Peak:  Castle Peak (14er)
 Route:  Northeast Ridge
 Range:  Elk
 Posted By:  Ghuff
 Date of Info:  08/09/2020
 Date Posted:  08/11/2020
 Details

Drove up to 12,800' parking lot in stock Jeep Wrangler Sahara. If you can make it to the second creek crossing, you can make it to the top. We were one of 4 vehicles at 12,800'. The Jeep took a beating, but made it easily. Very busy Sunday up there. Passed 30+ vehicles parked along the road above campground 9. Many of them could have made it all the way up, but decided to pull off and park and hike.

Took us 1:45 from the 12,800 parking lot to summit Castle. The headwall had very little snow, so we had to boulder hop for a good 30 minutes. I think we got off trail here...we just went straight up.
The next 30 minutes section was pretty brutal on the way up and down...very loose dirt and scree...almost impossible to not slip every other step. It is like this all the way up to the ridge. From what I've heard and seen, it is worse than usual...probably from all of the traffic coming down this trail instead of on the usual ridge decent.
The last 30-45 minute section is on the ridge, making your way up to the castle summit. Typical elk mountain range scrambling here. Nothing technical at all, just requires the use of some hands instead of just feet hiking...3 or 4 points of contact at times.

We saw several groups fall below the ridge and get in some sketchy territory right below the castle summit. They went right (low) instead of staying left on top of the ridge. I think there is even a photo on 14ers with a big Red X of where not to go. Even so, we saw several people going this way and getting yelled at from others to go back up and stay high on the ridge. It is especially easy to do on the way down...it looks like there is a trail that hangs left (down) on your decent ...but this spits you out into some very sketchy cliff terrain. On your way down (and up), stay high and follow the top of the ridge. On the decent from Castle, it really looks like the trail goes left and down..it doesn't. It stays high and goes over the large rock/boulder/ridge.

We were going to do Conundrum as well, but the ridge decent was in terrible shape. VERY sketchy. Class 5 dirt, rock, and some snow at the bottom. It doesn't save time, but some people were doing it. Everyone we talked to said it was not worth doing, and it was even faster to come back up via Castle and back down the same way you come up.
The initial decent from Castle to Conundrum (on ridge) is very loose material and narrow. Coming back up this is not fun.
It takes about 45 minutes to hike from Castle to Conundrum.

Very little snow left. Ice ax not necessary. Only a 40 yard glissade was left/doable on the very lower portion.

This is a great and unique 14er. It was someone in our group's first 14er. The drive up to 12,800' is very cool and fun in itself. That is what makes this 14er so unique. There's nothing special about hiking several hours on a dirt road, so it is pretty cool to cut this out and also experience some fun 4x4 driving while saving your legs. The actual 14er hike begins at the end of the road.




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