Ascent of Castle Peak on 2009-06-13

Climber: David Foster

Others in Party:Vaune
Date:Saturday, June 13, 2009
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Hi-Clearance Vehicle
Peak:Castle Peak
    Elevation:14265 ft / 4347 m

Ascent Trip Report

Lv Lakewood, drive via I70 to Glenwood Springs, then Aspen. Rent Jeep Wrangler at Aspen airport 6pm. Almost ended up with an AWD Ford Escape, but counter guy, Junior, very, very helpful...said people didn't rent jeep because it rode poorly. Dinner McDonalds Aspen. Drive up paved Castle Creek Road to Road Closure, and FSR 102& Castle Creek. Rd immediately lots of deep potholes, some 2WD went up about 1 mile to campground. Road very rocky beyond. Creek Crossing about 1ft deep with heavy ruts and rocks on West exit, even worried about Jeep. Road continued rocky to elevation 10700', where we were stopped by snowbank in road. Some had tried to get through. We didn't try, so parked right there and setup Vaune's tent. Reasonable campsite, but water a ways away. 2 other vehicles there, 1 rented Subaru Legacy by Hill, lone climber, formerly from CO, and Black Forerunner. Found out later, it belonged to group of 3 who backpacked to about 12500' and camped Friday. Their TR on

Up at 430 Sat. Breakfast of sandwiches. On the trail by 525am. 3 or 4 similar snowbanks down in the trees, probably also would have stopped us. Reasonably mainatained cabin just below the stream. Stream crossing on good bridge. Then Intersection of Pearl Pass Rd. Snow wasn't bad, except below treeline sheltered until about 12000'. Snow was sidehilled on road, probably making passage difficult.

Vaune put on crampons here, mostly snowy beyond so not much rock. Saw the tent for the Forerunner people. Snow was mostly ok for boots (Scarpa mountaineerng narrow sole helped), but I used hiking pole alot.

Got to the parking lot at `12800', completely snow covered, but very flat. Snow was supportable here, fortunately. Headed for the "headlwall" straight ahead. I was still able to get good footholds w/o crampons, but preious ascenders with crampons made nice steps.
The basin below Castle and Conundrum (about 13000') was very flat. Snow supportable still. Noticed 2 sets of tracks, 1 heading to the North Couloir, 1 heading for the Castle/Conundrum saddle. Noticed 3 skiers and boarder descending Conundrum couloir. Boarder took a very bad fall, almost hit some rocks. He sat for a long time, then separated from the skiers, who were coming over to the north couloir. Conundrum couloir was all slid out (maybe 8" of settled new snow on intact southfacing slopes. Talking to those skiers later, the Conundrum couloir remaining snow had the hard icy interface that new snow had slid on. They had actually ascended the couloir, hopefully the sliding had happened naturally beforehand. Reports a max angle of 45 degrees, while Castle north couloir 40max

I put on my Crampons at base of the North Couloir. It was quite icy. But a few feet in elevation, it became soft new powder snow. Icy at bottom perhap because not shaded by Couloir rocks. We should have switchedt snowshoes, but opted to posthole with Crampons. A skier from the Tent skied down right beside us and sprayed us with Powder! It took a longtime to posthole up to the saddle. From saddle, about 100feet West on Rocky Ridge to summit. Not very steep falloff any direction.

Skiers were considering descending the SW slope, but wisely opted to rejoin their boarder friend as planned. Vaune and I started towards Conundrum and were joined by a father/daughter pair Dave and Megan. Conundrom was their 50th fourteener, by their reckoning. They said the knife-edge on Castle do-able, but painful on the butt. Described the last few feet on Sunlight as a long jump across a 600' deep crevice. We arrived at Conundrum together. Unsure the exact summit, save for Dave's GPS. Appeared the North Conundrum summit was 100yards further, beyond the entrance into the Conundum Couloir, we didn't go. Had a great view of Cathedral peak, which looked higher (about 13940').
Returned via the Castle/Conundrum saddle, a bit rocky, crampons might have been a liability. Then butt glissaded down to the Basin. The East facing slope was so soft, it was hard to get going. Preious glissaders had released a wet slab 8" deep, which left alot of debris. We headed back to the parking lot, on barely supportable snow.
Saw several skiers down in the creek bottom, heading towards a quagmire as the snow turned into a stream. even during the course of the day, the streams had gotten much larger since the morning climb. We met a young guy in a very lifted Jeep with monster tires at Pearl Pass. He had plowed through the snow banks, but had to dig himself out twice. Had a beautiful rescued Malamute sleeping peacefully in the other seat. We told him we thought he might make it to 12000'. We were glad we hadn't tried it in our unmodified Jeep.
Back at campsite, packed up the tent and starting driving about 230. Some goofball in a rented Full SUV hit snowbank at full speed and made it through.

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Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:3565 ft / 1086 m
    Route Conditions:
Snow Climb
    Gear Used:
Ice Axe, Crampons, Snowshoes
    Weather:Pleasant, Breezy, Clear
Very Sunny, wind only in gusts
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:3565 ft / 1086 m
    Route:Rd to Castle Basin to North Couloir
    Start Trailhead:FRoad 102 at snow block  10700 ft / 3261 m
Descent Statistics
Ascent Part of Trip: Castle&Conundrum

Complete Trip Sequence:
1Castle Peak2009-06-133565 ft / 1087 m
2South Conundrum Peak2009-06-13222 ft / 68 m
Total Trip Gain: 3787 ft / 1155 m

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