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Castle Peak

September 16, 2001 - Northwest Ridge

Heading up the ridge on Castle, the rounded summit is visible in the distance

The day before this climb, Gary and I had summitted Pyramid and then faced the even greater challenge of locating a campsite near the Maroon Bells.  We had one the prior night but it, and every other official site, was reserved for this evening.  We double-checked the campgrounds and all spaces were taken or reserved so before heading out to find a commando camp spot up toward Pearl Pass, we stopped at the USFS gatehouse to inquire about last minute cancellations.  There were none but the ranger offered us a day use picnic site for the night.  It had been years since I had a ranger offer an unofficial spot and we gladly accepted.  The next morning we headed to climb Castle Peak and parked just above the intersection of the Pearl Pass and Montezuma roads.  This spot would make for a decent vertical climb, though half the vertical would be on the mining road.  Regardless, we could not bring ourselves to drive to the top and simply do a ridge climb to bag the summit.

The road march was in the shade of increasing clouds and by the time we reached the toe of the real climb, the snow started to fall in earnest.  We chose the northwest ridge route and made up way up the switchbacks leading out of the bowl and onto the ridge proper.  The ridge hike is just that; a walk with a few climbs up here and there before a minor scramble to the summit point.  We were more intrigued by another climber who seemed headed for Conundrum but stopped shy of the summit and turned around.  He descended back to the Castle Conundrum saddle and then chose to descend to the snowfield route and out through the center of the bowl between the peaks.  The problem was he did not seem to be equipped with ice axe or crampons and was forced to stay right on the snow wall margin.  When the wall went to vertical he was truly in a conundrum but then he appeared to find a set of tracks that gave him a route to the less steep ground and a means of exit.  He played the game and won, this time.


Alternate routes . . . the Northeast Ridge and the North Face Direct