Peak(s):  Castle Peak  -  14,265 feet
Conundrum Peak  -  14,060 feet
Cathedral Pk A  -  13,943 feet
Date Posted:  08/28/2008
Date Climbed:   08/25/2008
Author:  warg
 Castle & Conundrum with a twist  

It seems that there have been plenty of good reports lately on Castle Peak. I wouldn't see a need for another one - except this one has a bit of a twist on the end that should make it enjoyable enough for reading. So, enjoy!

My sister (Jenni) and I started the hike on Monday the 25th of August at 7:20am. We took the Castle Creek TH road up to 11,200 feet and parked there. It was tempting to keep on going up to the 12,800 foot elevation but we refrained from not gaining the 3000' of elevation before summiting Castle.

It was a beautiful day - the weather report was saying a 30% chance of rain after noon. This picture is the still the road that we hiked up.

A quick peek at the saddle between Castle and Conundrum reveals that a short scramble on the dirt would be necessary to get a glissade in. As it turns out - the glissade was not necessary this time around.

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We summitted Castle around 10:20am, making it a very slow and easy ascent. After some snacks and a few pictures (including the required "jump shot" and the obligatory shot with the rest of the Elks in the background) I was ready to press on to Conundrum while Jenni and our new friend Dick (cool story - getting ready to finish up his quest for a marathon in every state!) were going to head back down the NE ridge.

But it was such a nice day.... And looking across Conundrum, Cathedral Peak was so alluring... (even with the thumb included in the picture) As I have been working on the top 100, it seemed like such a waste to not grab Cathedral on this same trip. So we agreed that Jenni would drive the Jeep around to the Cathedral TH and pick me up there after I took the ridge across to Cathedral and descended to meet her.

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So here's where it gets fun. 17 minutes later I was on top of Conundrum, taking pictures of Jenni and Dick descending the NE ridge while they took pictures of me on Conundrum. (I really am standing on that summit!)

The 2 miles across to Cathedral took a bit longer. The climb became class 2 as I neared Cathedral, but the VAST majority was easily class 3, with plenty of opportunities at class 4 climbing to patch the whole thing together. The weather held nicely, so I had no complaints.

At some point on the traverse I had a glimpse of Castle, so I grabbed a shot of that and then turned to see the route ahead to Cathedral.

Three hours after leaving Conundrum I was on the summit of Cathedral. (Not many stops and moving as quickly as prudent.) It was a great feeling to summit Cathedral. That makes 49 14ers and 67 of the top 100.

Right about now it became apparent that I was indeed going to get rained on. It was a tough decision as to which route was going to get me off the summit (and off a ridge) as quickly as possible. Then when the rain actually started falling I made the quick decision to head north, then drop down in the first gully I came to. With the rain coming down, the loose rock in the steep gully immediately jumped from a class 3 to class 4 in my mind. When the lightning started hitting I decided that it had been a good decision to get off the ridge as quickly as possible. (Later I found that the pass north of me, "Electric Pass," was so named due to the iron ore that attacks lightning. Nice.) The steep gully soon became a less steep gully, and with the rain pounding down I was able to "glissade" backwards on my hands and feet down the wet, loose rocks in the gully. It would have made quite the video. All I got was a picture of my muddy shoes and gloves after the slide was over.

The gully just to the left of the upside down triangle of snow is where I made my escape. I was about 30 feet from the edge of the rock field when the wet rocks finally caught up with me and I slipped, taking a hard landing on my hands. Nothing broken, though.

The last few miles to the TH seemed to go by quickly, as I tried to make up as much time as possible. If I remember right it was about 2 hours to get from Cathedral Peak to the trailhead. The ten mile trip made for a delightful day, and a great tour of Castle, Conundrum and Cathedral peaks!

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(The GPS log became corrupted in the last couple of miles...)

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

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