Peak(s):  Castle Peak  -  14,265 feet
Conundrum Peak  -  14,060 feet
Courthouse Mtn - 12,152 feet
Date Posted:  07/29/2010
Date Climbed:   07/27/2010
Author:  luckyzsquirrel

 Drove to the end! Castle Conundrum then Courthouse  

I've climbed well over 40 14k peaks (not sure on exact #) but this is my first trip report.
The route description doesn't describe driving up the road to the the end, but it is do-able. I made it all the way with a nearly stock 07 Xterra (just bigger LT tires). Don't get me wrong it's a rough road, low range and a lot of clearance is required, but what makes its it the scariest is the narrowness and slant at the end.
rough, but before the narrow

At the end

Slept in the car at 12800 and started up nice and early. Most of the way up visibility was extremely low. I made a little prayer to the man upstairs to clear the clouds, and within 5 minutes in a wind cleared out the basin, just amazing.

the clouds parting

With the local area clear it still felt like being on an island in the clouds with the rest of the Elks poking their heads out.

The rest of the Elks

Up on top of Castle I saw a little Weasel (maybe an Ermine?) scurrying around the rocks! I've seen my share of marmots and pikas, what you'd expect, but never a weasel! Of course he didn't stick around long enough for me to get a picture. On the saddle between the two peaks I encountered a bushy tailed squirrel like you'd expect to see down in the trees... weird.

you don't belong here!


Conundrum proved to be a surprisingly easy climb and it was warming up quick, spotted a number of other hikers heading up Castle from Conundrum.

on Conundrum

Heading down was a blast. There was a healthy sheet of snow below the connecting ridge and below the lake that with a pair of plastic pants were covered in no time.

way down

slide 1

slide 2

Wasn't looking forward to the first 1/2 mile of the drive back, this little lump on the already slanty part was the worst.
scarierest part

After that it was "smooth sailing" up until at a tight switchback someone had parked their dirt bike on the downhill end of the curve. Required a very tight 5+ point turn on loose talus to get around him.

From there took a bit of a drive down to the Cimarron Ridge, a really neat area N of the San Juans I've been meaning to get to. Attempts to climb Courthouse that day were killed by a nasty thunderstorm, so early the 28th I headed up. Definitley upper class 2 at the end but amazing views. Chimney Rock which towers above the forest road looks small from above. There's a number of 12k's and 13k peaks in the area that I definitely may have to revisit.
1st view of Chimney and Courthouse

Precipice Pk 13144 with Uncompagre in the background

No fear!

Looking North

Pecipice and Courthouse from the North

Courthouse from Silver Jack Res

Here's a nice route description I found for Courthouse

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

Image #5
02/05/2011 00:22
is pretty sweet. Nice trip report and pictures.


07/30/2010 00:58
I would kill to have a summit like that above the clouds. I've always wanted to have that shot of all the peaks poking up through the white fluffies. I wonder what kind of weather conditions make that happen?


07/30/2010 03:22
Yeah I took a 99 4Runner up there a couple weeks ago and was glad to stop where I stopped (just after the last switch back). The hump looked freaky.
Very cool pictures.


07/30/2010 04:12
Thanks for the beta on that guy, plan on hittin it around Labor Day weekend. That shot you took looking north towards Chimney Rock is possibly one of the coolest shots I've ever seen in any coffee table book, website, you name it. That, to me, is the quintessential San Juan mountain shot, really captures the mood of the Cimarron quite well. Good to see Precipice looks that pretty from the North as well.

Oh, and some great shots of the Elks as well.

What camera do you use? That looks better than your average P and S.


07/30/2010 14:56
Thanks all.
I've encountered the island in the clouds only a few times prior, the most memorable was on Humboldt. It's almost like the clouds are too dense to rise up.

I'm using a Canon Digital Rebel SLR (few years old). Its a little bulky for 14ers but worth it. As its a few years old you can actually buy a P&S now with higher megapixels, but its the superior optics that make it shine. I use an 18-55 lens for the wide shots and a 80-300 for the close ups. A polarized filter helps a lot too.


Sweet cloud pics
07/30/2010 15:00
Those are unreal Elk pics man. I too have always wanted to make a summit with the clouds below me. One of these days!!


Great pics
11/30/2010 17:28
Your photo's were amazing. Thank you for sharing those.

That road would have scared me to death. Walking it is fine for me.

Wanted to share a quick tid-bit regarding "counting" a 14er climb as officially climbing that peak. I was told early on that unless you hike or climb at least 3000 ft. of elevation, it does not count. Thus, we have parked lower then I would have liked, many times on my #132 14er ascents to date.

I sure love our Colorado peaks!


Re: counting a 14er
08/17/2010 22:28
Although I certainly wouldn't count driving to to a few 100' from the top of the peak a climb, I don't strictly follow any arbitrary footage rule. The 3k rule is fine if you're in a competition for climbing the most peaks in a certain time, etc. but I climb for the enjoyment, atmosphere and scenery whether it be a 14er a 13er or even an alpine ridge at 12k. And thus I'm not going to walk a road for a few miles on the peaks that have high trail-heads to make it ”official”.

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