| Castle NW Ridge
My girlfriend and I drove to Aspen from Boulder starting at 1:15pm on Wednesday the 18th. Reached the trailhead around 6:00pm. We set up camp at 9,740 and went to sleep.
2WD vehicles can only drive just beyond the turnoff from Castle Creek road due to a 100 mud and snow section. Beyond this the road improves dramatically. 4WD can continue to Castle Creek crossing at 10,200, at which point the road is covered with feet of snow.
Started hiking at 4:45am. Continuous snow to Montezuma Basin after Castle Creek crossing at 10,200. Snow was frozen enough to walk on without snowshoes and a hiker trail from the previous day was easy to follow. At 11,200 we put on crampons and accended a rolling snowfield to the 4WD parking lot at 12,800. At this point we dropped our hiking polls and snowshoes, took out our ice axes and began to make our way into Montezuma Basin. There was a lot of wet snow slide and rock fall activity which was very entertaining to witness. We were out of harms way by staying in the center of the basin (famous last words, right).
The route from 4WD parking to Montezuma Basin contains a 30 degree snow climb. In the basin, we got our first look at the route crux and were happy to see the cornice on the Northwest Ridge is broken and passable, see below.
The snow climb to the 13,820 saddle gets just over 40 degrees for a hundred feet or so, passing through a break in the cornice. Bring your ice axe. Crampons are optional if the snow is soft, although they are highly suggested. The remaining route up the Northwest ridge is a mix between snow and rock, and is somewhat exposed, see below.
We summited around 11am and relaxed for a while on top as the weather was perfect. The glissading back to the 4WD parking lot was a kick in the pants. Snowshoes were a must on the way out. Reached the car at 3pm. Long day, but we were able to take our time due to the impecable weather.
-Bring your skis if you have the back for it.
-The ridge to Conundrum was sketchy.
-The west face route from Conundrum Hot Springs looked to be in prime condition.
-The north couloir route is in great condition, see below.