We drove up to 10500', where I attempted to go around a drift and slipped a tire off the road. After a brief and unsuccessful attempt to winch the truck forward, we abandoned it and started hiking at 6 am.
We initially planned to follow the standard route up Castle via the northwest ridge and then take the north ridge over to Conundrum, but Sarah had discovered the "Conundrum Couloir" route and was itching for another snow climb. Dan and I were immediately on board with that plan, conditions permitting. So we hiked up the gulch to the summit bowl at 13400' to have a look. The south-facing couloir had not seen much sun by 9 am, so we installed crampons and started climbing. This couloir gains 600', achieves a slope angle of 47 degrees, and is guarded by a legendary cornice separating the two summit humps of Conundrum Peak. The ascent was fun, albeit brief, and we climbed right of the cornice to top out less than an hour later. Although the summit register is on the eastern hump, topo maps and GPS data indicate the true summit is the western hump. After a short break, we crossed the Castle-Conundrum saddle to gain Castle's north ridge for a brief 400' scramble to the summit. Here we loitered, enjoying the panoramic views, dried fruit, and hand-made placards for absent friends. Soon thoughts of glissading prodded us into action, and we down-climbed to the low point of the Castle-Conundrum saddle to begin our descent in earnest. As we passed by the Conundrum Couloir, we watched a large shallow slide run to the ground, confirming the wisdom of our decision to climb before the slope warmed up. A series of lightning-fast glissades, interspersed with some climbing back up to extend them, saw us to the lower step in the gulch. Here we rejoined the 4WD road for the hike out.
We reached the truck at 2:45 pm, where some kind strangers were already plotting a way to get us unstuck. After 1.5 hours of landscaping, we were ready to move. With a little help from the 4WD Dan cranked us out of the drift and we were on our way. I of course (again) learned to look before I leap. When we reached the stream crossing the water was higher and moving faster than in the morning. I hugged the high side and made a gentle arc across the rapid as water rushed over the hood. Truck got a bath and we had our last bit of fun.
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