June 27, 2016

Castle Peak – 14,265′

14er rank:

# of climbs:
First climbed:
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2,365' (La Plata Peak - 20.9 mi E)
Gunnison/Pitkin County
12.1 mi SSW of Aspen
11.4 mi NE of Crested Butte

Northeast Ridge (Difficult Class 2)

Google Maps


This is the fifth 14er I've climbed, back in September 2012 with my friend Chris. This peak the tallest in the Elk Range and the 12th tallest in Colorado. It is often climbed together with neighboring Conundrum Peak, an unranked 14er less than a half mile to the north. Castle Peak, like most of the Elk 14ers, is not easily seen from any populated areas and is completely obscured from view in Aspen. One might be able to catch a view of it from areas around Crested Butte to the south.  

We hiked the standard Northeast Ridge route, beginning just beyond the Castle Creek trailhead around 9,900'. A 4WD dirt road (Forest Service Rd 102) actually continues on past the trailhead to the southwest and then cuts north and goes all the way up through Montezuma Basin to 12,800', where some high clearance 4WD vehicles are able to park. The route follows the road all the way up to this point, during which the hike is nothing more than a strenuous walk. Somewhere along the way, another very rough 4WD road branches off to the left (west) and goes all the way up to Pearl Pass at 12,705', while FR 102 continues straight (north) up into Montezuma Basin. Conundrum Peak is seen first along the hike up, but Castle Peak doesn't come into view until the road begins to swing back around to the west high up in the basin.

Once the road ends at 12,800', the route continues west into Upper Montezuma Basin and becomes a bit more involved. After first scrambling across a large talus field, you continue southwest up a well-defined trail to the ridgeline east of the peak. From there, the route follows the ridge west to the summit. To summit Conundrum, descend Castle's northwest ridge to the Castle-Conundrum saddle at 13,800' and then follow Conundrum's south ridge up to its summit. To instead head back down from the summit of Castle Peak, simply descend back down the Northeast Ridge route.  


Trip Reports

Castle Peak (Sept 2012)