Castle Peak  
Condition Updates  
 
Route: Castle and Conundrum
Posted On: 2019-11-11, By: cshanek
Info: A couple of friends and I attempted Castle and Conundrum over the weekend, with a tent pitched at 11,400 Saturday night. We were able to drive about .9 miles in (prior to creek crossing) before it simply got too icy to drive anywhere without chains/cables. There is a lot of ice on the road until about 10,500, then that turns to snow, about 6 inches deep or so until about 12,000. From 12,000 to the lake at 13,400 the snow gets pretty deep, with waist deep sections pretty regular. The trail up the NE ridge of Castle is wind-scoured and in great shape. The saddle between Castle and Conundrum is not in the best shape for a descent. There are several exposed sections of rock there and a slip down-climbing would be bad news. We also heard about 6-10 loud WHOOMPS as the sun was baking that section of snow, so perhaps it is settling. The Conundrum Couloir looked pretty good, except for a 10 foot tall vertical cornice at the top. The Castle North Face Couloir did not have much snow. We had access to running water near the trail up to about 11,400. The water was running well below the trail until about 12,000. 
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Route: Northeast Ridge variation
Posted On: 2019-10-17, By: Wentzl
Info: Took the variation mentioned in the Roach Guide as 25.2V. This should be the standard route. WAY more fun than the usual NE Ridge route, avoiding all the loose scree to gain the ridge. AND avoids all the snow. Done today in trail running shoes. If reading this, also check my trailhead status report from today 
 
Route: Castle and Conundrum
Posted On: 2019-10-05, By: Conor J
Info: Route is still in good condition, but there is evidence of recent snowfall. A few more storms and things could get dicey! 
 
Route: Castle and Conundrum
Posted On: 2019-09-23, By: jthn
Info: Did the combo Saturday. Pretty straightforward climb up Castle, except near the top you can't see the route so stay generally on the ridgeline as described. Loose rock descending down Castle but not as tricky or exposed as I expected. Most folks were taking an obvious chute zigzagging down at the saddle below Conundrum. This works but it kicks up a lot of small to medium rocks which pose a hazard to anyone below. Be aware of this and go slow to reduce dislodging larger rocks. Helmet and gloves might be wise. One other note, if parking on the upper road please consider how much space your vehicle is taking. There was an SUV that parked angled in and pretty much blocked the road beyond that. Not cool. 
 
Route: Castle and Conundrum
Posted On: 2019-09-16, By: taylorharris50
Info: Some snow at the start of the hike past the jeep road. No need for spikes. We hiked back out over Castle. A few climbers were descending from the saddle but the risk of rock fall seemed high. We drove to the lower 4WD TH - road conditions were much better than expected. 
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Route: Northeast Ridge
Posted On: 2019-09-11, By: Strider29
Info: The road is pretty rough, but a competent driver with a decent-clearance 4WD should have no problem making it to the bridge. Past the bridge are a series of switchbacks that are pretty difficult. If you make it past those, you can make it all the way to the end of the road. FWIW, there was a stock GMC Jimmy (7.5" ground clearance) very near the end. Still some snow in the basins, which can be used to ascend or avoided if you prefer. Route to Castle clear and easy to follow. Same for route to Conundrum. The standard descent route off the ridge between Castle and Conundrum is steep, loose and mostly snow-free. Staying to the left (as you downclimb) is a little more stable. I headed for the snow as soon as I could, as I felt that was easier than the unstable scree. 
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Route: Castle and Conundrum
Posted On: 2019-08-31, By: jtfoss1
Info: Started around 415 and was first to the top. Sunrise was gorgeous but I got off route in the dark coming up the headwall. The several snowfield crossings would have been easier with an axe, the snow was very slick with summer hikers even on the way down. It would have been nice to glissade as well. I descended the gully at the saddle near Conundrum as stated in the route description but would not recommend this unless you're experienced and prepared for it (poles were critical for me). It's steep and loose, with very little to anchor yourself with, and all above a drop-off. This was one of those cases where I had to devote 100% concentration to not screw up. It felt REALLY dangerous to me. The most careful of steps sent rocks sliding off the small cliff. An ice axe at the bottom of the gully is crucial if the snow hasn't softened yet. 
 
Route: Northeast Ridge
Posted On: 2019-08-26, By: khavos
Info: Hiked Castle-Conundrum on Saturday 8/24. Both are dry and it was largely an enjoyable experience. Started at 3:45 AM, and only came across a handful of other hikers; seemed to be a lot more coming up Castle later in the day, so if you want to avoid crowds, it might be best to start earlier on the weekend. I feel there are definitely two "easier" Class 3 moves on Castle. Coming down from Conundrum I decided to take the gully since I was solo, and there was no one even close to going down it anytime soon. I should have listened to the report I had read from the previous week, but curiosity just won me over, and it still looked viable. Let me assure you, unless you're looking to hike/down climb down some miserable stuff, don't be a dope like me, just take the trail back to Castle. Especially if you're in a group, because you'll have to go one at a time for any chance to stay safe (tons of rockfall potential) and you won't be saving any time. The snow for the glissade isn't even good at this point and contains numerous shark fins just waiting to ruin a day. 
 
Route: Northeast Ridge
Posted On: 2019-08-19, By: madmattd
Info: As others have covered, spikes for the snowfield to the upper basin are quite helpful. We did not like the looks of the really steep, loose mess to get down to the glissade off the Castle-Conundrum saddle, so we returned to Castle to descend the NE Ridge. Due to how much care was needed by people to get down to the start of the glissade without mishap, we beat them down to the lower snowfield despite leaving the saddle after they started their descent, and we had to re-climb Castle still. Glissade down the lower headwall to the end of the road was fantastic. Also, don't be lulled into a bypass route around 13,900' on climber's right (photo 16). While the route does work, it crosses a couple very loose gulleys with some exposure, and on one occasion a washing machine-sized boulder shifted slightly on my hiking companion as he worked around it. Stay on the ridge after the early bypasses right after reaching the ridge off the trail, it is far easier, almost completely solid rock, and honestly less exposed than the bypass route. Maybe a couple light class 3 moves at worst. 
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Route: Northeast Ridge
Posted On: 2019-08-19, By: Josh Bux
Info: Still a lot of snow on the headwall. I was glad I had spikes because it got hard and slick overnight, but it's totally fine with spikes. Some groups that didn't have spikes had to find ways around it. The trail from the top of the headwall to Castle is clear and in good condition, as is the traverse to Conundrum. The top 200 feet or so of the glissade is bare, very loose rock and dirt. Go one at a time and take it slow. Glissade is well-defined and soft by mid-morning. Brought an ice axe but didn't end up using it. 
 
Route: Castle and Conundrum
Posted On: 2019-08-18, By: joemcglinchy
Info: Snowfield up headwall to 13300' is full and solid in the early morning hours (first photo); we used spikes and that was fine. Also a footpath traversing the snowfield on climbers left to get there. Trail up to northeast ridge to castle, and down and over to conundrum, is dry. Path down to glissade is pretty damn loose and sketchy (photo 2, from NE ridge to castle), so if with a group take your time. Glissade is nice and soft in mid-morning. 
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Route: Castle and Conundrum
Posted On: 2019-08-12, By: bludwig
Info: The road is driveable all the way to the upper trailhead, if you have the vehicle for it. There are a handful of snowfields leading to the ridge up Castle (Photo 1), but they are very packed in. Traction is not required but everyone who wore it said they felt more comfortable. The remaining trail up Castle and both summits of Conundrum are dry. Photo 2 is a view of Conundrum going up Castle. The only really iffy area is the loose area from the saddle down towards the lake, the rock is VERY loose. If a group is behind you that insists on pressing forward, wait for them. I've never been hit by rocks before on any 14er and was hit by four or five. The glissade down from the saddle to the lake is amazing and there are great troughs from past runs that make it safe and manageable. You can glissade several more snow fields on the way down to the upper trailhead. 
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Route: Castle and Conundrum
Posted On: 2019-08-05, By: Tacocat Climbing
Info: Little bit of snow after the end of the 4x4 road. Was easy enough for me to go across with no traction, even early in the morning. Didnt bring an axe, did fine without it. Maybe you might want one so you can glissade with more security for the descent. Very beautiful scenery! This completes my journey! 58 peaks down in 72 days ! Video of the hike: https://youtu.be/6Q2qPxLRP30 
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Route: Castle and Conundrum
Posted On: 2019-08-05, By: Schwapps
Info: The Castle Creek road is clear to 12,600' was able to drive my Jeep Cherokee Trail Hawk up to 12,500' taking time as I went to move large boulders out of the road, there are still a few big boulders above 11,000' that would require a bulldozer to move but fortunately they don't take up too much of the road. There are a few spots that have pretty substantial washout and require smart lines to be possible, 3 wheel driving over these parts. Above the 12,500' turnoff the road is partly covered in snow still. The actual climb is as reported before. The snow is unforgiving until about 13,200', but provides a great glissade still on your way down. At this point taking the super glissade from the Castle-Conundrum Saddle is a decent risk. The down climb to the access snow is super loose and the glissade is getting relatively thin now to the rock below. 
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Route: Northeast Ridge
Posted On: 2019-08-05, By: geargirl
Info: As wbanfield12 mentioned, the road is open to within 1/4 mile from the end. There is still some snowpack from a small gulley across the road and it's on an incline so not safe to cross in a vehicle. I have lots of offroad driving experience but didn't attempt the stream crossing in my Toyota Rav4 rental. Ditto on the snowfield comments...we were happy to have microspikes. When we first had a view of the glissade down from the saddle it seemed many people were opting to skip it and downclimb Castle. It's melted out a good ways from the top of the saddle and the downclimb to the start of the snow is on some really loose dirt/rocks. As we got closer to the summit of Castle, it seemed more people were trying the downclimb. We watched a couple of groups before us and it's a good idea not to have more than one person on the dirt section at a time. There were a lot of rocks dislodged and some pretty good rock slides started when climbers were on there. The actual glissade was fun but you really need to watch for rocks near the bottom. I will try and post a video of the glissade. 
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Route: Northeast Ridge
Posted On: 2019-08-03, By: wbanfield12
Info: Drove '04 4runner to 12,800ft and camped Friday night. The hike is easy outside of the large steep and unavoidable snow/ice patch. Crampons/microspikes are highly recommended, it won't be fun without them. The camp spots at the bottom were full, the road however has been cleared of avalanche debris and the river crossing is not that difficult with any SUV and some real off-road experience. The road before the fork to Pearl Pass is difficult and muddy. There are also large boulders dotted around that may need to be moved. It's very slow going after the fork, and I would advise only experienced off-roaders with SUV clearance should attempt. 
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Route: Northeast Ridge
Posted On: 2019-08-02, By: wrwwolfs204
Info: Didn't summit today but drove up past the pearl pass turn off and the road is completely clear. 
 
Route: Castle and Conundrum
Posted On: 2019-07-29, By: Kcmartinez22
Info: Peaks are in great condition. Only real snow to contend with is the long traverse to the upper basin. I used spikes for this and do think it is a bit safer with them. Ridge is dry all the way around. The glissade down Conundrum is a bit sketchy. There is significant melt out from the ridge to the start of the snow, so you must climb down some loose crappy rock to reach it. Plus, there are some rocks that are starting to become exposed. Plenty of people still doing it, just use caution. The glissade to the lower basin is perfection. The road is still closed just past camp spots 8 and 9. Would not think it will open any time in the near future. Prepare for at least a 12 mile day. And that's if you have a four wheel drive to get you to the dispersed spots below the creek crossing. Beautiful peaks! 
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Route: Castle and Conundrum
Posted On: 2019-07-29, By: tymclane
Info: Started the hike from campsite 1 (slightly past the 2WD trailhead) at 3:30 AM. Hiked a little less than a mile before reaching the avy field which has completely destroyed the walking bridge and is impassable for any vehicles. It may take quite a few more weeks (if at all) before this is passable once again. The hike up to the headwall via the 4WD road is completely dry and in great condition. Once you arrive at the headwall you'll have no choice but to hike up the snow. We chose to get on the snow immediately to begin traversing upwards rather than hiking over a talus field and climbing directly up the snow. Micro spikes are highly recommended as the snow was still pretty solid early in the morning and a bit icey in spots (nothing crazy). Once top the headwall the switchbacks to the ridge and the ridge to castle are completely dry. Rock is pretty solid all the way up as well, we chose to climb a few class 3 sections but for the most part it's pretty basic class 2. The saddle and ridge to conundrum were also dry and summer conditions. The only tricky part of this route was the hike down the saddle from conundrum. This descend from the saddle is relatively steep and still completely covered by snow (pictured) but we descended very carefully and glissaded a bit. Snow was very soft which help us keep a good slow speed. Ice axe recommeded for this part for sure but we used collapsed trekking poles as brakes which worked pretty well since it was so soft. Reached the second summit of Conundrum at 8:20 AM and returned back to campsite 1 before noon. Incredible day and awesome first time hiking in Elk Mountains! 
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Route: Northeast Ridge
Posted On: 2019-07-22, By: gravy1109
Info: The reports from 7/16 and 7/17 are still accurate. However, I would recommend micro spikes for the snowfield leading to the headwall. It is possible to do it without them (I did it in hiking shoes), but spikes would have made it a lot easier and safer. 
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