Peak(s):  Castle Peak  -  14,265 feet
Post Date:  06/12/2011
Date Climbed:   06/07/2011
Posted By:  hansolo35

 the taking of Conundrum Coolie, solo   

With a promising weather forecast, I left Salt Lake and made a trip down to Aspen on June 6th 2011 with the goal to climb and ski some 14ers. The primary objective this trip was Castle and Conundrum peaks. Castle is the Elk Range's highest summit at 14,265 feet, and Conundrum at 14,060 feet, while not a ranked 14er (as it does not rise up more than 300 feet from the lowest point it shares with Castle), is still a worthy objective, especially so because of the gnarly and prominent couloir that splits the peak. This I came to ski specifically. It is a very classic and aesthetically pleasing line.

I camped just outside the ghost town of Ashcroft and began my 4,700 vertical foot ascent (includes both peaks) at 3am. Up the Castle Creek drainage I went in the dark, putting on my skis for the first time a little ways past the first stream crossing. I passed numerous avalanche slide paths (with alot of broken and splintered trees) that looked very spooky in the dark. As I came to Montezuma Basin, the first rays of daylight were reaching the mountain tops. Man, there is still alot of snow up there!

the upper basin at sunrise

I skinned (or booted) up both peaks (covering 11 miles roundtrip), and it was a little on the tiring side. I topped out on Castle at 10am, seven hours after leaving camp. I had ascended the steep and classic north couloir on the peak. The weather was absolutely fabulous, with views that stretched on forever (WOW!) and not a cloud in sight. However, it was extremely windy, so much so that it would knock me to my knees at times.

me gaining ground in Montezuma Basin

first good view of Castle

me and Conundrum coolie

up the north couloir on Castle

on the summit of Castle

there's the objective, in all its glory!

I skied the north face down to the saddle between Castle and Conundrum peaks, and then hoofed it a few hundred feet up to the top of Conundrum Peak.
I was very tired at this point, but after a short rest the excitement of the impending descent was erupting out of me. I clicked into my skis and dropped into the amazing couloir. The snow was perfect corn and the pitch was steep and exhilerating. Each turn would send showers of little snow cookies cascading below me like a surreal waterfall. Just very fun skiing! The skiing stayed good all the way until the lower reaches of Montezuma Basin, when the snow turned to mushy slush. Then it was just a slog back to camp. Talk about solitude on a Colorado 14er- I didn't see or sniff one other person the entire day.

on Conundrum, with Castle looking on

looking down the objective, ready to drop

if you look closely, you can see my turns

looking down the lower reaches of Montezuma Basin

upper Montezuma Basin (my turns can be seen lower center)

After a few beers at campsite 1 to celebrate another beautiful day and outing in the Colorado Rockies, i drove south to knock off Colorado's 5th great traverse- the ridge between Redcloud and Sunshine. thats an "epic" tale for another time

back at camp

amongst the aspens

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

  • Comments or Questions

Well done!     06/12/2011 22:46
I actually drove back on the 6th. The corn in upper Little was sensational.



nice Ski     06/13/2011 04:50
Good work out there. Glad you got a chance to get the goods


Nice!     06/13/2011 15:57
Conundrum definitely deserves respect above its ”subsidiary peak” status. Have a great trip in the SJs!


Looks good...     06/15/2011 03:31
Thanks for the beta. Did you keep the skis on until you need crampons or was it spotty at the bottom?


Nice work!     07/02/2011 01:17
Thanks for the great trip report. Do you think Conundrum Couloir still has enough snow to ski?

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