I had originally planned to climb Harvard and Columbia but had a last minute change of plans and instead chose Castle and Conundrum. I left Copper Mountain on my motorcycle at 4:50 am and had a very chilly ride over Independence Pass, arriving at the FR102 intersection around 7:10 and proceeded up the jeep road.
Nearing FR102 intersection
The going was fine, although my KTM 990 Adventure at 500 pounds is a little heavy for this sort of work. After 30 minutes of riding, I was at 12,300’ or one mile from the end of the road where I decided the going was getting too rocky for the big bike (or at least its operator). The bike took a nap and I continued on foot.
Ssh - the bike is sleeping.
The river crossing was not too bad and the stream running down the road above the Pearl Pass intersection was only a couple of inches deep.
I had read the route info on 14ers.com and saved it to my telephone to use on the way up. BUT, I didn’t realize until I reached the trailhead that I had only saved the Conundrum portion of the directions. Oops! Since my change of peaks occurred so late in the game, I didn’t have a map either. Strike one.
My foggy memory recalled something about going left and then taking a trail that climbs onto a ridge that leads to the summit, so after crossing the little stream at the road’s end I took a left and deliberately ignored the tracks in the snow going to the right. There was a faint trail and a couple of cairns so at first I thought I was okay. Strike two. I went straight up the north east face scree field for a couple hundred feet and searched for any sign of a trail and thought (imagined?) I could see one higher up and to my left.
I went up the left side of the ridge above the grassy hill on the far left. Oops.
At this point I decided to just go up and a little to my left in the scree field and eventually intersect it. As I climbed higher I saw that my guess on the trail was wrong, but things were going well and the weather couldn’t have been any better so I just soldiered on up through the scree.
My alternate route was rocky but quite stable.
I eventually reached the top and as I looked to my right I saw the correct trail a little below me.
I regained the correct trail at the saddle towards the right side of this picture.
Once back on the proper route things started going much faster. I met up with two guys (Patrick and Justin) from Denver/Golden and their amazing dog Jack. We climbed as a small group and quickly gained the summit around 10:30. Jack is nearly fearless, very agile and energetic as he covered most of the trail two or three times running back and forth.
Maroons and Pyramid from the summit.
Looking over to Conundrum from Castle's summit.
Our summit time was perfect - cloudless, windless and very warm. Home run! After a bite to eat, some pictures and conversation, we headed over to Conundrum which took a little over 30 minutes. The view from Conundrum was just as amazing as Castle’s and the weather was still perfect. We enjoyed the beauty for quite a while and then headed back down to the saddle between the two peaks and downclimbed the rust colored loose rocks and gravel to the snow.
Looking down to the snow glissade route.
Jack and company getting psyched for the glissade.
Since it was so warm, the snow was very soft and we had three fun glissades leading us almost to the bottom and the trail head. A quick walk back down to my motorcycle and less than three hours later I was back in Copper Mountain with my family.
Thanks to Patrick, Justin and Jack for the fun company.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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