Castle Peak is one of the most beautiful peaks I've ever seen. From the towered ridges to the infamous rotten Elk Range rock, it has a lot of character. This was my first trip to the Rockies and being from Pennsylvania I wasn't sure I was even capable of climbing the lowest peak in the range because things were a lot larger than I had anticipated. I did ok though. I did what are considered "little peaks" to the people of the region even though I'll never understand that because to me there is no such thing as a little peak in the rockies unless you're comparing it to a fourteener. But anyways................I had climbed Estes Cone, Sundance Mountain, and Mount Sheridan in preparation for a summit bid on either Elbert or Castle. The previous evening left a good 3-4 inches of snow on the high peaks region of the Elk Range. As we drove up Castle Creek Road the valley looked beautiful with the fresh dusting of snow, something I'm not quite accustomed to being from PA in the month of June. We headed up the trail with what looked to be a beautiful day ahead of us at around 7:30am. Everything went according to plan as we hiked up the entire road to what is the regular parking area in Montezuma Basin. We had crossed a few tricky snow slopes which weren't too bad. As soon as we saw Montezuma basin, our jaws dropped at the snow slope. Needless to say, we were a little cautious as we slowly headed up the basin wall. The it seemed like suddenly out of no where, the clouds built into dark storm clouds and down came the snow. The winds picked up and in talking to another climber we found that the wind on the NW ridge was just about unbarable. That was all me and my climbing companions needed as we headed back down. My entire first trip to the Rockies was a very welcomed learning experience. We headed back down the slopes and found ourselves almost happier in our decision than reaching any summit in the world. It was a valuable learning experience that anyone who heads into the mountains should know. As we headed down we passed some young teenagers in shorts and t-shirts with nothing else that said they were gonna summit Castle. We warned them of the dangers and they continued on. I still don't know if they made it down, but temeratures were in the mid 20s and winds were averaging in the 40-50mph range. This is a good example of underestimation of a mountain. My biggest learning experience was not taking any chances with weather. Never assume that previous conditions will hold for the entire day. Mountain weather can change with a minutes notice. I will definately be heading back to the mountains many times in my life, but with an even larger respect for there power and force.
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