Peak(s):  Castle Peak  -  14,265 feet
Date Posted:  07/22/2008
Date Climbed:   07/20/2008
Author:  Chicalorado
 King of the Castle - NE Ridge  

Castle Peak via NE Ridge
Beginning Elevation: 11,200'
Summit Elevation 14,265' (CO Rank: 12)
Elevation Gain: ~3,100'
Distance round trip: 6.5 miles
Date Climbed: 7/20/08
Participants: Chicalorado and Mtnbikir (Andy) and Daisy the Dog

For the first 14er of the summer, we figured we would take on a peak a little more interesting. With the Elks still untouched by three of us, we decided on Castle Peak. Unfortunately, the day before we were to leave for camp Mtn_Climber1 took a small tumble while mountain biking and while not hurt, had to bow out. Andy and I set out from Littleton around 1pm on Saturday the 19th. After quick stops in Idaho Springs for Two Brothers sandwiches and Leadville for ice axes, we arrived at the Pearl Pass/102 Junction around 5:30 and set up camp there.

I do have to give thanks to New Belgium Brewing for introducing Fat Tire cans. Not only are they more environmentally friendly, but they pack much better too. We drove to our camp, but after seeing a ton of broken glass in the area (cleaned it up for Daisy), we were happy to have cans.
Artistic Fat Tire can/rushing river shot

We woke up around 4:30 the next morning, and after preparing for the hike, cooking breakfast, and filtering water, we were on the trail at 6am. Surprisingly, we hit tree line farily early, way below 12,000'. The first half of the hike is along a somewhat rough 4WD road. If you wanted, you could drive all the way to 12,800', although we decided to park where we did so we could get 3,000' vertical. The road becomes impassable due to snow at about 12,500'.
Taken from the 4WD road shortly after treeline. Castle is hidden to the left.

After passing the Montezuma Mine around 12,800;, we hit the first snowfield. The terrain was mostly flat in the beginning and the snow was firm. The route then turned steeper for a stretch and crampons would have been helpful, but not necessary. My trekking poles certainly made is easier to ascend, but two other climbers we met at the Mine made it up without them. We hiked directly to the talus peninsula in the picture:
The route at the first snow climb.
The view down the first snow climb from the talus peninsula.

The snow continued up a steeper pitch along Bill's Route #1, while an interesting class 3 scramble was available to the left. Both routes led to the same ridge to ride all the way to the summit. From this intersection, my partner Andy and I "switched" partners with the two climbers we met (Evan and ??sorry). Evan and I elected for the scramble to the left (the green route on the following map) while Andy and the other climber ascended up the snow (Route #1).
The route from our camp. I took the green detour.
The view up the scramble. I climbed along the right side as the scrambling was much more satisfying than than the loose talus.
The view down from part of the scramble. Evan can be seen in the center.

It was my first time doing extended Class 3 with any type of exposure, and I felt very comfortable. I trusted my abilities and handled the exposure well. I actually started going out of my way to find more challenging lines. After the terrain leveled out and we rejoined the trail, Castle Peak, which had previously been hidden the entirety of the hike, became visable. We also soon saw the pond below Conundrum (14,060').
First glimpse of Castle.
Conundrum and the pond below. The glissade path is visible at the saddle.

The remaining route was a difficult Class 2 to a Class 3, depending on the route you took over the ridge. There were three major scrambles to ascend before the final pitch.
Daisy in front of major scramble #1.
At the base of major scramble #3. Major scramble #3 was the hardest, as the middle was made up of loose scree and dirt. I found the best way was to grab handholds along the right side.
Daisy the Dog on top of major scramble #3.

Andy turned back around major scramble #3 and I had steamed ahead of the other two climbers. Andy then headed to the Conundrum pond to wait for my glissade. After descending a small bit after scramble #3, the final pitch emerged. Daisy and I pressed on.
Final pitch.

I reached the summit with Daisy at 10am. I was the first person to summit Castle that day (at least according to the register) and had the summit to myself for around 20 minutes. I have never had a mountain summit all to myself before, and it was a very peaceful feeling. I was great just to sit down and soak it all in.
Looking back from the summit at the ridge and the trail.

Obligatory summit shot (with Fat Tire of course). King of the Castle.
Maroon Bells from the summit.

After meeting a few people on the summit, Daisy and I started our descent down into the Castle/Conumdrum Couloir around 10:45am. The terrain down to the saddle was steep and loose talus, and took some time to carefully navigate. I was really looking forward to the glissade coming up.
View of Conundrum from nearing the snowfield.
View from top of first glissade.

I had never glissaded for a significant distance before, and had never used an ice axe. Since there was no danger of cliffs, I decided to take it slow the first time and learn the ropes. I sat down at the top of the luge with ice axe in hand and pushed myself down the slide. I can't say it went perfectly, but I figured it out well before crashing into the frozen pond below.
At the pond's edge.

On the other side of the pond, I met back up with Andy, and we proceeded down three more glissades. Halfway through the first glissade, I had it down to a science.
Andy walking to the final glissade with ice axe in hand.

Shortly after the fourth and final glissade, the snow ran out and we were back at the mine. The rest of the hike down the 4WD road was relatively easy and uneventful. We reached camp at 1:30pm.

Castle was a great experience for me as I was introduced to my first major Class 3 climbing, as well as decent exposure. The rock is very loose on Castle, be careful. It was also my first time on top of a mountain summit by myself. The weather was nearly perfect and the scenery was spectacular. I'm looking forward to the next trip to the Elks.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

Thanks for posting...
02/05/2011 00:22
Great Trip Report. Congrats on your first Class 3 + glissade climb. I‘m doing this one with Conundrum on Saturday with my pops and his friend (no experience for either) for my 14er finisher. It sounds like you were pretty confident...hopefully I can get them up there too. Did your friend turn around because the climbing was too hard? Or was he just tired? Do you have any idea what the angle of the slope is of the first glissade?


Re: Thanks for posting...
07/22/2008 15:10

My friend turned around at about the third major scramble before the final pitch because he grabbed a handhold and a rock about the size of a TV came loose and almost took him out. He got a little freaked so he stopped to collect himself. His GPS read 14k‘ on the dot, so he said good enough and went down. It is possible to keep it Class 2+ and stay on the loose talus. I found it was much easier and less frustrating (and much more fun) to go the Class 3 route however. As far as the angle, I have no idea, it was definitely the steepest right at the beginning. The snow was pretty soft by the time I got to it and the ice ax worked wonders. Have fun and good luck! I hope you get to finish this weekend.


Thanks for Posting
11/30/2010 17:28
Not too hard and not too tired. I went up to the third scramble a bit later and actually spent about 40 min up there next to one of those cool drops off to the left. The loose rock taking that round about for the dawg on the first one just about had me flying downward to a yellow helicopter landing. Wanted to make sure the dawg was ok from a bit lower down and ended up climbing all over the basin just below.. in the snow. I'll post the u tube of the glissade fyi


Glad you had a good trip!!!
01/19/2011 03:38
I like the detour you took.
Your pics seem strangely familiar... Maybe I‘ve been there before.
Oh yeah, I puked just below the ”talus peninsula.” Great metaphor.
It looks like the glissade opportunities are melting away quickly, though.


07/23/2008 00:20

Since you hung out so long 100 feet up, I had slid down to the fish bowl and climbed up the boulders to get this shot from the lake. A keeper.


07/27/2008 18:46
I love the video! The dog Daisy Dog running behind Chicalorado is awesome!!!!

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