| Castle and Conundrum Ski
Hours after coming down from Missouri Mountain on Friday, I re-packed and met up with Nick (CAVUfool) and Jay (jmoney), 2 guys that I met on the 14ers.com website, to camp below Montezuma Basin. Early the next morning we completed the climbs first to Conundrum and then to Castle.
I was impressed at how far up the road we could drive, thanks to Nick's truck. We made it to above the switchback at 12,400' before a snowdrift and large boulder blocked the road, so we backed down to the switchback and made camp there for the night. Up at 4:30 the next morning, we started the hike up to Montezuma. We first climbed Conundrum Couloir which still had very firm snow and some ice in spots.
Climbing up to Montezuma Basin:
Conundrum peak taken from Castle:
Nick in Conundrum Couloir with Jay behind:
After topping out of the couloir, a little bit of mixed scrambling put us on the summit.
Trying to ski off of the summit of every 14er that I climb, I looked around at my options for skiing back down to the top of the couloir and quickly realized that the snow from the summit was very scarce. This would be interesting... I decided the best line would be a thin sliver of snow to a right-hand turn which would put me right above the couloir. I skied off the summit and positioned myself above the sliver, skidded down a bit and faced the moment of truth: with both the tips and tails of my skis resting on rocks, a 90-degree jumpturn to straighline to mandatory right-hand turn would get me to safety. Starting my jumpturn, I don't know if my tails hit rock or if I just bounced weird, but something threw me off balance and into the backseat, which caused me to just barely make the right turn in a very awkward way, riding some rocks along the way, but I pulled it out. Whew! Here's the photo sequence that Nick took of this event:
Dropping in from the summit:
Into the top of the sliver of snow:
Getting into position:
Sketchy kick turn:
You're doing it wrong!
Rock skiing is skiing too!
All that was left was an icy skid down Conundrum Couloir and we were back at the bottom.
After skiing down from Conundrum Couloir, went across the basin and started climbing Castle Couloir as heavy clouds rolled in and hid the summit from view. Nick was an animal and set the bootpack through knee-deep snow the whole way up to the ridge. A quick scramble from there and we were on the summit of Castle.
Castle Peak from Conundrum:
Nick setting the bootpack:
Jay climbing the ridge:
Nick almost at the summit:
The clouds parted just enough for a great view and some pictures.
Then the skis went on and we skied right off the summit down the east face for a bit before crossing back over to the top of the North Couloir. The snow in the couloir was starting to get a little heavy but turns were still super creamy and consistent. Skiing back down the basin, we were back at the truck by 10:30AM for the drive back into town.
Skiing right from the summit:
Jay in Castle Couloir:
Skiing down the couloir:
It was great to meet and ski with Jay and Nick. They have plenty more pictures too which I'm sure they'll be posting.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):