Peak(s):  Castle Peak  -  14,274 feet
Conundrum Peak  -  14,037 feet
Date Posted:  09/20/2011
Modified:  09/21/2011
Date Climbed:   09/18/2011
Author:  bergsteigen
Additional Members:   scramble, SnowAlien, surfcolorado, tundratif, Jump Roper, LynnKH, kara, lovskiing, Birdie, moon stalker
 Queens of the Castle II - Gurlz Hike   

Castle & Conundrum

Route: NE Ridge with saddle descent
Mileage: 7.54
Elevation Gain: 3,539'
Co-Leader Queen: moon stalker
Snow Queens: Birdie, lovskiing, anna, kara, LynnKH, nkan02, scramble, ca-2-mo, tundratif, surfcolorado, Nancy & Lindsey

Wow, where to begin? With September brings less monsoon action, but snow? That's something I didn't plan on. So we had to bow to the weather gods and change our plans. Sunday would be sunny and warm with little wind. We would have the best chance to be successful, even with snow. With the change, we lost a few gals, but we also gained a few more. So goes mountaineering.

So now with plans set, scarves made, pink shiny bling attained, we all head to the Aspen area for what I hope will be a successful outing. We straggle into the camp area that moon stalker found, as someone else had taken the spot I wanted. But this one turned out better. Bigger flat area and all the gals could drive to this campsite. I put out the Gurlz hike sign to make sure everyone could find us, even those late arrivals. Matt Lemke and his partner were excited to pass by the sign, and their verbal surprise was matched with "No boys allowed!"

In the morning we carpooled up to the upper 4WD road before the switchbacks. Here I passed out the tiaras and the scarves I made for breast cancer awareness and in support of WifeOfBill & Bill Middlebrook's fight with the disease. I even passed out a couple more scarves to other ladies we met on the trail.

The hike started out smoothly at a relaxed pace, we would have all day with the gorgeous weather. The snow that fell the night before left a frosty winter wonderland to walk through

Queens starting the hike

The lovely waterfall - Photo Credit: anna

Frosty wonderland

Frosty view of W Pearl - Photo Credit: anna

Hiking up the road

At the upper 4WD trailhead, we geared up for the snow travel to follow. Gortex pants, gaiters and for some yak tracks or micro spikes.

Gearing up for snow travel

Malamute Peak

Above on the snowfield it was time to instruct and practice with the ice ax. We had a number of gals who had never used one before. So I showed the techniques I was taught in my ski mountaineering class at UAF, and then had the gals practice. Moon stalker showed her more exciting method of glissading with the pros and cons on the table. Once class room time was over, we made our way up the first snow slope. Climbing the snow was much easier than trying to navigate on the snowy loose talus.

Me instructing on ice ax arrest - Photo Credit: ca-to-mo

Ice ax arrest & glissade practice

scramble loves glissading!

Climbing the first snow slope

View from the top of the slope - Photo Credit: nkan02

LynnKH looking pinky - Photo Credit: nkan02

First view of the Castle

Once above the first snow wall, we got our first glorious view of the Castle. It looked amazing draped in it's fresh veils of white snow.

Here we split a little into sections, as to not bunch up on the slope above. But as we had 4 radios interspersed, we kept in constant communication. Moon stalker took caboose, I bounced around in the center keeping an eye on everyone, and LynKH, nkan02 and kara took lead up the slope.

The mighty castle, draped in winter white

Ascending the snowy fortress walls

View down "The Moat"

ca-to-mo loves the view!

The initial section up the ridge was rather easy, and many saw the value of the foot traction aids. But past The Moat, the ridge became rather icy spicy. The snow complicated the route finding and made what should have been a class 2+ ridge into a class 3 mountaineering route. With our experienced gals interspersed in the group, we all helped the newer, less experienced gals up the ridge. The team work displayed during this section was amazing and is the reason we had a 100% summit rate. We all took our time and made sure all our footing and hand holds were stable as we made our way over exposed sections of the route.

Snowy ledges

Route finding becomes interesting...

The ridge so far

Anna making her way up a class 3-ish pitch

Tundratif using her ax

Smiles abound with the beautiful views!

Getting closer....

Snow making things spicy...

Smiles, and more smiles - Photo Credit: ca-to-mo

Some great views to be had along the way up the ridge! Plenty of Ooooos and Ahhhh's and other exclamations to be heard!

A couple of Pearl Mountains

Conundrum Couloir looking a bit thin and icy - Photo Credit: nkan02

Snowmass Mountain - Photo Credit: nkan02

Capitol - Photo Credit: nkan02

One last obstacle to be faced before the summit... not as bad as I thought it would be!

The first Queens arriving to the throne summit

Working through the last obstacle

The Queens of the Castle have arrived!!!!

Anna summitting - Photo Credit: nkan02

Me summitting in "Mountain Ninja Princess Pink edition" style - Photo credit: Anna

Tropical Queen has arrived!

With moon stalker, all Queens are in attendance! 100% summitters on this day

We had tons of fun on the summit, while we could! We had 2 14er finishers, most ranging between 20-50 14ers, and we had one that Castle was their first! Absolutely amazing!

The National Champion Jump Roping Queen showing off her stuff! First 14er too!!! - Photo Credit: anna

Queen dancing with ax - Photo credit: ca-to-mo

Regal lounging - Photo credit: ca-to-mo (her camera)

Summit fun - Photo credit: ca-to-mo

Beware the pink.... it's overwhelming!!!!!

Presenting: Your Queens of the Castle!

All the Queens of the Castle in their Pink finest

Gurlz Rule!!!!

As some clouds were building, we could only stay so long. There was another summit that needed our royal presence! Onward to Conundrum!

Queens descending the Castle

On the way to Conundrum - Photo Credit: anna

Yes I hiked all day in a Tiara... oh my! - Photo Credit: anna

Up Conundrum we go!

Vogue, strike a pose

We reached the summit of Conundrum quickly and had some newly appointed royal paiges take our photos. A couple of guys won the gurlz hike lottery

The Queens on Conundrum

Two gurlz rocking the tiaras and ice axes! - Photo Credit: ca-to-mo

Wow, that is one interesting view of the route. Good eye! - Photo Credit: anna

The royal train on the ridge, paiges in tow

Maroon Bells and Pyramid

"Castleabra" - looking stellar!

With all the ascending done, it was time for the fun stuff, glissading!!! Though the saddle snow had melted out and made for a tricky scree descent, it was worth it to drop elevation in such a quick, efficient and fun way! And note, all the ladies used my "safer" glissading technique of always being in arrest form. Thank You!

Descending the loose scree for the fun part, glissading!

Gurlz having fun

Queens glissading - Photo Credit: nkan02

Queuing up to glissade

Final tiara glissade...

Jump rope champion to glissasing!

The Queens' butt paths...

Hiking out, down the road - Photo Credit: anna

The Pearls

We had a great, awesome, incredible day! Thank you everyone for making it such a safe and enjoyable trip!

Breast Cancer Awareness - I don't think there is a single person that is not effected by this disease or by cancer as a whole. My whole family has had some form of cancer, but me. Some have fought and won, others have bravely fought till they couldn't. So this hike is for you WifeOfBill and Bill Middlebrook, may you win your fight!

More Photos
My photos
anna's photos
nkan02's photos
ca-to-mo's photos

My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30

Comments or Questions
Doctor No
Nice work!
09/20/2011 23:30
And for a good cause, too!

Castle/Conundrum moved up near the top of my ”favorite 14er” list when I did them last month - it's so pretty up there.

Nice to see that first snowfield filled in - I struggled my ass up that.

09/20/2011 23:34
Everything about this day: the cause, ladies, teamwork, and spirits seems to be perfect! Totally bummed that I did not work harder to make it work to join the queens, should I even be allowed such privilege. Congrats! Nicely done!

Great Work...Amazing Views
09/20/2011 23:38
Awesome job ladies! The pictures and report...amazing. I've only reached the summit of Castle in the Elk Range but seeing these pics makes me want to get out there next summer to top a few more summits!

09/21/2011 00:01
Congrats to the whole group! Fantastic pictures, it sure looks like everyone had a lot of fun on a beautiful hike.

Way 2 Go!
09/21/2011 00:40
You girls did an amazing job! Your pictures are incredible and the hike looked way more intense than I was anticipating. I can't believe that there was such a good turn out considering the change of weather. Im totally bummed out I could not make it this year. I think this Gurlz Hike thing is such a fun and great idea. Keep 'em coming for sure. Girl Power Rocks!

Great report and a great tribute
09/21/2011 00:41
Solid work ladies. Thanks for the write up, Otina. Looks like you all had a great day

09/21/2011 00:55
Excellent report and great photos, looks like you guys had a great day up there! Also that is a very thoughtful way to end, much support from the community to you, WifeOfBill! (and Bill too!)

Super job!
09/21/2011 00:57
Super job, ladies! And great support for Lisa! What a fantastic outing for you all! Some truly amazing shots as well! Thanks for sharing it!

09/21/2011 02:22
The story and pictures tell tell it's all . Congratulation to ALL Ladies !!! My heart ache every times when anyone mention a letter C . Thank You for the cause , love , support to this community. My Mother in law which i never met was died from B/C when my Hubby was 19 tough tough ..but she watching us every time we climb .


Well done!
09/21/2011 02:55
Love the TR and bling! Looks like you guys had a great day.
Congrats everyone!

I wanna be a girlz!
09/21/2011 02:59
I've climbed many peaks, often in tough conditions, but...I covet a summit with a tu-tu & tiara!! Don't tell my wife !!

Great report, greater cause. My mom died of breast cancer, good effort for the breast cancer cause.

09/21/2011 03:09
What a superb trip report. Nice to see so much pink in the hills! Happy you all had such a great time. That said, unlike Tom, I don't want. to summit with a tiara..... Nice guys.....uh.....gals rock.

Yay, Anna!
09/21/2011 03:11

moon stalker
I wore the tiara all the way back to the truck!
09/21/2011 04:18
It stayed on even when glissading, and yes, even though I use the faster, arguably less safe method to glissade. That lower slope was great.
The bling was great, the scarves were awesome, and the gals were wonderful! Eveyrone did a great job, it really did turn out to be a great day after the worriesome weather on Saturday.
Glad to have met everyone, hope to see many of you in the future on hikes/climbs.
Great report Otina!
And Tom, as was stated at the camp site on Sat night to some potential crashers, no boys allowed. We understand the jealousy.

Great Job!!
09/21/2011 11:52
That looked like a wonderful trip and you are right, we are all affected in some way by breast cancer or some other form of cancer. What a way to bring adventure, courage and determination to the cause!! Great photos and yes, the pink was a bit overwhelming to the eyeballs, but thats OK, it was worth seeing.

09/21/2011 14:38
Bummed that I missed this one - looks like you gurlz had a fabulous time ! Very impressed with your support of breast cancer and extremely impressed with everyone for making the summit in less than ideal conditions. Already looking forward to the next gurlz event !

One of my favorite trips ever!
09/21/2011 14:42
The spirit and teamwork of the trip combined with a fabulous snow route made this one just amazing. I still can't believe every one of us summited despite a wide range in abilities and tough conditions. Thanks everyone for a fun day and to Otina for planning the trip (I know it wasnt easy!) Hope to see you gurlz on the hills soon!

The Queens' Butt Paths ...
09/21/2011 16:20
Love it! That was so nice of you, Otina, to supply the pink scarves and tiaras (and technique instruction and encouragement). And, I noticed that you were practicing your ”queen wave” on the summit. Great group photos and individual ones too. Thanks for posting. Happy trails!

You go girls!
09/21/2011 16:50
A great trip report and an amazing, fun group. Wish I could have been there for the summit pose.

Thank you everyone!
09/21/2011 21:09
This year's trip was particularly stressful to plan and undertake, then weather made things worse. BUT everything went smoothly (minus some rocks on the glissade ) and was more spectacular than I could imagine!

KatieFinn - We would be lucky to be graced by your presence!

My-Therapy - I'm glad you convinced your wife to go. Time to get her an ice ax for her birthday or X-mas!

TomPierce - I'm sure there could be an opportunity for such a costume... maybe a Halloween hike?

Kelly - Since I loaned out both my axes, I had to use your technique, minus the actual arresting part, it was fast! The gals can use your method next time, when I'm not stressing out about them and rocks and not stopping...

Presto - We also used the queenly wave with everyone that passed by on the trail, even a jeep with a father and daughter pair driving up. She loved it!

The C-word - I was so excited to hear at camp on Sat that WifeOfBill was done with her treatments. Waiting always seems to be the hardest part. Every year it seems like waiting for my Mom's CT results is painfully slow. That is when she shares the results, and doesn't hide them. It was nice to be able to ”do” something other than wait, even if it was just scarves and positive thoughts.

Ridge runner
great teamwork!
09/28/2011 16:56
Great job to everyone for making it to the summits and representing a good cause! Everyone looks like they had a great time. The Elks sure are beautiful when they have a fresh layer of snow on them. Hopefully I can make it next time. Congrats to all!

Nice work ladies!
09/29/2011 00:55
Glad to at least be there vicariously with you all. Sorry to miss the hike in person. Looks like an awesome time. Hope to join up next year!

11/13/2011 02:59
And the group shot is great. Looks like the gurlz hike was a blast.

12/14/2011 20:16
This is the most epic report I've seen in a long time on this site. Great job!

My eyes hurt!
12/16/2011 03:02
From all that pink in the group shot! But, what a super summit pic.

Looks like you gals had a great day and lots-o-fun. And for a great cause. Cancer sucks! (My aunt recently died from it.)

Thanks for sharing Otina. You and moon stalkers leadership is awesome.

Jump Roper
Darn Picasso
07/17/2012 13:23

Awesome trip
04/02/2015 19:45
and trip report. Otina, a very nice write-up! This was just so much fun! I cannot wait for the next Gurlz hiking event already...

p.s. Oh, and I now I know what Castleabra looks like.

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