CASTLE PEAK       Scrolling Photos     Back  


After bivouacking in an aspen grove in the National Forest along the road to Ashcroft, Jeff Alexander and I
drove a mile up the Castle Creek Road before deciding that was far enough in a car.  The hike to the start
of the trail would be long and arduous on the remaining 4WD road but I was optimistic that we could hitch
a ride most of the way up.  Climbers in 4WD vehicles are generally generous in sharing their rides with
climbers destined to walk up these long approach roads.  It wasn't too long before we spotted a Denali
coming up behind us.  After waving my magic thumb a young couple from Massachusetts (now Aspen) - 
Jenna and Matt - invited us aboard and took us as far as they would go - to where a stream crossed the
road.  After gracious thanks, Jeff and I crossed a bridge and continued hiking up the road.

It wasn't long before an XTerra driven by a Coloradoan named Ken with Amy and Scott Hanlon from
Connecticut would share their ride with us for another couple of miles up the road.  Half the joy of making
these climbs is meeting and mixing with all the cool people who share your passion.  After a couple photos
and a marriage proposal (which I am still considering, Amy!!!) Jeff and I continued up the remaining
couple miles of road to the trailhead.  It was a beautiful day and, after another day of recovery from my
race the past Saturday, I was beginning to feel stronger and pliant and ready to climb.

It was Jeff's first day back at altitude, however, so there wasn't much air left after the rest of us moved
ahead.  He was having some difficulty adjusting to less air so insisted that I go ahead.  Since it was clear
he would probably not summit, but use the day for acclimatization, I continued up the road and finally
caught two brothers - one from New York and the other from Boulder - Leo and Max Kabat.  After
chatting with these two professional musicians a bit I continued my solid climbing pace and arrived at the 
trailhead to begin looking for a cairned route.  

After climbing up a snowfield in the basin below Castle and Conundrum Peaks I could find no cairns worthy 
of folllowing.  Retracing my steps to the trailhead I joined Max and Leo and began following cairns on the
left side of the basin that led up the ridge.  It was not the way I would have chosen, but there seemed no
obvious alternative, so we proceeded to climb quickly, encountering a lot of loose scree and talus.  We
soon realized the top could certainly be gained by this avenue, but we would be doing a lot of free climbing 
to get there.

After an extended effort we did arrive, after crossing the very clear standard route that came up from the
basin below.  We watched another climber who had saddled over to Conundrum Peak and decided against
following him, choosing not to stretch the day any further.  After a bit of lunch and photos on top we began
to make our way down.  Leo was having leg cramps and had to take it easy coming down.  I regretted
leaving these guys, but parted ways to quickly descend the standard route that we had somehow missed 
and get on with the long return to the car.

Catching up with Ken, Scott, and Amy, and finally Jenna and Matt, all of whom would turn back from the
ascent of the mountain at some point and return disappointed, we cavorted down the road and enjoyed
the company of others before finally reaching the vehicles.  Riding down with Ken I finally reached Jeff
back at the car.  He had bailed early and hiked most of the way back with little reward for his effort.
Nonetheless, we both felt good about the day and made our way back into Aspen before driving up
to Maroon Bells to pursue the next three peaks on the agenda.