Castle Peak Trip: April 15-16, 2006

Page Type
Trip Report
Location:
Colorado, United States, North America
Date Climbed/Hiked:
Apr 15, 2006
Activities:
Mountaineering
Season:
Spring
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Castle Peak Trip:   April 15-16, 2006
Created On: Apr 18, 2006
Last Edited On: Oct 2, 2007

The Plan

Easter Weekend seemed like a good time to attempt Castle Peak (elevation 14,265). I had wanted to climb Castle for months, but the avalanche danger was always rated moderate to extreme. Several days of warm weather and a cold spell afterwards would freeze the snow solid and stabilize everything it was hoped.

The weather forecast looked really nasty (90% chance of snow) for the 15th and better for the 16th. Normally, in winter, a storm would increase avalanche danger, but in spring, and after all the warm weather we have been having, this time the cold air would help.
Summit of CastleCastle Peak from lower Montezuma Basin



April 15, 2006

After meeting in Glenwood Springs the night before, Brock and I drove to the trailhead. It was raining in Glenwood, but by the time we had reached the trailhead at Ashcroft, it was snowing. We donned our gear and set off.

The road walk was sort of a pain because we didn’t have any views and it is a paved road in the summer (the winter/spring road closure is at Ashcroft at 9498 feet). It was snowing pretty hard at times, and we had to pull out the map a few times for navigation. There were no views to be had. We took our time and reached a nice camping spot right at timberline and at 11,430 feet elevation. We had time to continue, but the weather was bad, and it probably wouldn’t have been a good idea to camp above timberline because we couldn’t see the surrounding slopes or avalanche chutes.

After setting up camp, we ate dinner just as the storm began to break. Two skiers from Boulder joined us at our campsite. We observed a small avalanche off the buttress above.
Storm Clouds BreakJust before sunset, the storm breaks and we see our first views

April 16, 2006

Early MorningThe morning dawned cold and clear. Perfect conditions.
After a windy night, the morning dawned clear and cold. It was 9F (-11C). Perfect. This would freeze the snowpack solid and it should be pretty stable. We left at 7:30 am. The two skiers were moving faster, but we could follow their trail. The weather was beautiful and we spent much time taking photos of the surrounding peaks. Snow conditions were pretty good, but we still moved slowly. We met up with the skiers in Montezuma Basin and they headed for home.
Conundrum Peak Looms Straight AheadConundrum Peak was in full view on the approach to Castle


The North East Ridge of Castle appeared to be the easiest route up the peak, and was the route chosen. The Northwest Ridge looked pretty corniced, but reasonable, but we still didn’t want to take any chances.
Section of ascentBrock climbing the Northeast Ridge


The lower sections of the Northeast Ridge were easy, but the upper section proved more challenging than expected. We probably should have climbed the North Face Couloir. The Northeast Ridge wasn’t really hard, but it was covered with unconsolidated sugar snow, which made for slow climbing. I don’t really like doing exposed traverses on sugar snow, and though the ridge wasn’t that exposed, there would be no chance to self arrest in the event of a fall. Luckily conditions weren’t as bad as they first appeared, but it was still slow going.
View of the Challenging South RidgeNear the summit of Castle


We made the summit at 4:00 pm, a rather embarrassing 8.5 hours after leaving camp. My digital camera froze once we reached 14,000 feet, but I brought a manual backup and we took some summit shots. We had wanted to climb Conundrum Peak as well, but it was too late in the day.
Conundrum from CastleConundrum Peak


The views were great and it would have been nice to spend more time on the summit, but it was already getting pretty late, we returned via the North Face Couloir and attempted to glissade it. The snow was very soft and powdery which made for a disappointingly slow glissade. This was the theme lower down as well; the snow was always too soft for glissading. It turned out to be the only disappointment of the trip.
Montezuma BasinMontezuma Basin


After packing up camp, we headed down the trail, fully knowing that it would be well after dark before we reached the vehicle. The walk back seemed endless, and that went double for the paved road walk for the last 2.5 miles. Since it was a warm and sunny day, we got pretty soaked including our “waterproof” mountaineering boots. This made for sore feet by the end. We arrived at the vehicle at 9 pm, fairly late.
Pearl MountainPearl Mountain as viewed on the return


Castle was a great climb, and a fun trip. I’ll be returning to the area next winter for some more climbs.
Malamute PeakI have some more climbing to do in the Elk Mountains



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Comments

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foreverwild

foreverwild - Apr 19, 2006 10:19 pm - Voted 8/10

Thanks

Glad to hear the weather worked out well for you, always something to smile about. Castle was one of my favorite climbs when I lived in CO, glad you enjoyed it as well.

Great report with beautiful pictures, brings back memeories and creates hopes for the future as a good report should.

seth@LOKI

seth@LOKI - Apr 20, 2006 12:11 am - Hasn't voted

Dito Great Story

Great Story! Thanks for posting it.
Did the North Face Ski look filled in enough to ski it later?

Scott

Scott - Apr 24, 2006 1:49 am - Hasn't voted

Re: Dito Great Story

Yep, it had plenty of snow to ski.

Asphazell

Asphazell - Apr 20, 2006 3:57 am - Voted 9/10

Nice job!

Hey Scott, Mark M. from 14ers.com! Great job on Castle! We climbed the snowfield to the NW ridge last July and it made for a great outing. Glissaded down Castle's N Couloir which was a blast. How did Conundrum's Couloir look? A lot of snow up there still it seems. Great photos too!

Seth@LOKI - For 14er ski conditions, check out www.skithe14ers.com , they just skied Castle Peak on April 17th.

Brad Snider

Brad Snider - Apr 21, 2006 3:18 am - Voted 9/10

Good Report

Great pictures and report Scott! The Northeast Ridge is an enjoyable route. As far as the digital camera freezing, that actually happened to me on the summit of Conundrum. I never thought of taking a backup, but it is certainly worth it to be able to capture such views!

If you are interested in any snow climbs this spring, let me know.
-Brad

dadndave

dadndave - Apr 21, 2006 8:22 am - Hasn't voted

Nice

I especially liked the "near summit of castle" pic.

hasue

hasue - Apr 21, 2006 7:35 pm - Voted 10/10

awesome!

I love to see early spring season photos! Easter brought good snow. What a fantastic climb. Have you thought about skiing a 14er?

Scott

Scott - Apr 24, 2006 2:31 am - Hasn't voted

Re: awesome!

Yep, definately thought of it. I used to ski, but after I got married, my wife snowshoed, so I gave it up for that. Now that we don't always go together anymore, it's time for a new pair of skis.

seth@LOKI

seth@LOKI - Jun 6, 2006 6:19 am - Hasn't voted

How about a compromise?

Iclantic skis are next on my list for now. They are not snowshoes but are short at 140-150cm, light, wide, stable, and great in pow even on tele (but I AT lately.) I can't get them yet but we'll see. Just a thought

Kiefer

Kiefer - Mar 9, 2008 11:06 pm - Hasn't voted

Sweet...

report, Scott! The pictures you took for this are invaluable. I will be using your beta in the next couple weeks if all goes right. Thanks for posting this!
Kiefer

Viewing: 1-10 of 10