Peak(s):  Castle Peak  -  14,265 feet
Conundrum Peak  -  14,060 feet
Date Posted:  06/05/2007
Date Climbed:   06/02/2007
Author:  maverick_manley

 Conundrum Couloir and Castle NW Ridge  

Mountains: Castle Peak (14,265') and Conundrum Peak. (14,067')
Route: Started on FR102 at 10,700', climbed Conundrum Couloir up to summit. Traversed Castle Peak's NW Ridge to summit
Elevation Gain - 3900' (approx)
Roundtrip Mileage - 8 miles (approx)
Time – 10 hours

Joe (Doumall), Debbie and I left Boulder on Friday evening intending to climb some more beautiful mountains. Castle and Conundrum were to be my first sample of the Elks. We reached the Castle Creek TH pretty late, and drove up to 10,700' on the Forest Road. We slept in the truck for a couple hours and were up at 4AM. We packed crampons, axe and snowshoes. Joe left to catch up with some skiers (he should be posting a separate report pretty soon). Debbie and I set out under headlamps at 4:15AM. The trail has patches of knee deep snow but it stayed solid through most of the day and we never needed to don snowshoes. There is plenty of snow at the first slope leading up to the upper basin at 12,700' (photo #3 on the Castle NW Ridge route description).

The snow was still frozen and we managed to climb up to the upper basin without needing to use snowshoes. Once in the upper basin we stopped for a while to eat, drink and decide what route to take.

Conundrum couloir ( heading straight up to Conundrum's summit looked pretty inviting and we decided to climb it and then ridge run over to Castle. It was a nice basic snow climb not exceeding 46-47 degrees. The snow was pretty solid and the climb was very comfortable. Fetch an axe, crampons and a helmet. This is the most fun way to climb these babies.

Here's a picture of castle from half way up Conundrum couloir.

We summitted at 9:30AM. It was a beautiful day. Here's a view of the rest of the elks…

And Joe gets his first turns of the day…

We started out towards castle at 10:15AM. Here's a view of Conundrum from the ridge with Cathedral in the background.

The ridge to castle has patchy snow but is pretty straightforward. We found another climber climbing the snow slope up to the saddle during our ridge traverse. This made for a great glissade later in the day.

The summit ridge has a lot of loose rock on it and we found it a lot easier to stay on snow whenever we could.

We summitted Castle at 11:30AM. Clouds started building overhead and we decided to descend quickly. Here's a look at the ridge

The snow was perfect for a glissade down to the basin and beyond all the way down to 12,700'

Here's another shot of the section leading up to the upper basin.

The hike back to the truck did not take too long. The snow was not too slushy and apart from the occasional posthole things went smoothly. We were back at the truck by 2:30PM after another great day of climbing. A great warm-up run for Columbia the next day. Joe will be posting more details for skiers pretty soon. Hope you guys are having fun in Hawaii.


 Comments or Questions

02/05/2011 00:22
Nice Pics! I love the Elks... That couloir on Conundrum looks very fun!


11/30/2010 17:28
It's pretty awesome... you'll have to watch out for that cornice at the top though. Doumall posted a sweet pic of it.


The road
06/06/2007 16:40
How far were you guys able to drive up the Castle Creek road? Great job on the climbs.


sweet trip
06/06/2007 16:50
prakash, nice pictures and report as always. Look forward to climbing with you again in a couple weeks.


Thanks for the comments Bill / Sam...
06/06/2007 16:55
we got up to 10,700 on the road. There are sporadic snow banks on the road after that point that are 2-3 feet deep.


Welcome to the Elks!
06/06/2007 19:26
The Conundrum Couloir is an impressive first climb there! Congrats!


06/06/2007 19:29
and nice TR.


11/30/2010 17:28
SarahT... the couloir was a lot of fun. It's in great condition right now.

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