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Castle Peak
standard Northeast Ridge
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Difficulty:
 Difficult Class 2 
Risk Factors:Exposure: Considerable
Rockfall Potential: Considerable  
Route-Finding: Considerable  
Commitment: Considerable  
 
Trailhead:Castle Creek
Start:9,800 feet
Summit:14,265 feet
Total Gain:4,600' if you start at the main trailhead
3,100 feet if you start at 11,200'
RT Length:13.5 miles if you start at the main trailhead
7 miles if you start at 11,200'
Duration:User Climb Times
Author:BillMiddlebrook
Updated:6/2019
Weather:NOAA Forecast
Conditions:253 reports
Cell Signal:13 reports
Sheriff:Pitkin: 970-920-5300
Forests:White River, Gunnison
Wilderness:Maroon Bells - Snowmass
Quad. Maps:Log In to View
Camping:On Google Maps
Eats:On Google Maps
Downloads:Log In to Download
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Trailhead

Take Castle Creek from the roundabout just west of the center of Aspen. Drive 12.5 miles (paved) to the Castle Creek trailhead. To the right, Forest Road (FR) 102 continues all all the way to 12,800'. Good-clearance passenger cars can drive about 1 mile up this road to reach the dispersed camp sites along the road. If you want to shorten your hike by parking higher, you must have a 4WD vehicle with good clearance. From the lower trailhead parking area, proceed to a river crossing, at 1.3 miles. In spring and early summer, this crossing is a challenge for some 4WD vehicles. At 3 miles, reach the Pearl Pass junction and stay right on the Castle Creek 102 road. If you drove up this far, there are a few parking spots near the junction. The road gets worse as it ascends into Montezuma Basin all the way to 12,800'.

Route

From the 2WD trailhead, drive up FR 102 where you'll find marked camping spots along the first 1.25 miles. Near 10,200' and 1.3 miles up the road, reach a creek crossing which has a footbridge - 1. If the road is open/clear beyond this point and you have a 4WD vehicle, you can drive higher. Low-clearance vehicles should NOT attempt this crossing, especially in early summer when the water is high. If you plan on driving across, it's best to walk over the footbridge first to see what you're up against. Cross Castle Creek and continue nearly 2 miles to the Pearl Pass road junction , at 11,150' - 2. Turn right at the junction and follow the road up into Montezuma Basin - 3, 4 and 5. Pass the Montezuma Mine and continue another 0.5 mile to the end of the road , at 12,800' - 6.

From here, you are looking southwest at a steep slope/headwall that has snow through much of the year. Pass the possible water to your left continue to the headwall - 7 and 8. Climb 500' up the headwall on snow and/or talus - 9. Near 13,300', enter the large basin between Castle and Conundrum - 10. Look sharply left toward the northeast ridge and continue on a trail that climbs to the ridge - 11. Hike over 300' to reach the ridge crest near 13,700' - 12. The route is more difficult from this point but should not exceed Difficult Class 2 unless you're off-route. Bypass some initial difficulties on the right before continuing south along the ridge crest - 13 and 14. Near 13,900', bypass another section on the right and return to the ridge crest; Do not drop far to your right - 15. Continue along the ridge crest - 16 and 17. Near 14,000', come to point where you can preview the final 250' to the summit - 18.

Drop to a small saddle and start up the final pitch - 19. There are rock sections that may slow down your route finding but there's an easy way around each obstacle. Continue up this steep, loose pitch ( 20) to reach the summit - 21 and 22.

Notes

If you don't have a good-clearance 4WD vehicle, park below the creek crossing. If you continue above the crossing, there are small pull-offs near 11,000' and the Pearl Pass road junction. IMPORTANT: This route enters the Maroon Bells - Snowmass Wilderness area. Wilderness areas have special regulations and restrictions for party size, dispersed camping, campfires, etc. Also, dog owners should read the wilderness information carefully because some wilderness areas prohibit dogs to be off-leash and/or limit how close dogs can be to lakes and streams. If you have questions about the wilderness area, please contact a U.S. Forest Service office for the National Forest(s) listed above.
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