Photo
Conundrum Peak
snow Conundrum Couloir
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Difficulty:
 Class 3 
Snow Steepness: Steep  
Ski/Board: Advanced, D12 / R3 / III  
Risk Factors:Exposure: High
Rockfall Potential: Considerable  
Route-Finding: Moderate  
Commitment: Considerable  
 
Trailhead:Castle Creek
Start:9,800 feet
Summit:14,060 feet
Total Gain:4,400 feet using lower TH
4,000 feet starting at the creek crossing
RT Length:12 miles using lower TH
9.5 miles with a start at the creek crossing
Author:BillMiddlebrook
Updated:3/2019
Weather:NOAA Forecast
Conditions:71 reports
Cell Signal:2 reports
Sheriff:Pitkin: 970-920-5300
Forest:White River
Wilderness:Maroon Bells - Snowmass
Quad. Maps:Log In to View
Camping:On Google Maps
Eats:On Google Maps
Downloads:Log In to Download
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Trailhead

Take Castle Creek from the roundabout just west of the center of Aspen. Drive 12.5 miles (paved) to the Castle Creek trailhead. To the right, Forest Road (FR) 102 continues all all the way to 12,800'. Good-clearance passenger cars can drive about 1 mile up this road to reach the dispersed camp sites along the road. If you want to shorten your hike by parking higher, you must have a 4WD vehicle with good clearance. From the lower trailhead parking area, proceed to a river crossing, at 1.3 miles. In spring and early summer, this crossing is a challenge for some 4WD vehicles. At 3 miles, reach the Pearl Pass junction and stay right on the Castle Creek 102 road. If you drove up this far, there are a few parking spots near the junction. The road gets worse as it ascends into Montezuma Basin all the way to 12,800'.

Route

Taken from Castle Peak's northeast ridge, 1 shows the Conundrum Couloir. From the 2WD trailhead, drive up FR 102 where you'll find marked camping spots along the first 1.25 miles. Near 10,200' and 1.3 miles up the road, reach a creek crossing which has a footbridge. If the road is open/clear beyond this point and you have a 4WD vehicle, you can drive higher. Low-clearance vehicles should NOT attempt this crossing, especially in early summer when the water is high. If you plan on driving across, it's best to walk over the footbridge first to see what you're up against. Cross Castle Creek ( 2) and continue nearly 2 miles to the Pearl Pass road junction. Stay right and continue up into Montezuma Basin - 3, 4 and 5.

From the end of the road at 12,800', ascend a bit higher to see a steep slope (headwall) that has snow through much of the year - 6. The headwall blocks easy access to the upper basin. Hike southwest to the right side of the headwall and begin climbing - 7 and 8. Near 13,300', enter the large, upper basin where you can seen Castle Peak, to the south - 9. For Conundrum Couloir, stay right in this area and begin to angle west to reach the base of the couloir - 10 and 11. You can see to the top and from this point, it's roughly 500' of elevation to reach the top of the couloir. With crampons, axe and a helmet on your head, begin climbing - 12. Near 13,800', the couloir begins to narrow ( 13) before a "choke" at 13,850' - 14, 15 and 16. This section is the crux of the route and has an angle of approximately 47 degrees. Above the choke, you're not far from the top but you may notice a large cornice looming above. Pick your line and continue toward the top - 17, 18 and 19. If there's a cornice, you'll likely have to sneak around the right side to find the easiest exit. When you're out of the couloir, turn right and hike to the top - 20 and 21.

Notes

IMPORTANT: This route enters the Maroon Bells - Snowmass Wilderness area. Wilderness areas have special regulations and restrictions for party size, dispersed camping, campfires, etc. Also, dog owners should read the wilderness information carefully because some wilderness areas prohibit dogs to be off-leash and/or limit how close dogs can be to lakes and streams. If you have questions about the wilderness area, please contact a U.S. Forest Service office for the National Forest(s) listed above.
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