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 Peak(s):  Conundrum Peak  -  14,060 feet
Castle Peak  -  14,265 feet
 Post Date:  05/30/2009
 Date Climbed:   05/30/2009
 Posted By:  stonebaez

 Avalanche Conundrum   

This failed attempt starts with a departure from work Friday afternoon and camping overnight at the Castle Creek Trailhead. I made it as far as I could on the dirt road, below is the first creek crossing.

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As I had hoped, the weather wore itself out the night before as it rained from when I arrived at 6PM until sometime overnight. By the time I packed up and got out of camp, it was 6:30AM and I started up the 4WD road.

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First of the upcoming spectacular views I had throughout the (mostly) sunny day.

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The road up to the 1st creek crossing was dry, with the creek having about a foot of water to cross by 4WD. After this point, snow patches started showing up with regularity and I believe the farthest anyone could get up the trail by jeep is about 3/4 mile past the 1st creek. Eventually, the road would become completely covered with snow.

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First views of the target come into decent view, weather is staying clear. The road was quite a nuisance for me and was tempted to go back to camp and sleep.

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Once I moved past the rocky road and snow ruled the path, I began enjoying myself much more which resulted in my energy getting a boost and I began thinking maybe I will hit the summit after all.

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The saddle between Castle and Conundrum becomes visible.

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Just when my spirits rise, the mountain god keeps me in line. I become ever more aware of the surroundings and especially the avalanche conditions. I hear a couple smaller avalanches occur to my left but could not find them. I see the aftermaths of a couple more than have happened somewhat recently. Then I make out the slide (to me) looked no more than 1-2 days old and happened to be right in the vicinity of my route.

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Now I don't know too much about avalanches, I have pockets of information to go on. As I approached the top of the 4WD road, I was about 12,600 ft. up when I got really nervous. The road was now completely untraceable other than taking the obvious lines. Slope of snow was probably 30 degrees and as I walked big balls of snow would start rolling down and accumulating in size (bad!).

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I then dug a small trench to check out the snow. The first layer was a couple inches of fresh snow, then maybe 8" of solid hard snow. Beneath this was fluffly fun snow. My limited knowledge tells me all bad things, slab avalanche and I am out!

It was a wonderful day to hike and I had a ball once I got off the road. Being up there by myself, I figured it wasn't the time for me to push myself or the mountain. You guys will still be there!

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Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
 


  • Comments or Questions (4)
skier25


Good Job     2009-05-31 11:14:45
Way to back down when you needed to. An admirable trait. And It‘s still there!


SarahT


You‘re not the only one     2009-06-01 12:01:15
Good call on bailing. I thought I was the only one that found miserable conditions this weekend. We bailed on Pacific‘s North Couloir - conditions sound similar to what you found.


akmpolsen


Nice pics     2009-06-01 14:05:55
The day was not a total loss -- you got some solitude in beautiful surroundings, and you showed solid judgement to boot!


Dr. Worm


Agreed     2009-06-07 23:21:48
I pretty much did the same thing on 6/1. It was snowing hard and the light was very flat. I quit just before the final push to the saddle because I had no depth perception. Anyone reading this...brush up on wet snow conditions/avalanches before you head up there.



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