Castle & Conundrum - Never Cut the Switchbacks

Castle & Conundrum - Never Cut the Switchbacks

Page Type Page Type: Trip Report
Date Date Climbed/Hiked: Jun 7, 2008
Activities Activities: Mountaineering
Seasons Season: Spring
Craig and I met at Castle Creek Friday night for an alpine start on Saturday. We were happy to see that someone cut back the avy debris that was blocking the road and with some careful maneuvering around what remained we were able to drive to 10200ft. We set up camp and called it a night. We set off at 3:45 with the intentions of climbing the Conundrum Couloir then desending back to the basin and climbing Castle's North Face Couloir.
There is still quite a bit of snow on the road past the first creek crossing and a lot of avy debris to step over. Finally, we made it to the switchbacks and decided to cut one of them...our mistake for the day! Once we made it into what we thought was Montezuma Basin and took a look at the peaks, we realized they were not Castle and Conundrum and we had stumbled to Pearl Pass instead.
We did a little back tracking and went up the next basin which would take us to the east side of Castle. As we were hiking up the basin we we were keeping an eye out for a good route. We both spotted the only shaded couloir and agreed to head for it.
Castle s East Side & Our Route
(The only thing I could find regarding this couloir was a picture on SP where someone referred to it as the Castle's Mote. Anyone know if this is the actual name?)
Getting to the couloir required climbing up and down a few snowy slopes, but luckily for the most part the snow was firm. A closer look at the couloir...
Couloir on East Side of Castle
We made it up the last snowy slope and stopped for a bite to eat and a 10 minute power nap. We exchanged trekking poles for axed and threw on our helmets and started the climb. Craig making his way up...
Castle Peak
The walls that towered the sides were impressive. I measured the incline three different times and consistently got 48 degrees. Looking down about 2/3 of the way up...
Castle Peak
The angle eases towards the top before bringing you out onto the Northeast Ridge. Looking up the ridge...
Castle Peak
We started up the ridge and stumbled upon the standard trail, but soon lost it in the snow. We just started cutting across which made for a bit of fun class 3 scrambling and a few exposed moves. We managed to lose some elevation and came out on the North Face Couloir. The snow is a much better climb than the crumbly Elk rock, so up the couloir back to the ridge. Climbing the North Face Couloir
Castle Peak
We topped out on the ridge again and made the final climb to the summit. The wind was starting to blow so we stayed long enought for a few pics and started for Conundrum. The snowy Elks...
The Elks
Conundrum Peak
We made our way down to the saddle for another quick break. At this point the wind was starting gust pretty hard, so we started up the ridge to Conundrum. There was still quite a bit of snow on the ridge so we did some scrambling. We made the south summit in no time and headed over to take a look down the Conundrum Couloir. I was ready to start back, but Craig convinced me that I had to climb the north summit also to officially count it. Castle from Conundrum...
Castle Peak
We headed back to the saddle for a nice glissade down to the basin and began the long trudge back to camp.
The moral for today....never cut the switchbacks! Even though we didn't climb the peaks exactly how we intended, it still ended up being a great day with plenty of snow climbing and scrambling.


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Cheeseburglar - Jun 11, 2008 1:18 am - Hasn't voted

Gain the summit, no blaim!

I like how you don't blaim me for getting almost completely lost and how you don't mention that it took quite a bit of convincing to make me realize where we were!
But come on, I convinced you go to the real summit? That's crazy, you know you were going up there!


heather14 - Jun 12, 2008 9:24 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Gain the summit, no blaim!


Scott Wesemann

Scott Wesemann - Nov 11, 2008 12:58 pm - Voted 10/10

Great report

and very nice pics.

Viewing: 1-3 of 3