Route: NE Ridge with saddle descent
Elevation Gain: 3,539'
Co-Leader Queen: moon stalker
Snow Queens: Birdie, lovskiing, anna, kara, LynnKH, nkan02, scramble, ca-2-mo, tundratif, surfcolorado, Nancy & Lindsey
Wow, where to begin? With September brings less monsoon action, but snow? That's something I didn't plan on. So we had to bow to the weather gods and change our plans. Sunday would be sunny and warm with little wind. We would have the best chance to be successful, even with snow. With the change, we lost a few gals, but we also gained a few more. So goes mountaineering.
So now with plans set, scarves made, pink shiny bling attained, we all head to the Aspen area for what I hope will be a successful outing. We straggle into the camp area that moon stalker found, as someone else had taken the spot I wanted. But this one turned out better. Bigger flat area and all the gals could drive to this campsite. I put out the Gurlz hike sign to make sure everyone could find us, even those late arrivals. Matt Lemke and his partner were excited to pass by the sign, and their verbal surprise was matched with "No boys allowed!"
In the morning we carpooled up to the upper 4WD road before the switchbacks. Here I passed out the tiaras and the scarves I made for breast cancer awareness and in support of WifeOfBill & Bill Middlebrook's fight with the disease. I even passed out a couple more scarves to other ladies we met on the trail.
The hike started out smoothly at a relaxed pace, we would have all day with the gorgeous weather. The snow that fell the night before left a frosty winter wonderland to walk through
Queens starting the hike
The lovely waterfall - Photo Credit: anna
Frosty view of W Pearl - Photo Credit: anna
Hiking up the road
At the upper 4WD trailhead, we geared up for the snow travel to follow. Gortex pants, gaiters and for some yak tracks or micro spikes.
Gearing up for snow travel
Above on the snowfield it was time to instruct and practice with the ice ax. We had a number of gals who had never used one before. So I showed the techniques I was taught in my ski mountaineering class at UAF, and then had the gals practice. Moon stalker showed her more exciting method of glissading with the pros and cons on the table. Once class room time was over, we made our way up the first snow slope. Climbing the snow was much easier than trying to navigate on the snowy loose talus.
Me instructing on ice ax arrest - Photo Credit: ca-to-mo
Ice ax arrest & glissade practice
scramble loves glissading!
Climbing the first snow slope
View from the top of the slope - Photo Credit: nkan02
LynnKH looking pinky - Photo Credit: nkan02
First view of the Castle
Once above the first snow wall, we got our first glorious view of the Castle. It looked amazing draped in it's fresh veils of white snow.
Here we split a little into sections, as to not bunch up on the slope above. But as we had 4 radios interspersed, we kept in constant communication. Moon stalker took caboose, I bounced around in the center keeping an eye on everyone, and LynKH, nkan02 and kara took lead up the slope.
The mighty castle, draped in winter white
Ascending the snowy fortress walls
View down "The Moat"
ca-to-mo loves the view!
The initial section up the ridge was rather easy, and many saw the value of the foot traction aids. But past The Moat, the ridge became rather icy spicy. The snow complicated the route finding and made what should have been a class 2+ ridge into a class 3 mountaineering route. With our experienced gals interspersed in the group, we all helped the newer, less experienced gals up the ridge. The team work displayed during this section was amazing and is the reason we had a 100% summit rate. We all took our time and made sure all our footing and hand holds were stable as we made our way over exposed sections of the route.
Route finding becomes interesting...
The ridge so far
Anna making her way up a class 3-ish pitch
Tundratif using her ax
Smiles abound with the beautiful views!
Snow making things spicy...
Smiles, and more smiles - Photo Credit: ca-to-mo
Some great views to be had along the way up the ridge! Plenty of Ooooos and Ahhhh's and other exclamations to be heard!
A couple of Pearl Mountains
Conundrum Couloir looking a bit thin and icy - Photo Credit: nkan02
Snowmass Mountain - Photo Credit: nkan02
Capitol - Photo Credit: nkan02
One last obstacle to be faced before the summit... not as bad as I thought it would be!
The first Queens arriving to the throne summit
Working through the last obstacle
The Queens of the Castle have arrived!!!!
Anna summitting - Photo Credit: nkan02
Me summitting in "Mountain Ninja Princess Pink edition" style - Photo credit: Anna
Tropical Queen has arrived!
With moon stalker, all Queens are in attendance! 100% summitters on this day
We had tons of fun on the summit, while we could! We had 2 14er finishers, most ranging between 20-50 14ers, and we had one that Castle was their first! Absolutely amazing!
The National Champion Jump Roping Queen showing off her stuff! First 14er too!!! - Photo Credit: anna
As some clouds were building, we could only stay so long. There was another summit that needed our royal presence! Onward to Conundrum!
Queens descending the Castle
On the way to Conundrum - Photo Credit: anna
Yes I hiked all day in a Tiara... oh my! - Photo Credit: anna
Up Conundrum we go!
Vogue, strike a pose
We reached the summit of Conundrum quickly and had some newly appointed royal paiges take our photos. A couple of guys won the gurlz hike lottery
The Queens on Conundrum
Two gurlz rocking the tiaras and ice axes! - Photo Credit: ca-to-mo
Wow, that is one interesting view of the route. Good eye! - Photo Credit: anna
The royal train on the ridge, paiges in tow
Maroon Bells and Pyramid
"Castleabra" - looking stellar!
With all the ascending done, it was time for the fun stuff, glissading!!! Though the saddle snow had melted out and made for a tricky scree descent, it was worth it to drop elevation in such a quick, efficient and fun way! And note, all the ladies used my "safer" glissading technique of always being in arrest form. Thank You!
Descending the loose scree for the fun part, glissading!
Gurlz having fun
Queens glissading - Photo Credit: nkan02
Queuing up to glissade
Final tiara glissade...
Jump rope champion to glissasing!
The Queens' butt paths...
Hiking out, down the road - Photo Credit: anna
We had a great, awesome, incredible day! Thank you everyone for making it such a safe and enjoyable trip!
Breast Cancer Awareness - I don't think there is a single person that is not effected by this disease or by cancer as a whole. My whole family has had some form of cancer, but me. Some have fought and won, others have bravely fought till they couldn't. So this hike is for you WifeOfBill and Bill Middlebrook, may you win your fight!
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