Canada’s "Inconceivable" Castle Mountain

August 09, 2018

CastleMtnEPOD869c_12june18 (1)

Photographer: Ray Boren 
Summary Author: Ray Boren 

CastleMtnEPOD880c_12june18 (1)A pair of graffiti sentences neatly inked onto a weathered wood railing at a pullout along Banff National Park’s Highway 1A, the scenic Bow Valley Parkway, capture the perpendicular view dramatically rising to the east: the Canadian Rockies’ imposing Castle Mountain.

“CLIFFS OF INSANITY” reads the first phrase, in large lettering.

“Inconceivable!!!” says the second, below it.

The lines, of course, are from “The Princess Bride,” the highly quotable 1973 novel by William Goldman, and, because of the characterizations, from director Rob Reiner’s even more quotable 1987 motion picture, starring Cary Elwes, Robin Wright, Mandy Patinkin and Wallace “Inconceivable!” Shawn, among others. The photograph above, taken on June 12, 2018, and memories of the movie help illustrate the visual impact of Castle Mountain’s escarpments.

Rising precipitously above the Bow River Valley and the Trans-Canada Highway, 9,075 ft (2,766 m) Castle Mountain was so named in 1858 by James Hector, a geologist and mapmaker with the Palliser Expedition, a scientific survey of western Canada. For a time after World War II, however, it was renamed Mount Eisenhower, to honor the victorious commander of the Allied Forces in Europe, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, soon to become president of the United States. The new moniker was not universally loved, and Castle Mountain regained its traditional name in 1979. At that time a prominent southeast pinnacle was dubbed Eisenhower Peak.

In the Spring and at other times, as shown in the photograph, a snow line divides the layer-cake mountain, which is a product of the Castle Mountain fault. The higher and lower cliffs are composed of erosion-resistant limestone, dolomite and quartzite, originally deposits in a shallow Precambrian sea. The thinner ledge sandwiched between them, which allows the snow to linger, is more easily eroded shale.

Photo Details: Camera: NIKON D3200: Software: Photos 1.5; Exposure Time: 0.0020s (1/500); Aperture: ƒ/11.0; ISO equivalent: 280; Focal Length (35mm): 105; Insert - same except: Exposure Time: 0.0080s (1/125); Aperture: ƒ/8.0; ISO equivalent: 125; Focal Length (35mm): 112