| Castle and Conundrum...Gettin Snowy
Continuing on with the Elks was a priority for me before the weather really took a turn for the winter... That is what the Sawatch is for right? Anyways, Marcia and I met up on Friday at the Wolly Mammoth parking lot on I-70 at 1530, and headed for the hills. We Stopped in Vail and met Skasgaard for some dinner and climbing schedule/story swapping. After that we continued on to the trailhead turnoff around 2040. Having no success on finding a campsite below the first creek crossing we pushed up across the creek in the dark to find a perfect spot 1/4 mile above the first crossing. (Note: Always_Wear_Sunscreen, my hat is off to you for getting an outback across that creek... Wish I could've seen that.) Anyways, after a critter free night, we got up and drove up to the second crossing arriving there about 0700.
We parked below the bridge about 200 yards, and began the hike at 0721. The trip up the road was pretty uneventful, and we got to the 4WD parking lot around 0900. At the parking lot we were treated to a vista of the very unexpected saddle completely filled in with snow. Not bringing our crampons or axes we were slightly concerned at the remaining route.
Nonetheless we continued on and went up the NE ridge route that is well trailed and relatively easy to retain.
On the ridge, before the notch looking at Castle
We hit the first notch where Marcia stashed her poles, and we continued on for some slightly more technical areas. (Note: Fresh snow had fallen the night or day before making for some quasi-bobsled run areas just after the first notch.) If you stay towards climbers left of the ridge the trail is relatively dry and clear however, and very obvious. We gained the summit quite easily at 1021, exactly three hours from our departure from the Jeep at the second creek crossing.
Marcia having already summitted both mountains decided to remain on Castle while I zipped down and over to Conundrum in a slight 50 mins. This traverse is quite easy and obvious, just down, up and over. Nick a non/possibly new 14ers.com member accompanied me over. We spent about 2 mins on the summit, snapped a few pics, and headed back to Castle.
Pyramid, The Bells, Snowmass and Capitol
Nick having wisely brought his axe, went down the saddle instead of re-ascending Castle. No such wisdom here, I did the re-ascent and arrived back to my waiting climbing partner, just in time to hear I missed the best x-rated summit photo shoot ever! Curse my motivation... Anyways, we turned around and retraced our steps back down from Castle and arrived at the base of the C&C basin around 1330. Here we passed several groups, one of which was the CU hiking club making a run to Conundrum Hot Springs, and another which was a yoga pant, tank top wearing circus, obviously out without a mission or wilderness wisdom. After watching the latter continue off on their DOLEFUL way, Marcia and I continued down to the car. We arrived back at 1430(7 hours after start) just in time for a rainstorm down low, and a whiteout up high. Sincerely hope everyone up there was ok, and got down without incident . We were treated to some great aspens on the way to Aspen and our homes back on the front range. Overall a great and sucessul journey that couldn't have gone better in my book.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):