Castle (& Conundrum) Peaks
14,265 (& 14,060)
Hopefully 2 for the price of 1 as a Solstice bonus
Depending on stream levels and if we have a 4WD that can cross the stream, this may be a 6 mile up to
a 13 mile hike; with a 3100' or 4600' elevation gain, depending on vehicle access.
Two routes, equal distance - NE or NW ridges look to be both equal distance and incline.
Here is a trip report from 1.5 weeks ago that gave great encouragement the route is in good condition and ready for us. Most photos included here are from that trip report from June 8th.
As with any/all high mountains, this is going to be a grind so PLEASE have been hiking extensively. This is not a good first 14er unless you have bee
n training rigorously because, at a possible 13 miles, it may be a long day.
If coming from GJ, meet at Palisade Park n Ride no later than 6 PM Saturday ready to car camp that night and get off to a 5 AM (or earlier) start from trailhead Sunday morning.
I plan to camp in dispersed camping near the creek crossing Friday night.
Leaving camping gear in the car, doing the creek crossing in sandals to keep boots dry I want to hit the trail no later than 5 AM; perhaps earlier if all are ready.
Closest weather station is near Mt. Crested Butte and it calls for 52 degrees and sunny so . . . chillier at elevation but no forecast of clouds or wind.
Let's see if we can bag this one before thunderstorm season sets in July & August.
Rather than post a full gear list here, this link takes you to a list now stored as a file on the WSA web site. Items below are of special need.
- Crampons &/or Kahtoola Ice Grippers (one or the other is REQUIRED)
- Trekking Poles &/or ice axe (one or the other is required; both are suggested)
- Helmet (climbing helmet is preferred but bike or other helmet is better than none. REQUIRED due to ever present danger of rock fall)
- Sunglasses or ski goggles & brimmed hat (look at all that snow in the photos - glare (sunburned eyes are NO FUN; been there, done that)
- Sandals or other spare shoes that can be used for a creek crossing
- Lemonade or other flavoring powder for making snow cones
HYDRATION & LAYERING:
- Drink BEFORE you are thirsty (eating snow counts too). Strongly recommend a hydration pack rather than just water bottles.
- Remove layers BEFORE you start to sweat. Use pit zippers if you have them. Include a windproof vest among your layers so torso can be warm while arms work as coolers. Use an assortment of different weight hats, mittens and gloves as needed.
WHAT & HOW:
Information below about the driving and hiking routes are copied directly from the www.14ers.com web site. I think all the photo references actually will take you to pictures on the 14er web site.
Take Castle Creek from the roundabout just west of the center of Aspen.
Drive 12.5 miles (paved) to the Castle Creek trailhead.
To the right, Forest Road (FR) 102 continues on and goes all the way to 12,800’.
Passenger cars can drive about 1 mile up this road to reach the dispersed camp sites along the road. If you want to shorten your hike by parking higher, you must have a 4WD vehicle with good clearance.
From the lower trailhead parking area, proceed 1.3 miles to a river crossing. In spring and early summer, this crossing is a challenge for some 4WD vehicles. Continue another 1.7 miles up FR 102 to a junction. Left will take you up the nasty Pearl Pass 4WD road. Staying right will keep you on the Castle Creek 102 road. If you drove up this far, there are a few parking spots at the junction. The road gets worse as it ascends into Montezuma Basin all the way to 12,800’.
From the 2WD trailhead, drive or hike 1.3 miles to the stream crossing near 10,200'. If you cannot drive beyond this point, there is a footbridge on the left. Continue about 1.5 miles up the road to a bridge crossing. Follow the road less than 0.25 mile up a steep hill to reach a road junction near 11,150'.
The Pearl Pass road starts on the left and FR 102 continues to the right - Photo #1. Stay right and continue for 2 miles up the road (Photo #2, Photo #3 and Photo #4) to 12,600' near the Montezuma Mine area. Continue on the road (Photo #5) for another 1/2 mile to the end at 12,800' before a small basin - Photo #6.
You must now ascend a headwall to the southwest. When covered with snow, the easiest way to climb it is to traverse across the left side of the basin and then angle toward the middle of the upper slope. Some climbers choose to climb the right side, but it's slightly steeper. Photo #7 and Photo #8 are closer looks at the area. Climb 500' up the headwall to reach the upper basin (13,400') between Castle Peak and Conundrum Peak - Photo #9 and Photo #10. Taken from the east side of the basin, Photo #11 is another look at the area.
Your next goal is to ascend a steep slope that leads to the Castle-Conundrum saddle, seen in Photo #11. The slope holds snow through much of the summer. Hike over to the west side of the basin (Photo #12) and traverse on rock and/or snow to reach the snow slope under the saddle - Photo #13. This slope is the crux of the route and, in late summer, you may encounter 50 to 150 feet of dirt and loose rock above the snow. Above 13,600', turn right and climb directly toward the saddle - Photo #14. Taken from the
saddle, Photo #15 looks over the upper basin.
From the saddle (13,800'), turn left and hike southeast along the ridge (Photo #16) on a light trail. Bypass some rock outcroppings on the right to reach steeper terrain near 13,900' -Photo #17. As you approach 14,000' (Photo #18), the rock becomes much more loose and you may have to search for the "trail." Pass another rock outcropping (Photo #19 and Photo #20) on the right to reach slightly easier terrain above 14,100' - Photo #21. Continue winding up through loose rock to reach the summit - Photo #22.
From this photo it looks like there is a pretty long, safe descent by glassading. That will save time, wear n tear on knees and be FUN. You will need at least 2 trekking poles (I will show you how to use them) &/or an ice axe, preferably 70 cm or longer. If you have trekking poles an axe is not required but is suggested.
If you are new to glissading, please watch this video and read about the technique.
Please note where you will be coming from and if you will be camping (a 4:45 AM arrival is a 2nd option). If you have a 4WD high clearance vehicle please let us know that.
Doug Van Etten [masked]
**** Acknowledgement of Risk ****
Please click this link, read the document and answer "I accept" in the RSVP questions.