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Castle Peak  
Report
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Route  Conditions Information  Posted By   Posted On    Photos  Comments Likes Dislikes    
2012-06-02  North Face Couloir  My son John and I drove to the first switchback above upper bridge (~11,000ft) and camped overnight 1 June. Stream crossing in late afternoon was to just below the running boards of my stock 2006 4Runner. Not as bad coming out about noon 2 June. Road in its usual "3"-"4" state, with some downed branches and snow near 10,800 ft. Hiking road up Montezuma‘s Basin is free of snow except for last 100 feet. There are some large boulders along the way (first at 12,000ft) that have fallen (been pushed?) onto the road which might stop vehicles capable of making it this far. Climbing above the road, snow was consolidated up headwall and into the upper basin. In couloir, snow getting thin and soft near the top. After summiting Castle, ascended Conundrum and then descended via saddle. Down climbed initial section to ensure clean glissade below rocks starting to stick up. Beware of wet slabs if climbing late. Glissade was fast and fun. Agree with others that it is not a good introductory glissade. By the time we reached the road a thunderstorm rolled over the saddle and chased us down the road with hail. Brought snowshoes (based on on previous year attempt) but did not need them. Also brought avy gear (again based on avalanche evidence seen in year‘s past) but did not need it. Would suggest avy gear if you anticipate glissading late, due to potential of wet slab avalanche). Had the entire mountain to ourselves which is unusual for a 14er in June (not complaining). Good climb if you can get on it in the next week or two. Pictures: Near top of couloir, picture of couloir from Conundrum, and Castle/Conundrum with couloir on left and glissade track from saddle on right. coloradomojo   2012-06-03 3  3 1  Edit Delete 
2012-05-30  Castle and Conundrum  As far as the road is concerned, trees and snow are not issues. Your vehicle and your fortitude will determine how high you can go. I left my vehicle at a numbered campsite below the stream crossing, making for a very long day. I ascended Castle via the north face couloir, putting crampons on at the end of the road and finding crunching, firm, continuous snow to within about 50 yards of the top of the ridge below the final pitch to Castle. At that point, crampons came off and no traction was needed for the Castle and Conundrum summits. What snow there is on the summit traverse I found, if anything, helpful. Loose rock is the concern up there, not snow. I put the crampons back on for the descent from the Castle-Conundrum saddle and took them off when I got back to the top of the road. Glissade conditions were good. Three college-age kids left about the same time as me. They were wearing sneakers and had no traction devices. They arrived at ridge crest at the top of the couloir at the same time I did. What they did was to use open rock areas to ascend the headwall and they crossed snow when necessary via traverses in flat areas to gain the ridge, where there did not appear to be any snow. I should add that, on the couloir, the snow was great at about 8 a.m. crunchy and firm but not icy. However, it is very thin. Often times the handle of the ax found a rock and/or earth at a depth of 4-5 inches. scrambling   2012-05-31  0     Edit Delete 
2012-05-28  Castle and Conundrum  Road is clear of snow until 12,500‘, and what‘s left above is easy to avoid on foot. The gullies all have deep enough snow for crampons and an ax. Ridges are mostly clear of snow, but snow isn‘t completely avoidable on the Northeast Ridge. Conditions were perfect for glissading in the afternoon. Paula   2012-05-30  0  2    Edit Delete 
2012-05-25  Castle and Conundrum  Fair bit of snow up there. IMO, an ice axe and crampons are still required. The top 200 ft getting up to castle is especially sketchy. Microspikes did NOT do the trick as we required crampons to kick some steps in. Glissade off the Castle/Conundrum saddle was good, you can glissade maybe 1200ft of vert if you want to. Road clear up to ~10600, then some fairly significant snow banks after that which you can cross as you wish. I chose not to in a stock 4runner, appeared to be > 10 inches of snow from tire tracks to high (center) point of snow. pic 1: at end of road...12800 looking up to 13300 pic 2: conundrum from ~13800 on castle pic 3: last 200 ft up castle pic 4: at about 12600 looking across valley to opposite side of road flintster   2012-05-27 4     Edit Delete 
2012-05-19  Northeast Ridge  Both the standard route and Castle Couloir are in. Snowshoes not necessary. Road is clear (more or less) to the base of the headwall. From there, spikes and/or crampons are helpful, but not necessary. Couloir is in fine shape and it was sucessfully skiied Saturday. Ridge to Conundrum is more or less dry and shouldn‘t be an issue w/ spikes. Glissade off saddle is in, as is the headwall. Continuous snow up and down if you pick the right line. It‘s hot up there, so I imagine this condition report has a shelf life of about 2 weeks. We drove to 10,600 on the road before reaching snow drifts that were in the shade and were a bit much for a standard 4X4. Fletch   2012-05-20  0  1    Edit Delete 
2012-04-28  Castle and Conundrum  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. ChrisinAZ   2012-04-29 4     Edit Delete 
2012-03-24  North Face Couloir  Went to climb Castle/Conundrum early yesterday morning. North Face Couloir is not skiable from the summit, top third is melted out, bottom two thirds has decent snow. We ended up climbing the couloir (there was enough snow up top to hold the rocks together for the climb, but not enough for a ski) and then traversing the ridge to Conundrum. The main couloir on Conundrum (not sure its name) has plenty of snow, and was a fun ski. Several recent large wet slab avalanches in the area (you have to cross the debris from one, hike right next to another). Make sure to hit the peaks early if you go for it. The road was very packed on the way in, I was skinning, my partner was snowshoeing. Snowshoes were not needed for the road, but would be needed after, and especially once afternoon hits, you will post hole on the road. I added a couple of photos, one shows the first shows the North Face couloir pretty clearly, its rocky at the top. The 3rd is looking down the conundrum couloir, the second is the in the couloir, with the conundrum couloir I skied in the back ground. primary332   2012-03-25 3     Edit Delete 
2011-12-26  Standard from winter closure  Great conditions right now. Avy danger at present is about as low as it gets in this area. The track is well packed out all the way. We stayed in the rocks at the headwall around 13,000, but there were a lot of ski turns in the left and right gullies. Edit: We took the ridge up and back, regaining the Castle summit on the return. Dancesatmoonrise   2011-12-27  0  6      
2011-10-15  Northeast Ridge  FR 102 was fine. We made it to the junction in a jeep with no problem. A Toyota truck made it all the way to 12,400‘, below Montezuma Mine and 1/2 mile from the end of the road. The hike up the road had some snow, but you could avoid most of it by walking on the side (and the snow is not deep). When you hit the basin, there is snow and rock, and the snow is deep in some places. You don‘t need anything, though. We only postholed a handful of times. The slope is a mix of snow and rock. We climbed/traversed higher than the route, b/c the route looked like it had more snow on it. Really dumb... The rock is loose and that slope is not a place to take a bad slip. I‘d recommend following the route. When you hit the upper slope and then the ridge, it is mostly snow covered, and it is great. I put on my microspikes for traction and had no trouble. My husband was fine in his boots, as was another climber we met. The ridge is pretty exposed with the snow and a ton of fun. There were one or two moves toward the end that were slightly challenging, but not horrible. The route between Castle and Conundrum is in great shape. There is some snow, but it is easy to navigate and we had no issues. The descent from the saddle is awesome. The entire area is full of deep snow, with one rock outcropping. The descent was easy and fun and you can glissade down a lot of the slope. I had a blast out there, minus the loose rocky section. I‘d recommned traction and an axe, but I don‘t think they are absolutely necessary. usfgal   2011-10-16  0     Edit Delete 
2011-09-24  Northeast Ridge  The route was in fairly good condition up until beginning the ascent onto Castle‘s Northeast Ridge from the upper basin, around 13,400 ft. For the next ~300 vertical feet, the trail was covered in snow/ice but was easily doable. With care, it could be done without traction devices. From about 13,700 to 13,900, however, the route has some high class 2 moves on a north-facing slope where the recent snowfall and ensuing melt-freeze cycle has covered most flat surfaces with ice. The route is passable with use of careful footing and strong hand-holds, but isn‘t in great condition. From 13,900 to the summit, however, the route is on more sunny aspects and is in good condition. The traverse to Conundrum was in good condition, the snow wasn‘t much more than a mild nuisance. The descent from the Northwest Ridge down into the upper basin is extremely loose and almost impossible to descent without sending significant amounts of rock down the slope. One can glissade down that slope starting about 1/3 of the way down from the Castle-Conundrum saddle; the new snow has settled in a 2-3" layer on top of the old suncapped snow and provides for a safe glissading surface. The lower snowfield that approaches the top of the road was in similar condition. jswim123   2011-09-26  0     Edit Delete 
2011-09-11  Castle and Conundrum  Started at 11,200 ft elevation. Had driven to this spot in a Toyota Tacoma. One could probably make it to 12,800 ft at end of road in same vehicle. Began@0545, 41* F, 40% cloud cover. Temp dropped noticably by 0700@ 12,800 elevation near Montezuma Mine, but remained above 32*F. Rain clouds stable to the SE, fog or snow clouds rolling up towards Castle. Put on long-sleeved wool base layer and outer shell, was already wearing water-proof pants, gloves, and hat. Ascended snowy patches safely, using hiking poles. Would not attempt without such. Applied face mask en route up northeast ridge. Hoary frost on rocks up this route made rocks slightly slippery but, with gloves on, this was not a problem. Frozen ground up Castle and Conundrum made route more stable than if it had been warmer. Estimated windchill factor 32*F on NE ridge as evidenced by finger on one hand beginning to freeze. Summited Castle at 0845. Fog too thick to see the traverse between and across to Conundrum. Temp remained in the low 30‘s across to Conundrum. Rain clouds to the SE remained immobile during ascent and descent of Conundrum. Descent to the E on traverse between two peaks best done with hiking poles for stabilization. Snow field not safe for descent - small layer of hail covers slick hard ice underneath. DO NOT DESCEND here. Temp had warmed up estimated mid 40‘s in bowl, traversed safely on scree to the left then across snow past bowl and back to the road. Mountain Woman   2011-09-13  0     Edit Delete 
2011-09-10  Northeast Ridge  Mostly snow free. Coulior still in to avoid 700‘ scree field gaining ridge. Slick in the morning. somethingrandom   2011-09-13  0     Edit Delete 
2011-08-10  Northeast Ridge  Route is relatively snow free, or can be easily made so, all the way to the summit of Castle and completely snow free over to Conundrum. No traction devices needed. If you choose to go on the snow in the basin it is a very low angle and no exposure to falling. Coming down the Northwest ridge is very loose dirt so take your time and I would plan on glissading once past the ridge on the descent as you are going to end up on your butt anyway. It is not a fast glissade and I did not have to use anything to slow me down. The road is dry except for a small section by the second creek crossing. No problem keeping your feet dry. Saw an unmodified (stock) 4-runner all the way at the top of the road. mrschaible   2011-08-10  0  1    Edit Delete 
2011-07-16  Northeast Ridge  Northeast Ridge route has significant snowfields in the upper basin. Snow is gritty and wet, but can be climbed or crossed with no extra equipment. Once you leave the basin, the climb up to and along the ridge is completely dry. The crossing to Conundrum is also completely clear. Glissade routes down the mountain are getting icy, but they do shave hours off the trip down. About half the creek is coming down the road instead of through the creek bed. Assume very wet hiking down the road from the bottom of the lower basin to just above the second creek crossing. Pic 1 - Road in the morning. Pic 2 - Road in the afternoon. Pic 3 - snow in the lower basin, looking up at the upper basin. Pic 4 - snow in the upper basin, from the Conundrum-Castle saddle, looking at the lower basin and the climb up to the Northeast Ridge. Dathivas   2011-07-17 4  1    Edit Delete 
2011-07-12  Northeast Ridge  Hiked Castle and Conundrum and enjoyed plenty of glissading. We used microspikes once in the basin but they probably weren‘t necessary. Members of another group behind us didn‘t use traction and they were fine. No problem following the road up into the basin - there are still a couple snow covered areas and plenty of water running in several spots. Snow was firm enough to avoid any post holing. Gopherboy   2011-07-12 3  2 1  Edit Delete 
2011-07-02  Castle and Conundrum  Hiked Castle Peak via Northeast route on 7/2, then took connecting ridge to Conundrum. Road is melting extremely fast, and trees that were blocking road from avalanche (just above creek crossing) have now been cleared, so you can drive 1+ miles up road past creek before hitting snow that may be impassable with standard SUV. However, within a few days I would imagine snow will have melted completely on road where should be able to make it to Pearl Pass intersection (@11,200‘) without too much difficulty. Hiked up road from creek crossing as it was running fast and was nervous about crossing with my tiny Isuzu SUV. A few SUVs/pickups had crossed night before and said it wasn‘t too bad. With "late" start (6:30AM at creek crossing), by the time I was above treeline snow was soft enough where crampons were not necessary on standard route (although I brought them, never put them on). Ice axe helpful on way up (more for balancing and piece of mind than absolute necessity), but imperative if you plan on glissading down from top of mtn. That said, I probably would not hike it without one. Above 13,400 feet or so is snow free, as are all ridges on top. Melting fast.. If you’d like any more info, PM me…Thanks..Mike mandm15   2011-07-04  0     Edit Delete 
2011-06-12  North Face Couloir  Snow is solid to walk on for a 140lb person, becoming icy from repeated freeze and thaw on approach to castle couloir. Sun has melted pot holes in the snow which make hiking with regular footwear tedious in places. Still lots of snow on approach. Only bare places are random rock outcroppings. (Photos 1 and 2) Couloir has lots of snow, no bare places yet. Snow is thick, heavy, wet. Becoming slightly icy due to freeze and thaw. In early morning, snow still easily bore the weight of a 140lb person with gear and it was possible to kick in steps that held for multiple people. By 10am, snow was softening, and kick steps did not hold their shape well. Snow is still thick and becomes slick. (Photo 3) Top of couloir has lots of snow, which is not obviously corniced but care should still be taken. Summit push from couloir is snow covered on the left of the rocky ridge which is exposed. (Photo 4) It was possible to climb the snow to the left of the rocky ridge but by 10:30 snow was getting wet and not holding its shape. Downclimbing from summit on this snow required greater care as the snow became slippery and with foot misplacement it would be easy to slide down the snow on the exposed side. It was still possible at 1030am for skiiers to ski down both the summit and the couloir. Many chose to decend via the castle/conundrum saddle. Standard route decent starts dry, but ridge is a rock/snow/ice mixed climb. Extra care should be taken. After ridge, side of mountain down from ridge is dry (scree). It is possible to glissade many times once off the ridge and down from the scree. Conundrum ridge to Conundrum summit was sketchy from snow and ice (second hand information, other skiiers). Lyssah   2011-06-15 4  3    Edit Delete 
2011-06-04  North Face Couloir  Climbed from the summit of Conundrum (See other conditions report). The ski is in from the summit with plenty of snow still at the summit. Started descending a bit before 10 - the snow was still very solid all the way through the Couloir - not obvious signs of instability. Once in the basin the snow was very buttery and nice until tree line where there is a dust layer which will slow you down and give a nice base grind to the skis. - You can currently ski within 1/2 mile of the bridge at the stream crossing. hberry   2011-06-05  0     Edit Delete 
2011-05-31  North Face Couloir  Traversed across from Conundrum and dropped into the North Face Couloir. I did a shear test on that north face and found the snow to be extremely stable, likely isothermal. Watch out for the large cornice on the Conundrum-Castle Saddle (last photo). Rastaman566   2011-06-01 4     Edit Delete 

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