Peak(s):  Castle Peak  -  14,265 feet
Post Date:  09/13/2011
Date Climbed:   09/10/2011
Posted By:  gonzalj

 Castle - Northeast ridge   

Well, in my qwest to try to at least bag 1 14 in every range before september ends, I found myself in Aspen with Brian (somethingrandom) getting ready to attempt castle. We woke up at 3:30 am and drove to the 4wd castle creek TH and started hiking at 5. As we made our way up the road after about 0.5 mile from the TH we came to an intersection where we saw the "trail" go straight and of course we followed it. After about 15 minutes or so where we were scrambling over rock, we were saying, that there's no way this is a road. We turn around and see a bunch of headlamps comoing towards us and turn around and head towards them (as a couple of them went on the "trail" that we were on and then we all worked together to find to road that goes up to 12,800'). After a few minutes we find it (it switchbacked right, whereas we went straight onto the "trail", but was difficult to see at night with only a headlamp for guidance). After our approximate 30 minute delay we were back on the road heading up to the mine and the end of the easy part. Once we got to the base of the steep scree/talus slope that heads towards the NE ridge, there was some snow that we hiked across with our spikes on, but numerous parts where there was talus scrambling and needless to say, I was glad when I was in the snow covered sections (especially going down which made for a fun and much easier glissade). After clearing the steep slope and making our way up the trail that connects with the ridge it was steep, but straight forward and in no time we were on the ridge. The 1st part of the ridge was straight forward (although there was definitely loose rock and some snow/ice sections). Once we got to the 2nd half of ridge that's when things got interesting. When we were on the 2nd to last rock outcropping section, we climbed up in and factoring loose rock, snow & ice and some good exposure to the right with potential for a 1000' drop off, my mental toughness was definitely challenged and feeling out the holds and analyzing all the different options to get up were definitely exercised by us. Then, once we reached the last rock outcropping we saw a trail that went around the rock with snow & ice on it (and footprints), so we ended up following it. When we got close to the end of it and saw a steep & loose section with exposure that we had to get up to make it to the last saddle to go to the summit, once again my mental toughness was tested and a couple of class 3 moves were necessary, but I was somewhat glad that all the dirt and rock was fairly solid because it was all frozen in place (otherwise this would have been scary). Anyway, once we made our way back to the small saddle right below the summit and went up, we saw the route that was on the ridge and came back down that way as it was much less intimidating then going around that rock. My slight fears from a little bit ago were all overcome by the most amazing summit views I have seen to this day and I'm very glad that I now have an elk 14er under my belt. Definitely a demanding day when factoring the steep talus slope and the ridge, but very well worth it.

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