Conundrum Peak 14,060′ Conundrum Couloir 6/7/2012 – Solo – The hard way

After Grays I headed south for the Indy Pass area. I saw alot of good looking lines in the McNasser Gulch area so I headed there for a little recon. I was stunned to find almost no snow in any of the drainages that I drove up. I had to hatch another plan. I thought about Grizzly and Anderson and then Conundrum came to mind. I had heard that the Montezuma Road was open so away I went to Aspen. Before heading up the Castle Creek Road I pulled over to call some friends so that at least someone would know where I was should I make a big mistake. I’m pulled over at the side of the road and this guy comes over to ask me if I was me. It was Rob Ender one of Jesse’s best friends. We knew of each other and Nick had been trying to connect us. Small world.

I headed up Castle Creek Road and camped below the creek crossing. In the morning I drove the road up to a switchback in the high alpine. I set off and made good time to the snow. The couloir climb was pretty straightforward and my days plans were shortened by the lack of snow on Castle’s North Face. The only real concern was how hard the snow was at the shaded choke section. It took serious effort to get axe placements on the climb up. This section was also severely sun cupped, 2 feet plus. I figured I needed to wait at least a couple hours at the top for it to be skiable. So I hung out in one of the most beautiful mountain ranges in the state and enjoyed the views.

The snow above the choke was really nice. I couldn’t see the choke till I got just above it. It was still ice. I slid about 10 feet after a turn. The next turn I was expecting to slide and tried to correct for it. I still slid about 10 feet. Being alone I had a choice to make. I chose to down climb the choke. Transferring to crampons and axe on a 45+ degree slope is always dicey but if you’re methodical it’s usually fine. The down climb went pretty slow but considering the consequences of falling alone it seemed like the best idea. There just wasn’t enough purchase for the edges on the iced sun cup tops. Once below the choke I switched back to skis and “enjoyed” the rest of the couloir and the apron. At the bottom of the lower snowfield I caught a marmot eating my shoes.

This was actually a really fun day. This was about as far as I like to push it alone but when you push your comfort levels you end up with new limits. Being that I have a trip to glaciated terrain coming up soon with known downclimbing expected this was a good practice session.

Enjoy the pics

Mace Peak in the morning light
Looking towards Conundrum's basin
Mace and Star Peak
"Castleabra" with an interesting slide
North Face of Teocali
North Face of Castle Peak
Maroon and Pyramid
Skiing the upper couloir
Gear change
Skiing again
Looking back at the line
Pearl Peak
Taylor Peak
The Elks are so pretty
I wonder how many marmot pelts I'd have to trade for new shoes

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