| Conundrum Couloir and Castle NW Ridge
Peaks: Castle and Conundrum, Elk Range
Date Climbed: June 11, 2008
Group: Ryan (scollard) and Ben (benners)
Route: Conundrum Couloir, traverse to Castle via NW Ridge
RT Distance/Elevation Gain 8.5 Miles, 4,000 Feet
Time: 9 Hours
Ryan and I left Westminster at 1am and headed for Aspen looking for a good time. We arrived at the Castle Creek TH around 5am and continued on through the avy debris, parking at the creek crossing. We headed up the road (which was still snow covered in many spots) under a bright sunny morning, finally the weather seemed to be on our side. Then an hour later or so we were boxed in by clouds somewhere underneath Montezuma Basin with no way to navigate. There were times where we couldn't see anything beyond each other, only a sea of white.
Ryan in the fog
We decided to stop and wait out the fog, we knew we were in the correct general area but didn't want to risk heading up into the wrong basin. After about an hour and a half the clouds began to break and we could make out rock formations and eventually mountains. Immediately we recognized that we were in Montezuma Basin near the end of the 4x4 road and we were good to go.
Finally the clouds broke, looking across at Maleumute Peak
We steadily hiked from basin to basin until we reached the basin underneath Castle and Conundrum. Conundrum Couloir was easily recognizable, we began our ascent under increasingly cloudy skies.
Halfway up Conundrum Couloir
Looking at the cornice marking the top
The snow in the couloir was solid, the angle never seemed very steep, and the views were awesome. We hit it at the perfect time of day.
Ryan climbing away
From the top of the couloir we quickly scaled the thirty foot rock step and summited around 11:30am. Already the winds were picking up and we could see distant snow storms developing. We knew we needed to get Castle sooner rather than later.
We signed the register and headed down to the saddle between Conundrum and Castle. The winds were beginning to become worrisome, especially given the wind was gusting towards the drop off Castle's northeast side. We just took extra care and worked our way up Castle fairly quickly, summiting at 12:15pm.
Conundrum from Castle's summit
The rest of the Elks
After a short stay on the summit, we hiked back down to the saddle and, after three massive self arrests, found ourselves back in Montezuma Basin protected from the wind. A short road walk later and we were back at the car at 3:00pm.
Cunundrom one last time
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