With the forecast predicting unpleasant weather conditions throughout the day for this past Saturday, I wasn't as eager as usual to go climbing, but the plans had been made and our group of five was going up to attempt the Castle and Conundrum Peaks no matter what. Squeezing into our Subaru Outback, we set out from Denver at 1:30 in the morning. We made it over a mile up the Forest Road 102 before stopping because of a stream which crosses the road about 1.3 miles from the lower parking. It was raining lightly, but the sky was pretty clear overall and we took off up the road in good spirits.
From our parking spot on the road
The road winds up a beautiful valley...
Cloud cover conceals the sunrise
A beautiful waterfall
...and then turns right and climbs up a rocky basin...
Winding up the basin above treeline
The view gets better the higher you go!
...and eventually culminates at the end of the basin.
Approaching the upper trailhead
As usual, the climb from the upper trailhead to the basin below Castle and Conundrum was mostly covered in snow - an excellent opportunity to pull out my new axe!
Up the snow we go...
First time using the axe!
It gets pretty steep near the top
Once in the upper basin, there is a defined trail all the way to the ridge, and a broken trail to the summit of Castle from there. The weather was so nice, we could hardly believe it! Just shows that the forecast is not always right...
Gaining the ridge
On the ridge crest - not far to go!
The ridge provides some great scrambling opportunities, although the route can be kept to Difficult Class 2.
Scrambling along the route
Conundrum with more Elk fourteeners peeking out
Fun scrambling on the crest with the trail off to the left
Very soon, we were on the summit!
Conundrum and a very blue alpine pool
With plenty of morning left, we decided to go for Conundrum.
At the saddle
As we traversed, dark clouds quickly spread across the sky. We would have to be fast! Fortunately, Conundrum is a very short (albeit loose) scramble from the saddle.
Climbing up Conundrum
Traversing across the ridge to the summit
Not long after the saddle, we topped out on Conundrum - my 40th fourteener! After a quick break, we started the descent, hoping to get as far down as we could before those storms hit.
Back down Conundrum
From the saddle, the snow has melted out and doesn't start until about 75 feet below. This 75 feet of downclimbing was some of the loosest rock I've ever been on.
Looks like a good glissading opportunity!
Climbing down horrible rock from the saddle
The glissade starts out steep - I was glad to have my axe along!
Down I go...
Looking back at Castle from above the pool
We walked for a bit, but glissaded just about all of the descent to the road.
Glissading back to the road
From here, all that was left was a brisk walk down the road to our car. Everybody had fun on this trip, and we all want to do it again sometime!