A strong appetite, average palate, and weak writing, mixed with outdoor adventure.

A strong appetite, average palate, and weak writing, mixed with outdoor adventure.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Castle and Conundrum


  • Route: Conundrum Couloir and traverse to Castle
  • Distance: ~9.0 miles
  • Elevation Gain: ~4,350
  • Start time: 3:57 AM
  • Time: 9.5 hours
  • Climbers: Alan, Jen and Sandy

As planned, after having finished a climb of the Kelso Ridge Jen picked me up on the side of I-70 and we headed to Frisco to rendezvous with Alan. Alan’s climb was taking longer than anticipated. The solution? An impromptu picnic on the side of Lake Dillon.

photoAlan, please take your time.

Upon Alan’s arrival we sorted gear, loaded the truck, drove to Aspen, had dinner, bought provisions and then rushed off to make camp. Why the hurry? The alarms were set for 3:15 AM. We knew the basin was snow choked and wanted off the mountain before it got soft, otherwise we could be post-holing crotch deep.

 july 4 2011 088

Smile! It is not even 4 AM.

While working out the sleep with every step forward, we began to ascend the 4WD road that led to our high basin. Running into wildlife always provides a jolt to the nervous system, waking you even faster, and the porcupine was no exception. A rare sighting, a porcupine is always neat to see, so I of course chased it across snow to get a picture. This creature was all ass and quills and could waddle at an incredible speed so the picture below is not the best.

july 4 2011 090

The climb ascends into a high basin, blanketed in snow, and surrounded by peaks stretching 13K-14K feet into the sky. It is possible to drive much of the approach. Given the current snow conditions most people stopped prior to the Pearl Pass Road turnoff. We were reticent to try the stream crossing in the truck, but saw a myriad of vehicles that had made it across. A little extra distance will simply serve us well as training for other hikes.

july 4 2011 097

Looking back from whence we came.


Looking downvalley

july 4 2011 113

Jen and Alan cruising across the basin floor.


We ascended the slope behind us to reach the upper basin.

The goal was the Conundrum Couloir, a 600 vertical foot cut in the mountain side that features a ~50 degree snow slope, at its steepest, and tops out next to the summit. We timed it nearly perfectly, with soft snow at the base and at the top, and a 20 minute break to let the center portion have some time in the sun to thaw once the shadows passed. I have not done a snow climb in years and am now hooked again. There is little else that gives you such a position, where you can look between your feet, see your friends, feel secure, and be immersed in an alpine experience.

july 4 2011 121

Jen leading the lower couloir.

july 4 2011 120

Alan wearing a huge smile on his first snow climb.

july 4 2011 124

Jen halfway up.

july 4 2011 126

Alan working his way up as the passage narrows.

july 4 2011 134

Rest break on a ledge.We were waiting for the snow to soften so took the opportunity to soak up some sun, eat, drink and gawk at the view.


july 4 2011 137

Jen and Alan following on the upper third. While steeper the snow was perfect for kicking steps. Popping over the top we were welcomed by expansive views of the Elk Range.


There are 5 14ers in this view.

It was a short scramble to the summit from the couloir’s exit. Below are Alan and Jen on the summit.

106Jen rocking the Wonder Woman shirt.105

Alan showing some Longhorn pride.

From the summit of Conundrum it is a quick and easy scramble up the broken rock to the summit of Castle Peak. On this summit we were molested by a dog that was a professional beggar. By the time we left the summit this dog had put down a few pieces of beef jerky, a PB&J, part of a turkey sandwich and vienna sausages. It was insatiable, but its bowels must have been a wreck on the descent.


The team atop Castle.

There were three lengthy glissades that sped the descent along. Per the norm I skipped the butt slide and either plunge stepped or did a standing glissade.

july 4 2011 178

Jen in a seated glissade.

The descent was not nearly as long as expected. We feared a lengthy road slog, but it passed quickly as our energy levels stayed high.


Sandy headed downvalley.

We tried a timed celebratory shot, but getting 3 adults to pull off handstands or cartwheels in synchronicity is about as effective as trickle down economics.


From here it was food time. The best part of hiking is the justified gluttony.


White House Pizza


Beer sampler at the Glenwood Springs Brewery


Eggs Benedict from Daily Bread


Pancake, egg and syrup combo from Daily Bread

No comments:

Post a Comment