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|Conditions Information||Posted By||Posted On|
|2013-06-08||Route: Northeast Ridge
Info: For trailhead report, see that; I‘ll post one, too. Departed the campsite right before the creek crossing at 5am - felt it was a real late start and hoped it wouldn‘t be a post-hole fest in the afternoon. From Castle Creek crossing point, the hike on the road in is mostly dry, some avalanche chute and other persistent drifts still exist and are solid in the morning, softer in the afternoon (Photo 1). From Pearl Pass Road turnoff to the basin the upper creek has found a second home on the road, rushing to 5-6 inches in depth in the afternoon. Some creative route-finding is necessary in the afternoons to avoid getting totally soaked boots. I anticipate this will lessen in the upcoming weeks, but while a pain - all that water flowing with such force is a beautiful thing. The road up into the upper basin is drifted over, with narrow dry patches - no tools were necessary until reaching above 12,200‘ or so. The drift-over on the roads was constant and steeper, microspikes could have worked but crampons were nice (Photo 2). Once above the road, crampons were also nice to have to climb to the upper basin. The conditions of the snow was mostly solid, but to where microspike points may not have been deep enough. At the start of the NE ridge trail, equipment carried (crampons, snowshoes) were stashed. The ridge is dry and in good condition to the Castle Couloir summit. The Castle Couloir looks to be the route of choice for skiers; plenty of turns were evident. The top 20-feet of the Castle Peak summit crux is snowed in - looks sketchy from afar, but easily passable. BONUS REPORT - Traverse to Conundrum The traverse was dry, and chossy, like normal. The summit of Conundrum, for all who don‘t know, is the FAR summit, past the couloir. The Conundrum Couloir is holding a massive cornice - rather impressive. It was climbed and skied Saturday morning. DOUBLE BONUS REPORT - Glissading conditions Apprehensive to glissade from the saddle of Castle/Conundrum at first - no other lines evident. The tarn is melted out and the thought was there that the snow in the basin would be very soft. Went for it anyways. A 2pm glissade sounds like a slush-fest but it was the perfect amount of soft surface to keep the glissade very safe. The basin snow was also firm - no postholing anywhere except for rock edges. Highly recommendable. (Photo 3). Photo 4 - the creek that is actually the road in the afternoon. Tools used: Crampons (overkill, microspikes and patience would have worked); Ice Axe; Poles.
|2013-06-08||Route: Castle and Conundrum
Info: The snow is melting fast. We started hiking at 3:30am from the campsite before the bridge and didn‘t start hitting consistent snow until 3 miles in. We didn‘t feel comfortable ascending the Conundrum Couloir based on the enormous cornice currently there, but we did meet someone who skied down the Couloir yesterday. Definite signs of small/medium wet slides. We went up the saddle, hit Conundrum, and then went up the ridge to Castle and skied down the North Face Couloir. Skied down the basin and followed a very narrow strip of snow as the path winds down. Wonderful trip and good snow, but I don‘t think there will be much left after this weekend if it stays warm.
|2012-10-27||Route: Northeast Ridge
Info: Definitely need a 4wd with high clearance to make it to the lower TH at 9,900 ft (before the creek crossing). A 4wd vehicle with chains can make it to about 12,500ft and we saw a truck do it. Snowshoes are recommended as the snow level gets to about 6-8 inches around 12,500ft and 1-2+ft deep once you get to the end of the road leading up to the lower basin. The snow is not very packed down as of now and the boulder fields are not quite fully covered which would be easier to travel over. Hope this helps anyone planning to do this soon.
|2012-09-29||Route: Northeast Ridge
Info: Snow from last week around - probably for the season. Expect some melting, but the summer season is over. Surprised to see the ‘permanent‘ snow field gone. Made hiking up that rock section a bitch. Our CMC group hit 13,900ish. Based on the conditions and skill sets of some of the folks, called it and turned around. Still a great day. No issues getting to Montezuma basin if you are 4Wheeling up. An ice axe, microspikes or crampons, and helmet might be good to bring. Snow on the ridge from Castle to Conundrum. Snow conditions for a climb straight up Conundrum did not look great.
|2012-09-18||Route: Northeast Ridge
Info: Did Castle and Conundrum on 18 Sep. There‘s some snow on the route and although it is melting I suspect it will be around for a couple days. Microspikes were not needed today but with another freeze on the horizon tonight, it might be a good idea to bring them tomorrow.
|2012-08-05||Route: Castle and Conundrum
Info: Tons of rockfall both heard and seen on 8/5/12. Only saw one group descend from the saddle and they looked miserable. They left Conundrum probably 20 minutes before we did, we re-ascended Castle to go down, and I‘d bet if we‘d left at the same time from Conundrum we would have beat them down, they looked like they weren‘t having much fun. Looked very dangerous to go down the snow-free saddle. Loose rock everywhere, per usual.
|2012-07-23||Route: Castle and Conundrum
Info: There was a posting in the forum about rockfall danger descending from the Castle/Conundrum saddle. I did the route on the 23rd and certainly heard a lot of rockfall down into the basin, but I was not affected by any of it during my descent. The descent route is snow-free but held up pretty well. I didn‘t have any problems with traction going down. I‘ve included a few pics of the descent route. Also posted a view of the basin. The rockfall I witnessed was mainly over that dirty snowfield on the right side of the basin, below the Castle/Conundrum ridge. I wore a helmet just in case, but again, never had a problem.
|2012-07-12||Route: Northwest Ridge to Castle-Conundrum Couloir
Info: We used micro spikes on a short section of the ascent to the upper basin; however, this section was short and likely avoidable. There is very thin ice/snow only at the very bottom of the Castle-Conundrum couloir, and we cut out well before the snow. We did pull out axes for a glissade on the North side of the lower basin, but the snow was really soft and the axes were unnecessary. Summary: spikes and axes are still helpful, but you could probably live without them.
|2012-07-07||Route: Northeast Ridge
Info: Hiked Castle and Conundrum Saturday July 7, 2012. Northeast Ridge up. Took Northwest Ridge down to saddle. Hiked to Conundrum. There is a canister on Conundrum. Make sure to hit the second point - - the true summit. You will have to descend 50 feet or so from the first summit of Conundrum to get to the true summit. From Conundrum, went back to the saddle between Castle and Conundrum. Key point: I highly recommend an ice axe, microspikes, OR poles on the descent back to the road from the saddle. There is remaining ice and snow on portions of the descent. Very loose gravel, rocks, ice and snow make the descent challenging. It may be easier to re-ascend Castle. Of course, some are more comfortable than others with descending this type of terrain. E-mail with questions.
|2012-06-26||Route: Northeast Ridge
Info: We trekked the double on Saturday the 23rd. The road is rougher as advertised between the Pearl Pass cutoff and about 11,200. At that point, the road seems actually better than suggested in the route description. There are boulders (3) which have landed on the upper part of the road but you can pass by each of them. Our ascent was largely uneventful save the wrong turn which saw us end up on the ridge sooner than the route would take you. After descending back to the trail, we completed to Castle, and then summitted Conundrum in short order. We used the glissade from the saddle down which was a Blast!. I doubt it will be usable for much longer into the summer. Descent was across the snowfields and loose rock which featured less than sure footing but multiple sledding opportunities. Love this hike - another set of unique views and vistas.
|2012-06-23||Route: Castle and Conundrum
Info: We ascended the NE ridge, summitted Castle, down the NW ridge to the saddle, summitted Conundrum, back to the saddle and descended into the basin. Still snow as you ascend into the basin and down from the saddle. Ice axe was helpful. Glissades were bumpy and slow with the melting and suncups. The descent from the saddle is loose and horrible at least till you hit the snow (1/2 way down probably). Be extra cautious of people below you. Castle‘s north couloir is gone. Conundrum couloir looks to still be holding continuous snow, but won‘t for long given the weather. Good luck.
|2012-06-17||Route: Northeast Ridge
Info: For Father‘s Day my Children thought that we should climb Castle Peak and who was I to disagree. The 4-wheel drive road is clear and mostly dry all the way to the Pearl Pass junction. The lower river crossing is in good shape without very much water. We parked at the junction and started hiking. The Road is dry all the way to the end. The permanent snowfields are very small and were easy to climb even without any special gear although an ice axe would have allowed for a fun glissade down. From this point on the route was clear and dry. The hike made for a great Fathers’ Day.
|2012-06-02||Route: North Face Couloir
Info: 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.
|2012-05-30||Route: Castle and Conundrum
Info: 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.
|2012-05-28||Route: Castle and Conundrum
Info: 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.
|2012-05-25||Route: Castle and Conundrum
Info: 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
|2012-05-19||Route: Northeast Ridge
Info: 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.
|2012-04-28||Route: Castle and Conundrum
Info: 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.
|2012-03-24||Route: North Face Couloir
Info: 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.
|2011-12-26||Route: Standard from winter closure
Info: 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.