| Castle & Conundrum loop
Peaks: Castle (14,265 ft)
Conundrum (14,022 ft)
Date climbed: 10-4-08
Elevation Gained: 2,647 feet
Total Mileage: 4+ miles
10/3/08- Jake and I arrived at the upper most parking area in Montezuma Basin at midnight. As expected, the Motezuma Basin Road was rough and slow going. On the way up it began to snow and the wind was howling. Given the narrowness and exposure of the 4WD road, we decided it would be best to go back down below the switchbacks in case of snow accumulation overnight.
10/4/08 - We got up at 6:30am expecting the worse from the weather. As the sun began to rise we could see the cloud ceiling was at the upper parking area. Just a slight flurry of snow falling, and no snow accumulation below the cloud line. By 7:00am we were packed and on our way up Montezuma Basin. I had estimated that we had until about noon or less before the brunt of the incoming storm was in the area.
View of Montezuma basin from Montezuma Mine
Base of snowfields in Montezuma Basin
Starting up the snowfields
After reaching the top of the first snowfield we tied into a trail which appeared to lead us in the right direction to the Castle's NE ridge.
Heading up to the NE ridge from a kettle lake.
Cresting NE ridge which leads to Castle in background.
As we continued up the NE ridge the fresh snow and ice made things a bit precarious in a couple of places. Given the nature of snow, ice covered rocks, and a bit of exposure, we decided to dawn our crampons. Shortly after heading up the ridge the trail pretty much disappeared in the snow.
As we ascended the NE ridge the wind picked up to 5-10mph, gusting to 15 with a little sleet and snow.
Frosticles! Made the rocks a little slick.
Once reaching Castle Peak summit we enjoyed the cloudy abyss for a few minutes before continuing on to Corunundrum via the connecting ridge.
Jake signing the summit register.
We descended down Castle's NW ridge to the Castle Conundrum saddle (13,790'). As we started the descent the wind began to pick up a little and a slight increase in snow and sleet.
From the saddle we continue up Conundrum's south ridge. Jake crossing Conundrum's southern summit.
On the summit of Conundrum. A fabulous view into the abyss!!
Our descent route included going back to the Castle/ Conundrum saddle, then descended to the Montezuma snowfields, and back to the upper parking area.
Notch between Conundrum's summits.
We strongly considered going down the Conundrum Couloir, but could not see how continous the snow was. With the weather rapidly deteriorating we didn't want to take any unessessary
Top of couloir
Descent route from saddle. We descended several hundred feet before reaching the Montezuma snowfields. As we descended, visibilty began to increase, seeing for the first time where we had started our ascent.
Kettle lake below first snowfield.
Red= ascent route/ Blue = descent route
Shortly after making it back to our vehicle at 1145, it began to snow heavily and the wind picked up it's intensity. The hike was unique in that we navigated primarily off of compass, map, gps, and gut instinct. Visibilty was so poor, we could seldom go off of land marks. The only confirmation we had of being in the right place was the two summit registers of Castle and Conundrum. Even though visibilty was poor, it was quite an enjoyable and mystic hike.
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