Peak(s):  Castle Peak  -  14,265 feet
Conundrum Peak  -  14,060 feet
Date Posted:  07/13/2009
Modified:  08/07/2015
Date Climbed:   07/11/2009
Author:  Urban Snowshoer
 Castle Peak and Conundrum via Conundrum Hot Springs   

Caution: this approach is entirely off trail and should only be attempted by those with solid route-finding and navigation skills.

Technical Rating
: Class 2-3, depending on the exact route.

Google Earth image of route


Once you leave the Conundrum Creek Trail, you're on your own to navigate your way through scree, talus, and around the cliff bands to get to Castle and Conundrum.

Crossing the stream not far from the upper campsites above Conundrum Hot Springs , I started on the lower talus fields and proceeded to contour around making my way to the basin where the real fun began.

I had underestimated the amount of snow remaining and in my infinite wisdom had not thought to bring an ice axe or crampons, unlike my partner John. The snow was very much frozen in the morning, and ascending with just poles and kicking steps was rather interesting. Fortunately for me I was on the lower snowfields which were relatively low angled and was able to avoid the higher angled counterparts.

I went higher up the basin. The remainder of the route was both nastier and better than it appeared. It was far easier to get around the cliff bands than it looked from a distance. When someone talks about things changing on a dime, it works for rockfall. I was fortunate to have no one below me, consider how easily the rocks slid. I even managed to set a few rocks off from above.

I went high enough and eventually reached the summit ridge between Castle Peak and Conundrum Peak. Being a bit tired and not focusing and went to Conundrum, I realized it was Conundrum when I saw a higher, adjacent peak with more people on it. I signed in, took a few pictures, and rushed off got up to Castle's Summit in under half and hour. I relaxed for a bit, enjoyed the view of the surrounding peaks, and it would soon enough dawn on me that I had to come down what I just came up.

Somehow I got down, how I'm not sure because it seemed harder to go down than go up. I glissaded on some of the lower snowfields which had softened up enough so I could stop myself with just my feet. This was a welcome relief from the rocks. I headed straigten down the drainage and eventually went to low to really traverse back. I ended up crossing the creek, which was deeper than it looked, and bushwhacking through willows to get to the trail that leads to back to Conundrum Hot Springs and the camp sites. Fortunately for me I was on a actual trail and didn't have far to go by.

Final Notes
On some of the lower scree and talus fields closer to the hot springs there are a few intermittent cairns but they dry up quickly and are too few to be of much use. From the basin you climb up talus and scree and have to avoid some cliff bands and if you slog it out enough get to the summit ridge. The summit ridge between Castle Peak and Conundrum Peak contains a well established trail that runs from Montezuma Basin, to Castle, and all the way over to Conundrum.

This route is almost entirely above treeline and your're basically out in the open if you get caught in a thunderstorm, so start early.

As far as time and difficulty are concerned, I'm a strong hiker and generally hike at an intense pace. It took me around five hours to summit Conundrum, well under an hour to hit Castle afterward, and nearly eight hours cumulatively to complete this trip. Those who don't hike at as intense a pace, or aren't as fit could be looking at 10-12 hours to do this trip.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 2 3 4 5

Comments or Questions

   Not registered?

Caution: The information contained in this report may not be accurate and should not be the only resource used in preparation for your climb. Failure to have the necessary experience, physical conditioning, supplies or equipment can result in injury or death. and the author(s) of this report provide no warranties, either express or implied, that the information provided is accurate or reliable. By using the information provided, you agree to indemnify and hold harmless and the report author(s) with respect to any claims and demands against them, including any attorney fees and expenses. Please read the Safety and Disclaimer pages for more information.

Please respect private property: supports the rights of private landowners to determine how and by whom their land will be used. In Colorado, it is your responsibility to determine if land is private and to obtain the appropriate permission before entering the property.

© 2021®, 14ers Inc.