Peaks: Castle and Conundrum
Total Elevation: 3400ft
Crew: Murray, Wes (weschun) and Randy (randalmartin)
Castle Summit: 7:50am
Conundrum Summit: 8:50am (30 minute traverse after break on Castle Summit)
End: 11:25am (Took our time heading down)
Murray and I had been eagerly anticipating our introduction to the Elks and Castle/Conundrum is always a solid choice for that purpose. Thankfully Wes was interested in coming along and provided a Land Rover Discovery to get us to the 4WD TH around 11,200ft. With my Mini Cooper I don't often have the opportunity to travel to a 4WD TH which can make a number of 14er trips loooong. We drove over to Aspen Friday afternoon from Denver and got to our campsite around 11,200ft at 8pm.
Sleep is never that good at 11k ft for me but I managed a few hours before getting up at 4am. Nothing a steaming hot cup of Starbucks Via doesn't cure.
It was nearly a full moon but we put on headlamps for the first half hour as we got started at 4:55am. We were at the end of the road around 6am and ready to start in on the snow. The snow was very firm. Microspikes are so awesome and provided excellent traction.
I captured this photo of Murray in Alpenglow as he charged up the snow.
Climbing up the snow to Montezuma Basin
Once past the snow we worked up the steep trail to the ridge which provides some really fun scrambling. The next three pictures show typical terrain along the ridge that leads to the Castle Summit.
Here is Conundrum Coulier looking from the ridge leading to Castle.
Conundrum Coulier Beta
Also from the ridge on Castle I took this picture below to provide some decent Beta on the saddle between C&C and what's involved in getting to the initial Glissade. In short the hike down from the saddle to the start of the snow was really not bad and totally worth the significant time savings vs an exit back over Castle.
C&C Saddle Glissade Beta
On the summit of Castle Peak and feeling great.
On the Summit of Castle Peak, Wes, Murray and me (Randy)
The view of the Elks from Castle is spectaculer. Will be heading to these peaks in a few weeks.
The Elks from the Castle summit
The traverse over to Conundrum is quick. Some loose rock on the initial descent off Castle but nothing serious. Murray was over to Conundrum in 23 minutes, 30 minutes for me and a little longer for Wes. I dropped my pack at the saddle near the entry to the Glissade and enjoyed the fun scrambling up the final section to Conundrum.
Here is a picture looking back at Castle Peak from Conundrum
Castle Peak from Conundrum
And another picture from Conundrum looking down at much of the lower route
View of the lower route from Conundrum
Through a combination of hiking and some intentional sliding we made our way from the C&C saddle down to the snow for the start of the upper Glissade.
Here is a picture of me getting into position with my Ice Axe hidden in my right hand. The snow was softer thanks to the morning sun and made the Glissade fun and safe
Starting the glissade
A little further down you get to glissade # 2. Here is Murray coming down
Glissade on the lower section
The rest of the hike was uneventful and we enjoyed some photo ops along the way
Always time for flower pictures
After getting back to camp we enjoyed a nice cool off in the stream. Always love this
Ahhhh....nothing like a little post hike relief
Murray took it one step further when I told him I would give him $5 if he dunked his head in the stream. Easy Money
Not sure if this is relief or just crazy
Breakin down camp and heading home.
Breakin down camp....Thanks Wes for the Land Rover!
I highly recommend C&C for a little fun scrambling along the ridge and spectaculer Elks views. Hopefully for your trip you can make it to the upper 4WD TH. 13-14 mile RT would not have been fun on that road. As far as road Beta the stream crossing is no problem. The biggest issues are clearance at a few spots along the last 2 miles to the upper TH.