|Peak:||Castle Peak (14er)|
|Route:||Castle and Conundrum|
|Date of Information:||04/28/2012|
Road in is still dry to the first creek crossing, impassable by car immediately after, and consistently snowy past the Pearl Pass turnoff. On the way up, we saw several recent minor slides, as well as one or two larger, slabby slides that seemed at least a week or two old. If you stay in the gully up to the end of the road, avy danger would be pretty minimal. The snowfall of the past few days mostly accumulated in the valleys and basins above 12000‘, and is only a few inches deep.
The Conundrum Couloir is in pretty ideal conditions right now--I was able to easily kick steps most of the way up, albeit with a bit more difficulty at the slightly-icy choke point. Gaining the true summit of Conundrum was a bit tricky and exposed on account of the snow. Following the ridgeline back to the Castle-Conundrum saddle was also tricky in spots, but easier; the glissade back into the bowl looks unsafe at the moment, as a large cornice is present at the ridgeline. The ascent up to Castle from the saddle was trivial, on mostly-bare chunks of talus.
The standard route up Castle (which I descended) starts out wind-scoured and easy, gradually progressing in difficulty and exposure due to both rock and snow. The final 200‘ pitch to the summit was intimidating, with a steep scramble up shallow snow with loose rock underfoot and daunting exposure to the left. The couloir on Castle is a bit shallow with some rocks protruding, particularly near the top, but is skiable.
Edit: pictures. 1 - Castle from the upper basin. 2 - the last pitch up Castle, scarier than it looks here! 3 - Conundrum, showing the couloir 4 - a view of the Bells, Pyramid, Capitol, and Snowmass.
Photos (click for slideshow):