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|Conditions Information||Posted By||Posted On|
|2015-08-30||Route: Castle and Conundrum
Info: Above the 12,800 ft TH at about 12,900 ft, there are some snowfields, but you only have to cross about 20-40 ft before you‘re on dry rock again. There‘s also a dry rock patch crossing the snow, if you decide to lose some elevation to take that instead. The snow was firm in the morning, and only a little slippery at midday. No other snow issues. Descending via saddle vs back over Castle: After Conundrum, myself and two hikers who joined me tried to decide whether to go back over Castle, or to go down the saddle route. We decided to go down the saddle. It is fairly steep, but doable. The way I went, stepping on/holding onto solid rocks buried in the hillside, I faced inward a few times. It‘s more dirt near the top, and more small loose rock near the bottom. If I had to do it again, I‘d still probably go down that way, as it saved a lot of time and elevation gain vs going back over Castle Peak, even waiting 10-15 minutes as courtesy for the two climbers below me to clear the bottom. If you‘re comfortable "climbing mountains," the saddle is fine. But as a fellow hiker said, I wouldn‘t want to take my mom down that route. It was dry.. no snow or water issues.
|2015-08-08||Route: Castle and Conundrum
Info: There is still a bit of snow you have to cross just above the end of the road at 12,800. Spikes aren‘t needed if you take it easy. A trekking pole is a nice addition, ice ax would be overkill. The drop into the saddle for the decent was steep, loose and wet. It looked more intimidating from the Castle trail than it did looking at it from the saddle. Once through the chute, you‘ll have to decide to drop all the way to the lake or cross snow and rocks. We crossed while others tried to glissade down... lots of rocks hidden in the snow.
|2015-08-06||Route: Castle and Conundrum
Info: Ice axe is nice to have if you are not comfortable crossing snowfields. Went up the NE ridge route without traction, used crampons to come down what‘s left of the snow on the NW ridge route to avoid going back over Castle‘s summit from Conundrum. Loose rock and dirt below the saddle, but not too bad.
|2015-08-05||Route: Northeast Ridge
Info: I am attempting to climb all the 14ers this summer. This makes #20! You can read more about this hike and others on my blog at sunshineof1985.com! Distance: 16.73 mi. (with added 2.25 mi going the wrong way) Elevation Gain: 4,600 feet Time started: 6:20am End time: 4:10pm Time to Summit: 6 hours and 30 minutes Time to Descent: 3 hours GEAR (to bring): GPS, extra socks, phone, SPOT Satellite Tracker, Yak Trax and poles, Map with Topo print-out, hiking boots with 2 pairs of socks on, long-sleeve, wind-guard/raincoat, light weight puffy coat (didn‘t need), lightweight gloves (didn‘t need), day pack with water sack and extra water bottles(130 oz), food (2 protein bars, 2 granola bars, beef jerky and trailmix), sunscreen, lip balm. Road Condition: Blacktop road and easy driving. Then you get to the dirt road. To the left is a tar road that is closed, to the right, is the road you need to take. I went not even .1 miles, then bottomed out in a pothole. I turned around and decided the road was too bad to drive in any further. If you have a sedan, you could probably make it to the first couple campsites, but make sure you get there early or you‘ll just have to drive back out. Trail Condition: This is my biggest complaint, but it‘s because I don‘t have a 4WD vehicle. Most of the trail is actually on a dumb bumpy dirt road. Only the last 2 miles are where you get into the more fun stuff. There is a lot of snow once you get to the end of the road, so bring your Yak Trax to get traction.
|2015-07-24||Route: Castle and Conundrum
Info: Sweet! These conditions are awesome. I packed microspikes and an ice axe and was hoping to go up the main couloir, but it has finally thinned out and there is now a considerable length without any snow coverage. The main route is free of snow until the first basin, which is the only stretch where you have any snow. Snow was incredibly firm and perfect for walking around 6:00 am with microspikes, I‘m not sure I would want to do this without them still, even though there‘s only one snow stretch it is quite large. After the basin it is snow-free. I did Castle and connected to Conundrum, and then came down to the ridgeline saddle and downclimbed on the snow with microspikes and an ice axe. (the lowest point in the ridge on the 1st picture) The area above where the snow starts was steep and loose, and the snow had some old glissade marks. It was way too firm to glissade for me (would go way too fast and it would hurt) and I also saw several small rocks in the path that I really didn‘t want on my ass. The downclimb took a bit longer than expected because the snow was still exceptionally firm at 9ish, so digging the feet in was difficult. Would have been a breeze with actual crampons. You can see the conundrum couloir still intact in the first pic, it is still possible but I wasn‘t about to attempt it without crampons. View of Castle in the second pic shows how the couloir is now impassible. Some people were trying to ski, but unless you‘re impressive enough to do the whole conundrum couloir, I don‘t see it being worth the effort. The snow was very hard too and many of the basins and the stretch I downclimbed are covered in deep glissade tubes.
|2015-07-13||Route: Northeast Ridge
Info: The road in was easily passable for most stock 4wd including the stream crossing though care needs to be taken to avoid some large rocks exiting. Lots of snow still in the basin but is very stable. Spikes not needed. One word of caution, the small snow patch below the summit (pic) had some hard ice between it and the rock step and a slip or fall here would end badly. I found it easier and safer going straight up the face of the rock.
|2015-07-04||Route: Castle and Conundrum
Info: Snow fields starting at the end of the road. Mostly packed and/or icy on the way up. The snow stops near the base of Castle where the climb up the ridge starts. Scattered snow on the ridge to the summit, all avoidable but does make the route more class 3 in parts when avoiding the snow. Very loose (as to be expected) on the NE ridge of Castle heading over to Conundrum--almost pulled a block down at the exact spot that‘s warned about in the route description. There is again some snow on Conundrum‘s ridge but is avoidable. At the saddle, the snow was full in, albeit pretty slushy by about 945am, and we slowly tipped to the edge where the steep decline starts and then glissaded down to the lake. Snow all the way from there down to end of road again.
|2015-07-03||Route: NE Ridge to North Face Couloir
Info: Climbed NE Ridge to upper North Face Couloir for summit - traversed to Conundrum and descended NW Ridge. Water on 4X4 road above second stream crossing. Encountered rain/hail/wind and rockfall on 4X4 road near uppermost parking area around sunrise. Beware of loose and falling rock - narrowly avoided falling rocks that struck road. NE Ridge trail was dry, although some climber‘s trails near ridge line held snow and ice. North Face Couloir snow was great - not too hard or soft - at 7:00am. Traverse to Conundrum is smooth sailing, although part of cornice remains intact on Conundrum Couloir. Descent of NW Ridge snowfield was suboptimal at around 10:00am due to wet and soft snow. We post-holed deeply and brought down wet snow during glissade. Overall, it was a beautiful tour of the Castle basin!
|2015-06-22||Route: Northeast Ridge
Info: Rapid water at the creek crossing but we saw several Jeeps had made it. After the creek crossing its smooth sailing up to the Montezuma mine. Snow coverage on the road will likely prevent vehicle traffic for another couple weeks. Great snow from from the end of the road up. We carried flotation but did not use it- may be a good idea later in the day.
|2015-06-22||Route: Northeast Ridge
Info: The stream crossing by vehicle was a little scary because the water level was high but I made it with my Toyota Tacoma in 4x4 low. There was a lot of snow climbing even at the top. Doable, not too bad. Used ice axes, micro spikes, and gaters. Had an awesome 1,000 foot glissade off the ridge just below the summit.
|2015-06-21||Route: Castle and Conundrum
Info: Most folks parked at the creek crossing. It‘s mid thigh deep and flowing fast, see the attached photo. The couloir is in great condition to climb. Head out early to avoid post holing.
|2015-06-21||Route: Northeast Ridge
Info: Northeast ridge holds some patches of snow until 13,600 or so, then full coverage by snow until summit. The ridgeline to Conundrum also holds some snow. Snow stayed hard until about 9 am. The snow in the basin was very soft by 9:30, and we started a few postholes. Also by 8 am, warming snow began to drop rocks down the sides of castle. The large cornice over the conundrum couloir has MOSTLY broken off, but enough remains to be dangerous.
|2015-06-20||Route: Northeast Ridge
Info: Did NE Ridge on Castle Saturday. Started just before the first creek crossing at 3:45. Basin still has plenty of snow, but melting rapidly. Snow on the glissade from the saddle all the way to the botton of the headwall was extremely soft by 10:00. Great meeting everyone who summited around 9:45!
|2015-06-19||Route: North Face Couloir
Info: Great snow from basin to NE ridge. Very "kickable" in some sections, rather hard in others (even though night temperatures did not go below 40 deg F). We took right fork out of the main couloir, as we neared the ridge...gave us high-angle snow, and gained ridge a bit closer to the summit.
|2015-06-15||Route: Conundrum Couloir
Info: I started 4:00 am today. Continuous snow at about 12,800‘. I carried snowshoes, but never put on as snow was frozen on my way up (very soft though on way down around 9:30 - great for plunge stepping, but the party ascending at that time with no flotation was regretting it). I put my crampons on in lower basin and climbed great snow up Conundrum Couloir - large cornice still present at top though. I traversed over to Castle and descended ne ridge - I put crampons back on for this - would have been quite tricky without.
|2015-06-13||Route: North Face Couloir
Info: Tons of snow still left. A runnel is forming to lookers left. Snow to the summit. Skied really well. Hit it early, as the east face before the couloir heats up fast. TR up soon
|2015-06-11||Route: Northeast Ridge
Info: Attempted summit, the snow lower than the basin was melting (even at 3:00 AM) and extremely difficult to cross without snowshoes, lots of post holes and sliding all over. Once you reach the basin the snow is less wet but still post holing though. Snow was not firm enough to stay on top of except for some ice patches on the ridgeline. Ridgeline conditions are somewhat precarious. We did not have much experience with winter ridgeline conditions, and although having microspikes and ice axes, we felt over exposed with the high amount of snow collecting on the ridge, with large overhanging snow spots and steep falls. We made it to all but the final push before turning around, probably more due to inexperience rather than conditions. However all the spots that looked like avalanches could occur, already have. We were never feeling in danger of an avalanche. If you have experience, go for it! Right now, the couloir route (#3 on Castle‘s page) is probably a much better bet than the long ridgeline traverse. Also if you take the northeast ridge, be careful following our footsteps near 2/3rds of the way along the ridge, crossed over to the wrong side at one point and got extremely exposed, immediately backtracked and found the right route
|2015-04-12||Route: North Face Couloir
Info: Road still closed at Ashland. Mostly snow covered from lower trailhead up to couloir. One half of couloir on the side melted/wind scored but a climbable route still exists. 10 ft rock section at top of couloir then snow continues to summit.
|2015-02-06||Route: North Face Couloir
Info: The road is groomed to the summer 2wd trailhead and bootpack ski track to the huts. Beyond that, I made use of snowshoes, ice axe and crampons. Brisk winds were redistributing the recent snow (photo 1) so I sought shelter in the north coulior. There, a climbable field of older, icy snow leads more than half way to the ridge (photo 2). Above that is loose, but mostly frozen, rock. The final pitch to the summit has abundant climbable snow (photo 3). Continuing to Conundrum, the northwest ridge of Castle is fairly clean (photo 4) while Conundrum‘s ridge consists of a mixture of snowfields and scrambling (photo 5). I downclimbed from the Castle-Conundrum saddle in fresh snow that was almost knee deep (photo 6). For completeness, a photo of the northeast ridge route (photo 7). And a picture of the only sign of recent avalanche activity -- it looked like a loose release in the fresh snow (photo .
|2015-01-18||Route: Castle and Conundrum
Info: Climbed castle and conundrum with I Man last Sunday. There were some high winds on friday night, CAIC put the elk range at orange for saturday, then yellow again for sunday, and suggested that the biggest danger was windslab on top of surface hoar on north through east facing slopes. The route is safe from avalanche until about 11600‘ when you enter a narrow valley. East facing slopes we looked at had a harder layer on top of powder, the slab wasn‘t that thick or cohesive, we would easily step through it and the break wouldn‘t propagate. So, not terrible conditions, but not clearly safe, either. We did our best to choose a route that stayed off of any steep terrain. We also observed a number of slides on the south facing slope as you enter this narrow valley. These all looked like they began high at the rocks (i.e. triggered by warming), most didn‘t come down far enough to cross the path we‘d hike, but 2 of the largest ones did. You wouldn‘t trigger one of these slides by walking on the low angle slopes below, but they could hit you if one happened to occur while you walked underneath. I‘d call this unavoidable but low probability danger, and I‘d assume you run a similar risk most times you come up here in winter. One member of our team turned around upon seeing the slide debris, while the other 2 felt the risk was acceptable and continued. We went up the ridge left of the standard summer route (same as labelled picture in Mad Mike‘s TR). We chose not to descend from the saddle between castle and conundrum and reclimbed castle to get back. We descended the standard summer trail instead of the ridge crest, and were able to stay on rock for most of the descent back to the base of the ridge. The road was packed from Ashcroft until the turnoff into the valley, 5 miles up. We used snowshoes from that point until the start of the northeast ridge, then microspikes on the ridge.