Peak(s):  Conundrum Peak  -  14,060 feet
Castle Peak  -  14,265 feet
Date Posted:  05/30/2009
Date Climbed:   05/30/2009
Author:  stonebaez

 Avalanche Conundrum  

This failed attempt starts with a departure from work Friday afternoon and camping overnight at the Castle Creek Trailhead. I made it as far as I could on the dirt road, below is the first creek crossing.


As I had hoped, the weather wore itself out the night before as it rained from when I arrived at 6PM until sometime overnight. By the time I packed up and got out of camp, it was 6:30AM and I started up the 4WD road.


First of the upcoming spectacular views I had throughout the (mostly) sunny day.


The road up to the 1st creek crossing was dry, with the creek having about a foot of water to cross by 4WD. After this point, snow patches started showing up with regularity and I believe the farthest anyone could get up the trail by jeep is about 3/4 mile past the 1st creek. Eventually, the road would become completely covered with snow.


First views of the target come into decent view, weather is staying clear. The road was quite a nuisance for me and was tempted to go back to camp and sleep.


Once I moved past the rocky road and snow ruled the path, I began enjoying myself much more which resulted in my energy getting a boost and I began thinking maybe I will hit the summit after all.


The saddle between Castle and Conundrum becomes visible.


Just when my spirits rise, the mountain god keeps me in line. I become ever more aware of the surroundings and especially the avalanche conditions. I hear a couple smaller avalanches occur to my left but could not find them. I see the aftermaths of a couple more than have happened somewhat recently. Then I make out the slide (to me) looked no more than 1-2 days old and happened to be right in the vicinity of my route.


Now I don't know too much about avalanches, I have pockets of information to go on. As I approached the top of the 4WD road, I was about 12,600 ft. up when I got really nervous. The road was now completely untraceable other than taking the obvious lines. Slope of snow was probably 30 degrees and as I walked big balls of snow would start rolling down and accumulating in size (bad!).


I then dug a small trench to check out the snow. The first layer was a couple inches of fresh snow, then maybe 8" of solid hard snow. Beneath this was fluffly fun snow. My limited knowledge tells me all bad things, slab avalanche and I am out!

It was a wonderful day to hike and I had a ball once I got off the road. Being up there by myself, I figured it wasn't the time for me to push myself or the mountain. You guys will still be there!


Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

Good Job
05/31/2009 17:14
Way to back down when you needed to. An admirable trait. And It‘s still there!


You‘re not the only one
06/01/2009 18:01
Good call on bailing. I thought I was the only one that found miserable conditions this weekend. We bailed on Pacific‘s North Couloir - conditions sound similar to what you found.


Nice pics
06/01/2009 20:05
The day was not a total loss -- you got some solitude in beautiful surroundings, and you showed solid judgement to boot!

Dr. Worm

06/08/2009 05:21
I pretty much did the same thing on 6/1. It was snowing hard and the light was very flat. I quit just before the final push to the saddle because I had no depth perception. Anyone reading this...brush up on wet snow conditions/avalanches before you head up there.

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