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|Conditions Information||Posted By||Posted On|
|2015-07-04||Route: Castle and Conundrum
Info: Snow fields starting at the end of the road. Mostly packed and/or icy on the way up. The snow stops near the base of Castle where the climb up the ridge starts. Scattered snow on the ridge to the summit, all avoidable but does make the route more class 3 in parts when avoiding the snow. Very loose (as to be expected) on the NE ridge of Castle heading over to Conundrum--almost pulled a block down at the exact spot that‘s warned about in the route description. There is again some snow on Conundrum‘s ridge but is avoidable. At the saddle, the snow was full in, albeit pretty slushy by about 945am, and we slowly tipped to the edge where the steep decline starts and then glissaded down to the lake. Snow all the way from there down to end of road again.
|2015-07-03||Route: NE Ridge to North Face Couloir
Info: Climbed NE Ridge to upper North Face Couloir for summit - traversed to Conundrum and descended NW Ridge. Water on 4X4 road above second stream crossing. Encountered rain/hail/wind and rockfall on 4X4 road near uppermost parking area around sunrise. Beware of loose and falling rock - narrowly avoided falling rocks that struck road. NE Ridge trail was dry, although some climber‘s trails near ridge line held snow and ice. North Face Couloir snow was great - not too hard or soft - at 7:00am. Traverse to Conundrum is smooth sailing, although part of cornice remains intact on Conundrum Couloir. Descent of NW Ridge snowfield was suboptimal at around 10:00am due to wet and soft snow. We post-holed deeply and brought down wet snow during glissade. Overall, it was a beautiful tour of the Castle basin!
|2015-06-22||Route: Northeast Ridge
Info: Rapid water at the creek crossing but we saw several Jeeps had made it. After the creek crossing its smooth sailing up to the Montezuma mine. Snow coverage on the road will likely prevent vehicle traffic for another couple weeks. Great snow from from the end of the road up. We carried flotation but did not use it- may be a good idea later in the day.
|2015-06-22||Route: Northeast Ridge
Info: The stream crossing by vehicle was a little scary because the water level was high but I made it with my Toyota Tacoma in 4x4 low. There was a lot of snow climbing even at the top. Doable, not too bad. Used ice axes, micro spikes, and gaters. Had an awesome 1,000 foot glissade off the ridge just below the summit.
|2015-06-21||Route: Castle and Conundrum
Info: Most folks parked at the creek crossing. It‘s mid thigh deep and flowing fast, see the attached photo. The couloir is in great condition to climb. Head out early to avoid post holing.
|2015-06-21||Route: Northeast Ridge
Info: Northeast ridge holds some patches of snow until 13,600 or so, then full coverage by snow until summit. The ridgeline to Conundrum also holds some snow. Snow stayed hard until about 9 am. The snow in the basin was very soft by 9:30, and we started a few postholes. Also by 8 am, warming snow began to drop rocks down the sides of castle. The large cornice over the conundrum couloir has MOSTLY broken off, but enough remains to be dangerous.
|2015-06-20||Route: Northeast Ridge
Info: Did NE Ridge on Castle Saturday. Started just before the first creek crossing at 3:45. Basin still has plenty of snow, but melting rapidly. Snow on the glissade from the saddle all the way to the botton of the headwall was extremely soft by 10:00. Great meeting everyone who summited around 9:45!
|2015-06-19||Route: North Face Couloir
Info: Great snow from basin to NE ridge. Very "kickable" in some sections, rather hard in others (even though night temperatures did not go below 40 deg F). We took right fork out of the main couloir, as we neared the ridge...gave us high-angle snow, and gained ridge a bit closer to the summit.
|2015-06-15||Route: Conundrum Couloir
Info: I started 4:00 am today. Continuous snow at about 12,800‘. I carried snowshoes, but never put on as snow was frozen on my way up (very soft though on way down around 9:30 - great for plunge stepping, but the party ascending at that time with no flotation was regretting it). I put my crampons on in lower basin and climbed great snow up Conundrum Couloir - large cornice still present at top though. I traversed over to Castle and descended ne ridge - I put crampons back on for this - would have been quite tricky without.
|2015-06-13||Route: North Face Couloir
Info: Tons of snow still left. A runnel is forming to lookers left. Snow to the summit. Skied really well. Hit it early, as the east face before the couloir heats up fast. TR up soon
|2015-06-11||Route: Northeast Ridge
Info: Attempted summit, the snow lower than the basin was melting (even at 3:00 AM) and extremely difficult to cross without snowshoes, lots of post holes and sliding all over. Once you reach the basin the snow is less wet but still post holing though. Snow was not firm enough to stay on top of except for some ice patches on the ridgeline. Ridgeline conditions are somewhat precarious. We did not have much experience with winter ridgeline conditions, and although having microspikes and ice axes, we felt over exposed with the high amount of snow collecting on the ridge, with large overhanging snow spots and steep falls. We made it to all but the final push before turning around, probably more due to inexperience rather than conditions. However all the spots that looked like avalanches could occur, already have. We were never feeling in danger of an avalanche. If you have experience, go for it! Right now, the couloir route (#3 on Castle‘s page) is probably a much better bet than the long ridgeline traverse. Also if you take the northeast ridge, be careful following our footsteps near 2/3rds of the way along the ridge, crossed over to the wrong side at one point and got extremely exposed, immediately backtracked and found the right route
|2015-04-12||Route: North Face Couloir
Info: Road still closed at Ashland. Mostly snow covered from lower trailhead up to couloir. One half of couloir on the side melted/wind scored but a climbable route still exists. 10 ft rock section at top of couloir then snow continues to summit.
|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).