Thursday, June 10, 2010

Conundrum Peak (14,060 ft.)

9 June, 2010: Unfinished business.
Trisha and I had foregone the option of adding unranked Conundrum to our climb of Castle in 2007, because we simply ran out of time. It's common to do these two together, but snow on the NE ridge of Castle slowed us down quite a bit. So I went back solo to knock it off. Now I can finish the list of 58 at the same time I finish the list of 54!
I was hoping that, in early June, there would still be enough snow to make a snow climb of the (in)famous Conundrum Couloir possible. (This is not the "standard" route.) My hopes were rewarded.
I started at about 10,100 ft. on the Castle Creek road, later than planned at just before 7 am MST. The day was sunny and beautiful, and I soon realized that I had brought far more clothing than needed. I donned crampons at the end of the Montezuma Basin road, at about 12,800 ft.
Once in the upper basin, I at first thought I had gone past the Conundrum Couloir (which splits the two high points of this mountain), but a glimpse of the cornice at the top showed me that I was still on my intended route. I carefully worked my way across the bottom of the couloir, kicking steps in the snow, to get over to the extreme right (north) side. There, I used exposed rock for handholds wherever possible while going more-or-less straight up the steep snow.
About 50 feet below the top, I chose to climb out onto the rocks on the right for the final push to the summit. As soon as I topped out, I spotted the register right in front of me. It had been put in by Roger Wendell the previous August, and most of the dozen pages of entries were from 2009. I added my name to the relatively few from this year, took a few pictures, and began to re-trace my steps down the very steep couloir. (Overall, I would rate this climb as tougher than the similar couloir climb on Mt. Sneffels.) I didn't glissade the couloir, because the run-out is a LONG way below. I did save some time with a mushy glissade out of the upper basin. I couldn't believe the amount of meltwater gushing down Castle Creek and all its tributaries!
5.5 hours up, 4.5 hours down
RT: about 8 miles, approx 3,900 ft. vertical
A few pictures are at:
Long life and many peaks!


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