Peak(s):  "Castleabra"  -  13,803 feet
PT 13,550  -  13,550 feet
PT 13,162 B  -  13,162 feet
Date Posted:  06/20/2012
Date Climbed:   06/17/2012
Author:  Boggy B
Additional Members:   FireOnTheMountain
 Get there fast and take it slo  

Since Abe and I both had commitments Saturday morning, we decided the afternoon could be used for a backpacking approach. Abe floated the Elks as a candidate; my job was to find snow. This wasn't terribly difficult, thanks to a recent report by maverick_manley which included a photo showing a nice line on the north face of "Castleabra". A bit more research identified it as the Sloman Couloir, an aesthetic 1200' direct to the summit. Abe was sold.

The Sloman Couloir on the north face of Castleabra (photo by Abe)

We started up the Conundrum Creek trail at 5 p.m. The Turkish Terror set a brisk pace despite having run Mount Evans a few hours earlier, and I was glad for both the afternoon shade and my inappropriately short shorts.

Hiking along Conundrum Creek

We encountered some water on the trail

BWAHAHaHaha ducks. (photo by Abe)

Inspiring view of Castleabra on the approach

Just over 8 miles in we found a campsite ideally situated for launching our plan the next morning. After setting up the tent, we debated a quick dip in the hot springs but vetoed the idea in favor of sleep.

Then we had the usual conversation:
"What time do we want to get up?"
"Well... assume an hour for the approach, and we want to be at the base by five"
"So three?"
"Let's get up at 4:30"

By 5:15 we were on the move. Immediately we encountered the crux of the day: the oh-so-chilly waters of Conundrum Creek. After exhausting the few options we could see, we started throwing down rocks. This eventually diverted the waters and we crossed on dry land. Some willow-stomping ensued, all according to plan of course, and soon we were in the clear.

Crossing an old slide path beneath the north cirque

Seven hundred feet later and several hours behind prudence we stood at the base of couloir. We 'poned up and pondered over some fruit snacks. It didn't look very steep, and gummy Darth Vader was not impressed. But snow quality more than compensated for the angle; every step yielded that satisfying crunch that says "Who cares what the Sith Lord thinks, anyway. This is fun!"

Base of the couloir

We gleefully front-pointed our way up the shaded lower stretch of the couloir, which after 600 feet twists to the left, over a snowfield anchoring a series of couloirs that run to the summit ridge like an upside-down comb. Here we continued into the upper half of the Sloman Couloir, which is the most direct and prominent of these lines. Though at first we were able to find good cramponing, above 13400' sun exposure and our lateness began to punish us with horribly unconsolidated snow.

Upper half

This is about as steep as it got, maybe 45-ish (photo by Abe)

Abe doing work

View from near the top

These unfortunate conditions provoked some bad snow rage, but we fought our way to the slushy end. A brief retrospective at the top concluded that the line had delivered 1200 feet of continuous snow, and we really could only blame ourselves for the less-than-perfect timing. We scrambled thirty feet or so to the summit of Castle Peak's red-headed stepchild, where Abe's attempt to sign in with the provided pen was met with mixed results, and then we started down the ridge towards UN 13550.

The ridge to UN 13550

UN 13550

The traverse from Castleabra to 13550 is rife with opportunities for fun scrambling, so for the sake of decency we stayed proper most of the time, bypassing only what looked uninteresting or impossible. Although this approach was time-consuming (it took over two hours to complete the traverse), our return on investment was quite good.

It begins

Blocky downclimb (photo by Abe)

Neat gendarme easily bypassed to the west

Looking back towards Castleabra (photo by Abe)

Home stretch (photo by Abe)

Abe gets his money's worth

Rare sticky rock (photo by Abe)

Airy little headwall

Unlike Castleabra, the summit of UN 13550 has pencils in the register--a clear win for common sense--and Abe signed the hell out of the log. We ate some figs (Yes, figs. The Turkish Terror never leaves home without them.) and then started the ridge to UN 13162.

Twin Lakes and Teocalli Mountain from the summit of UN 13550

West of UN 13550, the ridge drops steeply away in rotten ledges from the summit, and we were quickly convinced to bypass that garbage (and probable terminal failure) on the south side. Here an easy dirt and scree traverse brought us to a notch above a deeply inset but regrettably dry couloir, and thereafter we stayed on the ridge crest for the remainder of the descent.


Looking back at 13550

Conundrum Creek basin

At 12800', we traversed across the north side of a 200-foot bump and regained the ridge. From here the ridge settled down and we mostly hiked up to the narrow summit of UN 13162, where we immediately puzzled over how to get down the west side. It's quite steep and loose, and it took us awhile to unlock it.

Last bit of fun en route to UN 13162

(photo by Abe)

Summit ridge looking towards Castle Peak

Descending the west side of UN 13162

We then found ourselves at a prominent notch just west of the summit, where a time check forced us to choose between the next mountain, "Triangle Peak," and a succulent burger at Little Annie's in Aspen. We can only pray that history not judge us too harshly for the decision we made.

Parting shot of UN 13162 (photo by Abe)


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

The Schwartz was with You!
06/21/2012 06:31
Sweet line on Castleabra. Love the humor mixed in. Turkish Terror, it fits. Did Abe walk laterally the whole time like the bear in his avatar? I think that's his secret weaponn...

Thank you for sparing us any pictures of the short shorts, this is a ”family” site after all. What has been seen cannot be unseen.

Any tips on how to slow Abe down? Jedi mind tricks, rocks hidden in his backpack, make him hike in the mashed-potato snow while you take the dry rocks? I'm doing a hike with him on Saturday and any help/advice would be great!

Kevin Baker

Nice traverse
06/21/2012 12:56
Nice work unlocking the mysteries of that traverse to 13550. I really enjoyed it. We did a similar hike, combining a snow climb with the scramble fest. Gotta love those 13er traverses!

Turkish Terror
06/21/2012 14:08
Sounds about right.

Great read, Michael! Looks like a lot of fun!


Climb the Couloir you must
06/21/2012 15:59
Sweet TR man...another fine outing with the Boggster! No mention of the Heavenly Evan though or the hot springs...

Still can't believe what we downclimbed off of 13,162. Probably would have been way easier to go back the way we came up and descend some scree field which you can't see in any of your pics.

-TT (running on figs)


Sweet outing
06/21/2012 16:48
Sounds like an awesome day fellas. I really like 13550.

Boggy B

Thanks all
06/22/2012 02:00
Agree with above comments! This was solid fun, and 13550 is a neat peak!

@ Jed - Send him to ”check out” the worst snow. Act like you really think it might be better over there.

@ Abe - Didn't flow right so I just deleted the last paragraph and then it all came together. Haha


04/02/2015 19:45
is your best friend when the sun isn't. Loved the ”what time do we wake up” exchange.

   Using your forum id/password. Not registered? Click Here

Caution: The information contained in this report may not be accurate and should not be the only resource used in preparation for your climb. Failure to have the necessary experience, physical conditioning, supplies or equipment can result in injury or death. and the author(s) of this report provide no warranties, either express or implied, that the information provided is accurate or reliable. By using the information provided, you agree to indemnify and hold harmless and the report author(s) with respect to any claims and demands against them, including any attorney fees and expenses. Please read the Safety and Disclaimer pages for more information.

© 2020®, 14ers Inc.