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|Conditions Information||Posted By||Posted On|
|2015-02-06||Route: North Face Couloir
Info: The road is groomed to the summer 2wd trailhead and bootpack ski track to the huts. Beyond that, I made use of snowshoes, ice axe and crampons. Brisk winds were redistributing the recent snow (photo 1) so I sought shelter in the north coulior. There, a climbable field of older, icy snow leads more than half way to the ridge (photo 2). Above that is loose, but mostly frozen, rock. The final pitch to the summit has abundant climbable snow (photo 3). Continuing to Conundrum, the northwest ridge of Castle is fairly clean (photo 4) while Conundrum‘s ridge consists of a mixture of snowfields and scrambling (photo 5). I downclimbed from the Castle-Conundrum saddle in fresh snow that was almost knee deep (photo 6). For completeness, a photo of the northeast ridge route (photo 7). And a picture of the only sign of recent avalanche activity -- it looked like a loose release in the fresh snow (photo .
|2015-01-18||Route: Castle and Conundrum
Info: Climbed castle and conundrum with I Man last Sunday. There were some high winds on friday night, CAIC put the elk range at orange for saturday, then yellow again for sunday, and suggested that the biggest danger was windslab on top of surface hoar on north through east facing slopes. The route is safe from avalanche until about 11600‘ when you enter a narrow valley. East facing slopes we looked at had a harder layer on top of powder, the slab wasn‘t that thick or cohesive, we would easily step through it and the break wouldn‘t propagate. So, not terrible conditions, but not clearly safe, either. We did our best to choose a route that stayed off of any steep terrain. We also observed a number of slides on the south facing slope as you enter this narrow valley. These all looked like they began high at the rocks (i.e. triggered by warming), most didn‘t come down far enough to cross the path we‘d hike, but 2 of the largest ones did. You wouldn‘t trigger one of these slides by walking on the low angle slopes below, but they could hit you if one happened to occur while you walked underneath. I‘d call this unavoidable but low probability danger, and I‘d assume you run a similar risk most times you come up here in winter. One member of our team turned around upon seeing the slide debris, while the other 2 felt the risk was acceptable and continued. We went up the ridge left of the standard summer route (same as labelled picture in Mad Mike‘s TR). We chose not to descend from the saddle between castle and conundrum and reclimbed castle to get back. We descended the standard summer trail instead of the ridge crest, and were able to stay on rock for most of the descent back to the base of the ridge. The road was packed from Ashcroft until the turnoff into the valley, 5 miles up. We used snowshoes from that point until the start of the northeast ridge, then microspikes on the ridge.
|2014-12-09||Route: Northeast Ridge
Info: Standard NE Ridge route in good shape (for Dec.) I wasn‘t sure what to expect since the last conditions report was 40 days ago. And keep in mind any new snow, like the storm we are expecting Saturday, will invalidate this info. Castle Ck Rd is gated closed, as usual for winter, at Ashcroft ghost town. This adds significant mileage and elevation to the ascent. But the good news is the road is easily walkable, even after the right turn up the 4wd road. By starting very early, I was able to walk on a firm ski trail up to Pearl Pass Jct. Here the ski/skin trail turned left towards the backcountry huts and Pearl Pass. It was necessary to put on snowshoes in order to stay on the 4wd road up into Montezuma Basin. There are countless potential avalanche paths along the route to reach the upper basin, so I traveled in the morning hours to reduce risk. There were a few slides from previous days. From the little tarn in the upper basin, the trail on the left was usable to gain the ridgecrest. Most of the NE ridge was perfect and walkable, then the final 250‘ feet (photo 19 in rt description) required crampons and at least one axe. Despite the risks involved, I chose to traverse the peak, descending the West Ridge even though it was unknown to me. There were a few sketchy spots, I won‘t repeat this with snow ever again. But mostly it was fun, including the traverse over Point 13,830 and Castleabra Subpeak, then a nervous descent down the West Face Gully route of Castleabra. It was tedious, I can‘t imagine ascending that nightmare, in any conditions. Spent the night at Conundrum Hot Spring, then snowshoed the 8.5 miles out to Con TH. Of course I posted all this to brag about my adventure. And to tell everyone that I observed countless indications of instability in the snow on all aspects. Sorry no pics, left the camera behind to shave weight.
|2014-10-31||Route: Northeast Ridge
Info: This report may only be valid for a very short time given that a storm is headed our way. But just in case someone was headed out tomorrow morning or some such thing...The 4WD road is OK up to the Pearl Pass trailhead, although I would recommend parking just before the wooden bridge to avoid three icy spots (unless you like that kinda thing). I parked 50 yards past the wooden bridge. If you want to go 4WD higher, don‘t go beyond the mine--park at the bend at that last switchback that goes left to the 12,800‘ parking area--more snow after that. Parking by the bridge isn‘t bad, it‘s a very short hike to the road headed up to the peaks. For Castle/Conundrum I highly recommend Microspikes and poles. If you plan on coming down from the saddle, maybe even an ice axe. I chose to go back over Castle. There were a few spots in the basin when I wished for snowshoes, but only briefly--I wouldn‘t have wanted to haul them around. I had on my spikes from the basin, up both peaks, and took them off at the 12,800‘ parking area. Have fun! (We‘ll see what the storm does!)
|2014-10-26||Route: Northeast Ridge
Info: The road to 11,100 ft had a few slick spots, but made it with no problem in my 4x4. The hike to 12,800 was snow free, with a few sections where it was packed down. Things changed drastically after that. We had 50+ mph winds, which created thigh deep drifts. It was also whipping the snow/ice pellets around making it feel like we were in a sand blasting machine. The snow must have been over a bunch of large rocks because one step would be solid, and the next you post-holed between rocks. After a couple hundred feet of these conditions, we decided to turn back. We brought traction, but never used it since we never hit steep hard packed snow. I wish I’d remembered my gators and face protection, but I’m sure we would have turned back anyway.
|2014-10-05||Route: Northeast Ridge
Info: Parked the CRV at the lower stream crossing at 10,200‘ I might have been able to get a bit higher but there were some icy spots in the shade so I walked. A few folks with real 4x4‘s made it all the way up to about 12,300 before the road became covered with continuous snow. When I got to the bottom of the basin I followed my gps track for the Northeast Ridge Route. Pretty much the entire lower portion of the Northeast Ridge Route was covered by drifted snow. I ended up having to skirt the snow field to get to the point where the route turns southeast to ascend the ridge. The better option would have been to ascend the Northwest Ridge Route up through the snow field and then cut southeast to the point were the Northeast Ridge Route ascends sharply up the ridge. Although the entire ridge had maybe 12" or so of snow ascending up the ridge was not too difficult. The route/snow was partially broken from hikers the day prior and was beaten down pretty well by today‘s hiker. Spikes are a must now. I had wanted to try and do the traverse over to Conundrum but bailed on that seeing the snow conditions...
|2014-09-24||Route: Northeast Ridge
Info: Blue bird day in the Elks. Cold night on Tuesday caused most of the loose dirt to freeze and stay frozen early in the day. Made for good traction on the ascent until the sun warmed the basin enough to loosen it up. However, that same freeze made for some slick rocks in the morning and loose conditions as things warmed up. The snow fields are very hard packed. While descending around 12:00, they were 1" of slippery slush over solid ice. Lots of rockfall echoing all day long. Descent off the saddle was loose and muddy until you hit the bigger talus.
|2014-09-16||Route: Northeast Ridge
Info: Perfect conditions on Castle and Conundrum. No snow at all the entire way (see exception below). I dared not take my Suby Forester across the first creek crossing, which meant a longer approach. Had both the summits to myself for as long as I wanted. There‘s a couple of snowfields on the way up to Castle (remnants of last winter), and I couldn‘t find an easy way to avoid them. Since I had carried my micro spikes, I ended up crossing the fields with the spikes (just a few hundred feet).
|2014-09-15||Route: Castle and Conundrum
Info: Beautiful. Ridges dry. Snowfields are mostly avoidable, very compacted (therefore slippery). Descent between Castle and Conundrum is sliding dirt...not even gravel-sized pieces. Very loose. Least fun part. Consider re-ascending Castle and coming down the ridge.
|2014-09-12||Route: Castle and Conundrum
Info: There is some snow above 13,600 on the standard route up to Castle, but it is easily dealt with. Route to Conundrum is snow free. Picture of Castle was taken from Conundrum.
|2014-08-29||Route: Northeast Ridge
Info: Entire upper basin is covered in snow. Microspikes definitely helps.
|2014-08-24||Route: Northeast Ridge
Info: An upper level disturbance and moisture from tropical system in the eastern pacific gave western colorado below average temperatures Saturday going into today (Sunday). On Saturday, Grand Junction received quite a bit of rain, but most importantly the Elk Range accumulated some new snow starting at 12800 ft. On Castle Peak, the snow in the Montezuma drainage ranged from 1" to 4" the closer you got to the summit, though from the approach, it looked less. In addition the area received some warming sunshine in the early hours of daylight followed by cloudy and very cold conditions. WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: above 13,200 ft. conditions became icy and fairly dangerous as the ice gave already loose rocks a false sense that it was more solid than it is. If you are going up in the next couple days, you must be prepared for mid fall like conditions. Only one individual made it to the summit today as far as I know and they had microspikes and warm clothing. On tuesday we are expecting the same pattern to form again with another tropical hurricane and upper level disturbance which could bring more snow. Then a return to warm and dry conditions for the remainder of the week going past the weekend that could bring summer climbing conditions back to castle. Be safe all.
|2014-08-18||Route: Castle and Conundrum
Info: Small snowfields amongst the boulder field heading up the Northeast slopes. I was planning on traversing to Conundrum, but after looking at the suggested down climb into the basin from the saddle I chickened out. It did not look safe at all. The picture attached indicates the suggested descent. In my eyes, most certainly not "difficult class 2".
|2014-07-11||Route: Northeast Ridge
Info: Path up first basin is still holding snow, but the path up to the high basin is pretty obvious to the left. Folks have taken a variety of routes up to the summer trail above, which is also very prominent once the higher basin is gained. The northeast ridge is totally clear and open, as well as the traverse over to Conundrum. Many folks chose to glut-glissade down from the Cast./Con. saddle which looked terrifying and fun at the same time. HOWEVER, I was really awed and frightened by the rockfall I witnessed from Conundrum‘s ridges which, as it turns out, is right where the descent route takes you back to the main trail. I saw a car-sized boulder tumble down furiously from up high almost all the way to the lake below! Audible rockfall was also a common thing throughout the hike, so just be wary of projectile rocks and those loosened by people hiking above you. This is a common thing in the Elks, I hear, but I thought I would let y‘all know
|2014-07-06||Route: Northeast Ridge
Info: Climbed Castle Peak 07/06/14. River crossing is in great shape and any 4x4 vehicle should have little problem crossing. Road is passable until 12,500 where snow drifts are still prevalent. Lots of snow in the basin, but it is easily ascended. We took snow shoes and microspikes and never needed either. Excellent glissade off the saddle, but the snow is melting fast and the glissade opportunities will vanish quickly.
|2014-07-05||Route: Northeast Ridge
Info: climbed northeast ridge route July 5. Road is passable to about 11,000 where it is washed out. Plenty of snow left in montezuma basin. Some ice lingering on the ridge. ice axe necessary for glissades, microspikes helpful in some places.
|2014-07-03||Route: Northeast Ridge
Info: Crossed the creeek in a Nissan Frontier pickup but the water was still about two and a half feet deep and running strong. The road into Montezuma Basin is clear to well above timberline but still blocked by snow higher up. Pearl Pass road still snow covered higher up past the turn to Pearl Pass. Snow fields were solid early in the day, getting slushy by mid-morning.
|2014-06-29||Route: Northeast Ridge
Info: Snow just before the summit was probably the most challenging part of the day, but is melting out fast and may be gone by next weekend. The glissade at the saddle is very bumpy and I highly recommend an ice ax until it smoothes out better. Great glissade and there is snow all the way up to the saddle. Lower creek crossing is passable by normal 4x4 vehicles, but is still running fast. Can drive just above timberline before snow.
|2014-06-27||Route: Northeast Ridge
Info: We had a failed attempt on Castle Peak yesterday. I think it is still a little early to climb this one without spikes, and I think everyone in the area knew that but us, as we didn‘t see another soul on the trail. That should have been our first clue. The climb itself wouldn‘t have been difficult but for the snow and ice, and I see why everyone says it is the easiest climb in the Elk range. We made it to about 12,600, crossing about three pretty slick icy patches along the way. Very little traction. There‘s also some pretty deep water you‘ve got to cross due to heavy runoff, so if you attempt, be prepared for that. We decided to turn around after falling knee-deep into the snow and realizing a majority of the ridges we needed to cross to get out of the basin were covered in ice and had no footprints to use for balance. If you attempt this one before the rest of the snow melts, I suggest bringing your spikes and ax.
|2014-06-24||Route: Northeast Ridge
Info: Still plenty of snow in the area. If you are planning an early start, I suggest bringing microspikes to aid in crossing frozen snow fields covering the road. They were pretty firm and icy this morning, which made for some sketchy crossing with no traction. Once on the NE Ridge, snow free until just before summit. Some postholing on the last 50 ft to summit of Castle Peak. Bring gaitors to keep snow out of your boots. Postholed a bit on the descent as well. Traverse to Conundrum completely dry. Glissade from the saddle is amazing!