#12 Castle Peak – 14,265′
Peak #12: Tuesday, March 8, 2016
Ski Route: East Face to North Face Couloir
Roundtrip Mileage and Vertical: 7mi / 3,600′
Ski Partners: Anna Migl, John Fielder
Start Time: 345am
Reached Summit: 8am (Hour on the Summit)
End Time: 1015am back to Green Wilson Hut
It was a cold and clear morning when we departed the Green Wilson Hut deep in the heart of the Elk Mountains on Tuesday Morning. Sunday and Monday were quite stormy, dumping up to a foot of powder in this corner of Colorado. The snow had settled into the stable layer below, so as I broke trail into Montezuma basin, the going was moderately tough, but the stars were spectacular.
Cresting into the upper basin, the morning light came on strong and before I knew it we were skinning up to the notch on the northeast ridge of Castle.
It was a chilly morning, and as the sun began to come up, we made it to the ridge. It felt almost Himalayan as I had been climbing in my down jacket throughout the morning darkness but thankfully there was no wind.
The views became even more impressive as we got higher and higher. The ridge was tough and loaded with snow, and at times as we booted up the ridge I sank up to my waist in the fresh powder.
Up the final summit pitch was a challenge of powder, and we battle through it so by 8am we had earned the summit. Calm, cold, and clear, but the morning sun warmed us. This was a peak I definitely was enjoying. In fact we stayed for an hour on top. This was my 3rd winter summit of Castle and probably the best one yet. The snow was amazing.
After some food and snacks, I clicked in and skied right of the top of the highest spot in all of the Elk Range. The best way off the summit was by way of the east face.
I took a couple of turns off the steep point on the crest of the face, and then we made our way to the notch on the northeast ridge that we climbed. From here the north couloir was beckoning. No steeper than 35-40 degrees or so, the broad couloir was filled in nicely with up to 3 feet of powder that had blown in during the last storm.
Nearly 1000 feet of fun turns we took in this couloir, and once we made it down in to the basin we really opened things up for an half hour of fun skiing down the basin and back to the Green-Wilson Hut. I was fortunate to spend a few days hut tripping with great friends and got a chance to ski over Pearl Pass as well, exploring some excellent corners of the Elk Range.
Because the snow conditions of powder were so awesome, it was my favorite peak of the project so far and one of my best 14er skis in years. With more awesome weather coming in the next few days I am going to get after some more peaks to keep this project rolling! Thanks for following along!