Photo
Castle Peak
snow North Face Couloir
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Difficulty:
 Difficult Class 2 
Snow Steepness: Moderate  
Ski/Board: Advanced, D7 / R3 / III  
Risk Factors:Exposure: Considerable
Rockfall Potential: Considerable  
Route-Finding: Moderate  
Commitment: Moderate  
 
Trailhead:Castle Creek
Start:9,800 feet
Summit:14,265 feet
Total Gain:4,600' if you start at the main trailhead
4,200 feet if you start at 10,200'
RT Length:13 miles if you start at the main trailhead
10.5 miles if you start at 10,200'
Duration:User Climb Times
Author:BillMiddlebrook
Updated:3/2019
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'. Turn right at the junction and follow the road up into Montezuma Basin - 2, 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 - 7. Climb 500' up the headwall to reach the upper basin (13,400') between Castle Peak and Conundrum Peak. Castle's north face is straight ahead and the north face couloir is on the left side of the face - 8. Continue south across the basin toward the base of the couloir - 9 and 10. It may be easiest to hike toward the left side of the basin before angling into the bottom of the couloir.

Below 13,600', reach the base of the couloir and start climbing it south toward the northeast ridge - 11. The couloir is not that steep but should only be climbed with continuous, stable snow. Continue climbing ( 12) to 14,000' where the couloir becomes slightly steeper (40 degrees max) - 13. Behind you there are great views of Conundrum Peak - 14. Continue to the top of the couloir to reach a saddle on the northeast ridge. From the 14,100-foot saddle, turn right and climb southwest up the final 150' of the northeast ridge - ( 15 and 16) to reach the summit - 17 and 18.

Skiing?

A few pics: 19, 20, 21, 22, 23

Notes

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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