| Castle/Conundrum - standard - Castle re-summit
Castle Peak & Conundrum Peak
Route: NE Ridge (standard)
Summit Elevation - 14,265 & 14,060
Elevation Gain: 4500 (est)
Trip Distance: 12.5 miles (est. - from creek crossing)
Total Round-Trip Climb Time (including all breaks): 10:15
4WD Required: yes! We got a Blazer to the stream crossing, road is fine to 12,800 if you can get across the stream, we didn't.
Exhaustion Factor (on scale of 1-10): 5
Scenery Factor (on scale of 1-10): 5
Saturday night: 6pm. We are 2 shots of tequila into the night at Samantha’s brother’s girlfriend’s birthday party at a friend's home at the Ritz Carlton in Avon. Shitty views & a shitty place to live, eh?
I had to trick people that I was no longer drinking by having a Coca Cola with a slice of lime in it – it may trick people into thinking I am drinking so they won’t coerce me into having another. After all, we have a drive ahead of us. Tonight, we are headed someplace warm. Where the beer flows like wine and beautiful women instinctively flock like the salmon of Capistrano. I’m talkin’ about a little place called Assssssspen. (mmmmmm, California! Beautiful!)
Plans were to meet Altidude at the lower trailhead for Castle/Conundrum that night, drive up wherever we could, and hike these beauties on Sunday, 8-5-Two-Thousand-Twelve. We arrived dark and early at the lower trailhead at 10:30pm to find Altidude waiting with Wendy (his beloved Blazer who was still recovering from fuel injector surgery). Samantha and I threw up a tent across from the parking lot, it was dark so we didn’t see the “No camping within ¼ mile of the trailhead” sign until morning, oops. Luckily, after a Coors Banquet, 5 hours of lying down (sleep was limited, the animals were out to get me, per usual), and 1 snooze button later, we were out of the tent and dressed by 5:30 that morning.
We hopped in Wendy, and the sounds of Chromeo got us up to the stream crossing, where the intimidating exit of the stream scared the still-recuperating Wendy. We hopped out of the car and got on the uneventful road. Kinda. There is a cabin, which was unexpected. There is a beautiful waterfall just before the road junction, and after that, there isn’t a hell of a lot before the upper parking lot. By the way, if you can get thru the stream crossing, there is maybe 1 or 2 tricky obstacles to get around, else you can make it all the way to the top of the road.
So we get to the top of the road and it seems that cairns are most everywhere. We ended up going up the snow field to climber’s right for awhile (out of rockfall danger zone) and then onto the boulders, where you choose your own adventure until you get back to the well-defined trail. Altidude found a littered old Coors Banquet can with a pull-tab, probably from the 70’s. He packed it out. We started hiking this trail, which is quite steep, up to the little saddle. Saw a guy sitting there who said it was a little spooky to him, so he was going to sit this out while his friends went to the summit. Hmmmm, good thing for a person who is scared of heights to hear, eh?
So we headed on over to the ridge for some loose-rock scrambling. There was one or two tricky moves that I would consider easy class 3.
My fear of heights never really got to me. We heard a ton of rockfall down the saddle (the normal descent route) and easily decided we were NOT going down that way! A disasterpiece of a saddle descent, that appeared to be to us. It took us a bit longer to summit than planned, but we got to Castle Peak summit at about 10:30, for a trip time of 4:30 from the stream crossing. Not sure what the distance was on that, nor the vertical. We had some Boone's Farm on the summit:
On the summit, we noticed a rock had been written on with the name & elevation of the peak. I can’t believe the 14ers.com forum members haven’t yet put out a search warrant and hung this person (in addition to eating his/her children and emailing their boss to tell them what a horrendous act they committed). I would have packed it out, but I was already hauling some Boone’s farm, and other things that were weighing my backpack down. We drank some of said Boone’s farm, took a picture or two, and headed over to Conundrum with blue sky above us at 10:50.
During the descent of Castle we came upon a definite Class 3 move and had to downclimb, I lost my footing a bit and almost freaked out, but Samantha and Altidude helped me out. Loose crap everywhere on the descent to the saddle. Once we got to the saddle, looking down we reaffirmed our decision that we would be re-summiting Castle on the way down. No way are we trying that loose rockfall haven saddle!
We climbed on up to Conundrum and met some guys who do a great impression of the sand people from Star Wars. From here, I learned that Altidude can do a pretty damn good Chewbacca impression. So thrilled that Star Wars is a universal language. We summitted Conundrum around 11:40, still blue skies. We drank some more Boone’s farm, took a picture or three (including some Senior Pictures), ate some pepperoni & cheese that Samantha rocked the house with, and headed on back.
The venture up to Castle was uneventful, but I will note two things:
1) We circumvented the potential class 3 maneuver this time, much easier to go around it
2) I’m pretty sure we saw Matt Damon. Although he says people over 35 say he looks like Val Kilmer. Luckily I’m only 33, because I saw him to be Matt Damon.
We re-summitted Castle and, since we had it to ourselves, decided to use the aforementioned graffiti’d rock to block private areas while taking some new nude summit photos. (I will post a pic when I get them off Samantha's camera, else I may just have a new avatar) The Boone’s Farm was also an excellent prop. I’ll be kind and only post my fat ass’s picture, will leave Altidude’s out of it since he didn't do a very good job of manscaping. Samantha was just prepping to disrobe when a bunch of new people arrived at the summit, so we’ll have to save that for Blanca/Ellingwood in a couple of weeks (hey perverts! You aren’t invited! This will be a private show!)
People going down the saddle -- why???!?!?
Here come the clouds, and in the distance, we see the rain.
Image #13 (not yet uploaded)
We headed down Castle, down some tricky moves, and got off route, oops. Climbed back up 50 or 75 feet of steepidity to get back on route. Nice. Slow and steady, while snow fell on us. Yes, you read that right, we got a few snowflakes, but nothing to write home about – just something to write on 14ers.com about.
Got out of the rocks to the upper parking lot around, uh, sometime. 2:30 maybe? Had some more Boone’s Farm and some gummy bears. Now seriously – I mean it this time – stop being jealous. It is not an attractive quality.
Image #14 (not yet uploaded)
Down the trail, passed by trucks, dirtbikes, you name it. Uneventful, we made it back to Wendy at about 4:15 or so, and back to Samantha’s Mazda 3 around 4:30. Uneventful drive back to D-town for us, uneventful drive back to F-town for Altidude. 14er #s 37 & 38 complete! Goal to get to 40 this year – will it happen? We shall see, only one more available weekend thru September for me, wish me luck!
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):