike/scramble on yet another bluebird perfect day!

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