| Conundrum Couloir
Hoping the pick will stick: Darrin (kansas), Kris (crossfitter) and me
Ascent Route: Conundrum Couloir
Descent Route: Saddle glissade
Start: Junction with Pearl Pass Road, 11,200'
Elevation Gain: 2,750'
Defeating Montezuma's Revenge
With the uncertainty last week with the bear problem, and what was allowed, we put off our attempt on Conundrum to this week. We had hoped the problem would be solved by this time. We guessed wrong. The road is still closed to camping. We found this out as we met Kris sleeping in his car at the 2WD trailhead. He had sweet talked the ranger into allowing that. So we did the same. We were there, the summit would be attempted. At least we could drive up early in the morning for the attempt.
I was also hoping for a clear summit view. My previous 3 times in Montezuma basin were cloudy, and vision was limited to short distances. Maybe this time, I will see the Bells and Pyramid?
The drive up the road wasn't too bad. We scoped out the river crossing, and it wasn't too tough for my truck. Previously I had promised myself that I wouldn't go up the switchbacks to the Pearl Pass intersection. For whatever reason, (morning grogginess ?), I continued up. I knew later I would regret the decision, at least in making the descent harder.
But being at the upper trailhead allowed a quick approach to the climb. No need to tire ourselves out before the 'real climb'. We also got so watch the sun light up the upper basin, and we had it to ourselves for a short time.
Good Morning Pearl Peak!
Morning light on Montesuma Basin
Near the upper 4WD trailhead, Kris decides that the approaching FJ will beat him to the trailhead, so he takes off running. Crossfitters have too much energy!!!
Kris out-running the FJ. First one to the upper TH, couldn't be beat!
From this upper trailhead, the approach to the base of the climb is really short. Just the big snowfield to climb and we were there.
Approaching the first steep snow climb section
At the base of the couloir, final adjustments were made. The climb would be short, steep and sweet. Kris more or less races up the couloir, as I chose to take my time. The snow is very hard, and the runnels are numerous and the snow is variable in them.
The crux of the climb is just below the rocks at the cinch point. We all thought the slope neared 50 degrees at this point. It was also quite icy and it turned into mixed climbing with the rocks. After having done Little Bear in the snow, and the Bell Cord, this was way harder! I reached my comfort minimum at the final rock hurdle. I would have preferred to protect this zone, but we didn't bring gear for that. (Note made for next couloir climb) So my only option was to take it slowly and think out the final moves. As above the rocks, the slope becomes more relaxed. Darrin did his best to help, and chopped out some steps for me in this section. He even held my axe in, to increase my comfort zone through the crux.
Kris: "Hey guys, it gets really steep here below the rocks"
Yeah, this is steep!
Boulders in the couloir
Darrin chopping steps at the crux - mixed snow, ice and rock
Once above the crux, the climbing was rather enjoyable. Only thing to avoid, was the crumbling cornice. Kris had already summited Conundrum, and since we both had Castle, we encouraged him to continue. We would later meet him for the descent at the saddle.
A look over to Castle
Final pitch, with a crumbling cornice
Once at the top of the couloir, it was a short stroll to the summit. The weather was holding nicely.
Just let me sit here for a moment, take in the view
Finally! The curse of Montezuma has lifted, I can see from the summit of Castle/Conundrum for the first time. It was quite the sight, to see the other elks from this perspective! We met 2 others to hang out with on the summit, and for part of the descent; JasonF and avs88fan
The curse of Montezuma's Basin is lifted!!! I can see from the summit
We hadn't ruled out a Castle summit, but we had hit the weather window, and we didn't want to chance it. 70% chance of storms after noon is a bit high to hang out up here. So we had a fun time of glissading down the snowfield.
So close, but we would rather get home early
The alpine slide - glissade path
The Conundrum Couloir
Near the parking lot, we ran into a bat, sleeping on a rock, in the sun. Thinking this strange, we built a bat cave for it out of rocks. I hope it lived!
Imagine this: Darrin pointing out flowers for me to photograph... Wow!
With 2 crossfitters to hike the road with, we made short order of the descent, making it back to the truck by noon. From there Darrin helped me navigate down the nasty rocky switchbacks, with only once hitting a rock. From there the river crossing was rather a breeze, the hard driving over. Once at the lower 2WD trailhead, it began to rain, and the 70% chance of storms was occurring. Quite the successful weekend!
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