Giving it a Go on Castle & Conundrum

Giving it a Go on Castle & Conundrum

Page Type Page Type: Trip Report
Date Date Climbed/Hiked: Jul 28, 2012
Activities Activities: Hiking
Seasons Season: Summer

Friday Night

Gloomy campsiteGloomy campsite

Sitting barefoot in the back of my Jeep with rain pounding on the roof all I could think was: Seriously? I drove 5 hours for this? I mournfully drained a cold Colorado Native before clicking off the headlamp to try to get some sleep.
Home for the nightForlorn Jeep

I know the game well. You win some, you lose some in the mountains – always – but summer Monsoon season in Colorado can be frustrating for a working stiff with two precious days away from the daily grind of laptops, iPhones, flight delays and denied 1st Class upgrades. I’m readily classified as reliably chipper, but driving hours to sit in a downpour can make anyone’s mood somber.

Wake-Up Time!

Sunrise over the ElksSunrise over the Elks
Sunrise behind Malamute PeakSunrise behind Malamute Peak

Admit it – it’s never fun to wake up in the cool dampness at o-dark-thirty in the back of your rig. I barely slept, what with the rain pounding the roof all night, and as I prepped myself for the hike, I found myself staring confused for moments at a time at my messy gear pile uncertain what to do next.

I downed two Red Bulls to compensate for the fact that I can’t eat breakfast, which put quite a spring in my step leaving camp toward the upper basin. The previous night’s foul weather began to pay dividends – as the sun rose, the clouds were painted in brilliant pastel colors, taking our breath away.

Elk Mountains sunriseElk Mountains sunrise
Golden SunriseGolden Sunrise

Kicking in the Ascent: Red Bull to the Rescue!

Approaching Castle PeakApproaching Castle Peak
Conundrum PeakConundrum Peak
We navigated the boulder hop and low-angle snow fields in the lower basin to gain the northeast ridge of Castle Peak. The weather continued to look threatening. I had nearly been blown off this ridge almost two years to the day, in 2010, and was bound and determined to get these summits.

One member of my party was struggling and another had a bum knee. Hopped up on Red Bull, I politely excused myself and zipped up the ridge to the summit of Castle Peak, the first person of the day to summit. Here I enjoyed the views of the Elk Range, especially as eerie light shined on Capitol and Snowmass, and hung out to celebrate as first one of my ladies and then the other made her way to the top of the peak.
Elk Clouds (1)Dramatic clouds over the Elk Range

Elk Clouds (2)
Elk Clouds (3)
Elk Clouds (4)

Heading Over to Conundrum

Castle PeakCastle Peak
Mist from last night’s storm hung in the valleys below us, lending a dramatic look to the surroundings. The skies weren’t friendly, but weren’t threatening and the cloud ceiling was reasonable, so we headed across the ridge connecting Castle Peak and its unranked neighbor Conundrum Peak.

Besides pausing to carefully navigate one minor downclimb containing loose rock, we made good time and soon were cruising the sidewalk in the sky to the notch separating Conundrum’s two summits. A few quick scampers put us on the summit of Conundrum for lunch! Views of Castle Peak and the connecting ridge were quit a site from here, and it was neat to see all the folks on the summit of Castle.
Departing Castle for ConundrumDeparting Castle
Conundrum BoundConundrum Bound

Castle PeakCastle Peak
Folks on Castle PeakFolks on Castle
Elk Range ViewsElk Range Views

Time to Go!

Me and my girlsTres amigas

Descending ConundrumDescending Conundrum
Conundrum Peak and tarnConundrum Peak and tarn

The weather had smiled kindly enough on us, and we decided it was time to stop pressing our luck and head down. Natural rockfall from the north-facing snow field, combined with human triggered rock slides below the saddle connecting the peaks was all we needed to persuade us to pass on that “shortcut.” We opted to retrace our steps back around the horseshoe, over Castle Peak, down the northeast ridge and out. Soon enough we were back at camp tearing down and packing up for the 4x4 ride out to the highway. Friday’s weather was pretty depressing, but we left happy that we persisted, set our alarms early Saturday morning and gave Castle and Conundrum a go.

Moral of the story? Don't let the weather punk you out. Get your ass out of your sleeping bag and give things a shot!

What s NOT to like?I LOVE it here!


Post a Comment
Viewing: 1-6 of 6

Enkidu - Aug 2, 2012 11:34 pm - Voted 10/10


TR. Next time I am in CO. I'll have to check the Elks out.

Sarah Simon

Sarah Simon - Aug 3, 2012 11:06 am - Hasn't voted

Re: Great

Yes, you NEED to check out the Elks the next time you're in CO. The Elks are rotten and crumbly, but so beautiful that the scenery is worth suffering the awful rock. -Sarah


seanpeckham - Aug 5, 2012 3:57 pm - Voted 10/10

Nice to see...

...a featured TR related to something I did that weekend too. I remember the weather in the Elks/Sawatch that Friday night, but hiked Elbert Saturday (big storm on our way down) and Castle Monday (just got a few drops). It was my first time in the area and I loved it!

Sarah Simon

Sarah Simon - Aug 5, 2012 5:13 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Nice to see...


Glad to see you enjoyed the general area around Hwy 82...beautiful, isn't it? I work for a company based in South Jordan, Utah, and am there a couple times a month, staring at the Wasatch!!!


Kiefer - Aug 6, 2012 3:24 pm - Voted 10/10

Crummy weather

Man, that is SO OFTEN the case. Don't know how often I've been dismayed by the weather and just decided to head back into Aspen, get a room and punish my liver for the night.
Kudos for hanging in there despite the clouds/rain and successfully making the best of it.
Though, I suspect you already had wings before the Red Bull took effect! You're not one to dally!
Thanks for posting!

Sarah Simon

Sarah Simon - Aug 7, 2012 7:07 am - Hasn't voted

Re: Crummy weather


Hahaha, as we drove closer and closer to Aspen and the weather got progressively worse, you could feel the mood in the Jeep just deflate. :-(. It was so cool to wake up the next morning and see stars overhead...and then he sunrise we were treated to -- it was just stunning. I am so glad we pushed through it!


Viewing: 1-6 of 6