I was going to a party Saturday night in Carbondale, so I figured I would bag a 14'er first. I originally planned to hike Pyramid, but I heard that it was pretty snowed in. Also, my friend Terry who had planned to join me decided to climb Little Bear instead to honor Kevin who tragically perished there last week as well as to document a safer route to that summit. I thought I would be soloing, but my buddy Jared decided to man up and come with.
We got a late start and did not hit the trailhead until 8 AM. The trailhead is very easy to find. We were able to cross the creek pretty easily in my truck and there was parking available at 10,900'.
The Creek crossing - Note the nice footbridge
We headed up and quickly reached the Pearl Creek pass road.
Stay right at the Pearl Pass Junction There was very little snow until we reached the basin. You are basically walking the road until you get to the basin. Very gradual and mellow hiking. We strapped on our snowshoes as the sun had been shining brightly and we did not want to posthole. I think we would have been fine with just ski poles, but snowshoes made it easier to hike up the very steep gully.
The lower part of the basin. We hiked up the snow patch in the middle
Looking back on Jared climbing the first steep snowfield
After a very steep snow climb, we reached the upper basin. From here you can very clearly both Castle and Conundrum peaks (only Castle is visible in the following photo). We stayed left on the main trail.
Castle Peak. The trail is to the left and travels along the ridge. The hikeable couloir is just to the left of center We did not see many footprints, and it seemed that most people had chosen to climb the couloir that day. We saw around 10 people total on the hike.
We climbed up the steep scree and found the trail. It lead clearly to the summit ridge. There was some more interesting climbing here, but nothing technical.
Looking back down the Castle Ridge. You can clearly see the trail winding down to the snowfield.
We reached the final summit pitch. The easiest way seemed to be climbing about 1/2 way up and then veering left and up to the summit. The post-holing was quite bad here, and there was a bit of exposure, but nothing too hairy.
The final pitch. We ended up going left and summiting the backside.
We enjoyed the summit by ourselves and then headed down the transition to Conundrum.
Obligatory Summit shot It was a very simple trip over the ridge with a bit of fund climbing as you head up to Conundrum.
The start of the traverse across the ridge to Conundrum. Conundrum is visible in the right edge of the photo.
Some interesting class 2+ climbing We made it from Castle to Conundrum in about 40 minutes and then headed down.
Conundrum Summit shot - Jared (Castle in background) We reached the couloir between Conundrum and Castle and were able to Glissade most of the way down.
This is the ridge between the two peaks. We glissaded down here.
Deep snow! (this is the couloir we glissaded down) It was very steep and slippery and the first time I have felt unsafe glissading, so be careful here.
After a quick snowshoe back down the basin, we reached the road part of the trail. A quick walk down in the hot sun and it was beer:30. Unfortunately, the sidewall of one of my tires was punctured by a rock driving back across the creek. Oh well, $200 is a small price to pay for a bluebird day!
Hoping Ford will sponsor my hiking career...