Castle and Conundrum combination, September 18-19 2009.
We left Boulder Friday after work with a plan to camp at the Perl Pass Trailhead that night and wake early to go bag Castle and Conundrum Peaks. Joe and I both had our gear ready so we were able to get to where we hoped to camp by around 11pm. We took the Castle Creek Trail to the fork at Perl Pass (FR 102) and pulled the jeep off the road right there. There were some places to pitch our gear and in no time we were out. We wanted to get an early jump on it so we got up around 4:30 and hit the trail by 5. We actually got passed by a few more hard-core 4wd vehicles in the predawn, but as we got to the end of the FR 102 road past the ruin of the old Montezuma mine we saw those folks still getting ready to head out. From there we could see there was snow and the crampons we brought would come in handy if we were going straight up the snowfield to the saddle between Castle and Conundrum.
To gain access to that slope to the saddle we had to work our way upslope to get around the bergschrund at the bottom. While working our way around it was obvious that there was a good deal of rockfall with fresh tracks in the recent snow from this-would-kill-you sized boulders. Good idea to have a lid on the head here and keep an ear tuned. We saw a pretty nasty rockfall on the other side of the cirque that crossed the other sw ridge route, fortunately there was no one there at the time.
Our early start paid dividends being we were clearly the first ones up the snow slope and also to the saddle that morning.
The alpeneglow was amazing, the views incomparable as we left from the saddle south up the ridge to the top of Castle. Nice blocky scramble up a ridge with really good exposure back down to the lake. On top we noticed a few groups below making their way up both the SW and snow slope routes. After a short break on the summit we head back down to the saddle and picked up the trail up towards Conundrum. The scrambling and route finding was a little more demanding on this section with some very brief class 3. The rock is real rotten and to prevent creating rockfall we stayed on the snow and ice as much as possible taking the highest line. A false summit really looks like the top but the reason there is no registry there is because you have to continue along the ridge, down-climb a little piece and then back up to gain the true summit.
Looking down on our way back it appeared that some of the chutes could make nice couloir climbs if the conditions were right but would be deadly dangerous if conditions were not ideal. We made it back down to the saddle having bagged both peaks before running into another soul. It was KEY to be on the snow early while it was harder from the night-freeze, two folks we met on the way down were post-holing their way up the same snow slope we crampon’d up. Going down we glissaded our way and made short work of the descent, careful not to go flying out of control into the bergschrund crevasse.
We were back in Boulder before dark already looking forward to the next time…
An awesome trip!