Peak(s):  Castle Peak  -  14,265 feet
Conundrum Peak  -  14,060 feet
Date Posted:  07/15/2006
Modified:  07/16/2006
Date Climbed:   07/14/2006
Author:  mspalding
 Castle & Conundrum Snow & North East Routes  

A wonderful climb. The snow adds a new dimension to the fun. But first you have to get there.

The roundabout in Aspen makes it easier to get onto Castle Creek rd. The dirt road part is a bit challenging. First the trailhead parking area at the beginning has been converted to a camping area. In fact there are 7 or 8 camping areas spaced along the road. A passenger car with good clearance and a careful driver might make it up about a mile. With a Rav4 we made it to the Pearl Pass Junction. The first stream crossing isn't too bad - pick the inside corner when entering and leaving. The good news is that the much feared stream crossing right before Pearl Pass Junction is no more. Somebody built a bridge over it:

There is parking for 3 vehicles and room for 3 tents at the junction. You may find it hard to sleep with the roaring waterfall nearby (the full moon shining through my tent didn't help either).

Despite bedding down at 11:30p the night before, we left at 5:45a. We made it to the end of the road by 7:30. There is a steep snow climb (as shown in the route entry) at the end of the road. It's fun and much easier when someone has already kicked footholds. We then stayed along the right side of the bowl on the next level and headed upslope when we were under the right edge of the saddle. Kicking our own footholds took a lot longer. The snow didn't extend all the way up but the moist soil made the dirt and rock bit reasonable. Here's a picture of the climb up the bowl snow.

We did Conundrum first so we cound circle round down the North East ridge after summitting Castle. The top is an easy walk along a stable, 3 foot wide ridge. We made the top at 9:25a.

Its a long climb up to Castle from the saddle, The rock is bad but the trail is fairly easy to follow. We summitted at 10:50. It was surprising how long a 2.7mile, 3100 foot gain climb took. Especially when the first 1800 feet were along a road. Enjoy the Maroon Bells, Snowmass and Capitol from the top.

We took the North East ridge back. This isn't as fast as it looks. There is lots of bad rock and a couple of near class 3 scramble points. I've never tried more than class 2 before but I found that if you just focus and take your time, you'll do well. After you finish the ridge part of this route you get to slide walk down the loose talus (almost scree). The best part starts in the 3 sequential snowfields at the bottom of this. The snow is all mini moguls and at glissading speed it's a fun slide!!

Even with the glissading we didn‘t make it back to Pearl Pass Junction until 2p.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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