Peak(s):  Castle Peak  -  14,274 feet
Conundrum Peak  -  14,037 feet
Date Posted:  12/24/2011
Modified:  12/27/2011
Date Climbed:   12/22/2011
Author:  FireOnTheMountain
Additional Members:   Kiefer
 Goin' where those chilly winds dont blow   

I was originally not going to up a report for this trip but some people have expressed interest in the conditions so here it is.

After leaving Denver around 9:30 am and making a few stops along the way, Kiefer and I arrived at Ashcroft around 3 pm where we happened upon the climber's arch nemesis this time of year...the dreaded winter closure gate. We threw on our modestly packed 40 lb+ bags and headed up into the frosty mountains.

We actually conversed with a worker at the Ashcroft cross country ski resort and he notified us that the area had received very little snow in the past month, but naturally, it was snowing on us quite hard as we set out up the road.

We made it up the road a few miles before we called it and set up Kiefer's brand new, bomber Hilleberg Tarra. This tent was serious luxury. We woke up the next morning, boiled some water and hit the road with far more sensible pack weights and a little less that 3" of freshies.

The infamous avy paths that plague this area were not loaded enough at this point. Despite this, Kiefer and I didn't want to stick around to see them go. Snowshoes were brought along and needed.
First view of the bowl below Castle, note the Mai Tai-like weather

We went up the standard NE ridge on the left. Thankfully, avy danger was low. We ditched the clown shoes around here.

Kiefer and the resounding Conundrum Couloir

"Wheres Waldo?"



Looking down the ridge we came up

Since departing early in the morning, winds were ever present, temperatures frigid and the tempest from the night before was proving to be a worthy adversary for the sun to break through. However, almost fairy tale-like, as we crested the summit of Castle, the clouds parted and the sun shone its effulgence. It was truly a surreal experience for me and the even the more experienced Kiefer whose summited the likes of Denali and Rainier to name just a couple.
Looking east from the summit (photo: Kiefer)

Ridge to Cathedral with Conundrum in the foreground left (photo: Kiefer)

After summiting Conundrum and signing the register (last signed few months ago), we came back down to the saddle and descended a gulley filled with snow that borders the permanent snowfield in the bowl (pretty sure this gulley is used in the summer as it is the obvious choice to take down rather than resummiting Castle and descending the NE ridge). Admittedly, it was a little sketchy going down this way because of the facetted, loaded face but we tried to stay in the rock bands as much as possible.

*EDIT*: Resummiting Castle is by far the safer option especially when snow conditions are poor. It may take a little longer, but its better than being avyed on.

Around 2 pm as we were leaving the bowl, the soup finally lifted, the winds abated and we were able to enjoy a wonderful, beginning to winter with 2 14ers in our pockets. This was the first time I had done Castle and Conundrum and it is Kiefer's 29th winter 14er!

Thanks for reading.
(photo: Kiefer)

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12

Comments or Questions
James Scott
I ain't gonna be treated this way...
12/24/2011 22:43
Enjoyed the read & pictures. Well done!

12/24/2011 23:57
Ballsy! Nice effort, gents. Beautiful photos. Way to kick off the season.

Congrats on getting these, Abe, and congrats to Kiefer on #29!!

Making it look easy
12/25/2011 00:18
Well done, gentlemen.
Kiefer got a new Hilleberg, eh? That's some serious coin, my man.
My favorite version of the song in question is track #13 found at this link. Pigpen rocks the house.

Great work!
12/25/2011 00:18
Nice job, Abe and Keifer! Nice way to start off the winter climbing season. Glad you didn't have to deal with the infamous avy alley that approach becomes. Superb job you two

12/25/2011 02:51
Great work guys, way to take advantage of the lack of early season snow. Certainly a good time to get up to Montezuma Basin.

12/25/2011 04:05

Do better next time.

Most excellent!
12/25/2011 14:45
Sweet ride guys. Home safe and sound is always a successful day.

12/25/2011 17:35
Awesome job you two. Abe -- see you tomorrow on Humboldt.

Good one!
12/25/2011 23:10
Yah. Great to finally get out with you. I still can't believe we got out and did that in those conditions. But then again, why spend hundreds of dollars on clothing & equipment if you're not going to use it for its' intended purpose? Good to see the stuff we buy hold up to their claim!
Thanks for driving, btw!

Thanks for the Elks update
12/27/2011 03:18
Thanks for the report. I was wondering what it is like in there these days. I long to visit the Elks in winter, but I'm kinda just a little scared...

12/27/2011 17:31
Sorry I wasn't able to join you for this one, but it's cool to see that you got to use that tent, Kiefer!

Thanks for comments
12/27/2011 18:07
Matt - That site is awesome! You know Phil Lesh and Friends are coming to the Broomfield event center in Feb???

Anna - We should hike sometime this winter if you down.

Ryan - Sorry man, I'll try harder next time

Jeff - Hope you had fun on Humboldt. I opted out cause to friggen far

Kiefer - Good point indeed.

Terry - Can you say rematch of Crestone Peak in March???

12/28/2011 00:11
Beautiful photographs, way to get it done in those conditions!

Cool Hand Luke
Nice Job!
12/28/2011 03:17
Congrats on the winter summits. How did the hike in compare to the Apostles?

Wish I could have joined, however, I did find a decent hill to train on in TX with 30' gain: it was an overpass.

Kiefer told me...
12/31/2011 06:51
that you guys had made this climb. But, he didn't mention the conditions. It looks like you braved some serious weather to claim those twoin the winter.

Congratulations to you both!

04/02/2015 19:45
You two are smart cookies to get those two peaks in good avy conditions.

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