Ascent of Conundrum Peak on 2018-08-17

Climber: William Musser

Others in Party:CMC hike
Date:Friday, August 17, 2018
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:4x4 Vehicle
Peak:Conundrum Peak
    Elevation:14040 ft / 4279 m

Ascent Trip Report

CMC Trip led by Bogie out of Boulder Group. Originally, 14 signed up but bad weather forecast dropped us to 8. Was hard to round up the group that night, we were scattered all over the beginning of the 4 wheel TH. I was one of 3 4 wheel drivers. we were to leave by 5:25 but logistics made a later start. The 4 wheel drive road is not too bad, far better condition than Antero or Uncomphagre but about the same as San Luis. The only rough spot is creek crossing one at over 10k feet. Water was running hard with about a foot of water and the exit has some bad rocks. No SUV, low clearance, Subaru, or non 4 wheel drive should attempt this. It is the crux move on the route. I bottomed out but realized I forgot to take my hitch ball off (Dumb!). The second creek crossing has an excellent bridge and so you can drive up to where the two 4-whee drive roads intersect and park and start your hike there. This is the standard parking but perhaps only 2 spaces. We thus, elected to park just before the wooden bridge where you could park about 5 cars.

The snow was absent this year so as far as Roach's books saying an ice ax needed, not this year. The permanent snow fields are all but gone. The upper bowl has a thin nasty fields with a surprising berchrund still in place and I witnessed no less than 6 rock slides rushing down the mouth side of the fissure one lasting 90 seconds.

The cairns are in place and the hike is pretty straight forward. We took the standard ridge up Castle. Nice views and crazy cool sedimentary rock. In particular the layered purple and green rocks! Found some lepidodite (sp?) purple crystals and muscovite mica in a mineralization zone and was wondering if they ever found emeralds in the area.

Our group had people in their 30s 40s 50s 60s and 70s. So the rate of climbing was all over the place. Bogie was kind enough to let me and Jong go ahead and lead route and once we got to the upper pinnacles of class 2+ my summit fever made me summit well ahead of the others so I had the rare pleasure of being on the summit before anyone else that day and enjoying some solitude. Jong was soon with me and then 4 other strong hikers that turned out to be not from our group (they has passed our group and I mistakenly thought they were following me and Jong - they thanked us for shouting out where the route was but they were not part of our group). Jong and I realized then, that some of our CMC party were the next group we were shouting out to behind these 4 (2 groups of 2) but more than a mile back we had to members that were far below the fitness needed to get up and miss the storms that were predicted to com in by 9 AM or 10.

We were all in view of each other so our deputy Group Leader radioed in to Bogie when the rest of our CMC group closed in that we still had good weather and could grab Conundrum before the remaining group would make the summit of Castle and with the weather holding out and competency level of the lead group being high, we elected to break into 2 groups. Bogie would lead the remainder up Castle slowly, since the weather unexpectedly took a turn for the better, and we were no longer rushed to avoid the predicted 9 AM rains (I was on the summit before 9 AM)

Our deputy GL/designated wilderness first responded (medic) went with us to go tag Conundrum. Since we lost 3 from our original group we invited two fit 30 year old ladies that wanted to go with us and appreciated us staying ahead of them with the route finding. The saddle down from Conundrum was melted out and nothing but loose scree and rock and very steep. It looked horrible from the summit of Castle but some of us had head protection and some with microspikes for traction and nearly all with poles.

The ridge off Castle towards Conundrum is class 2+ with a place where you had hands down not just for balance but for climbing but it is properly rated a 2+. It is steep and a lot of talus but a well used trail down.

We were back to a group of about 7 with the two new girls added to our group. Jong and I found ourselves at the saddle ahead of the others and scouted out the saddle exit for later. It was doable but was going to be tricky and a threat of rock hitting you. I had recommended by email that everyone bring a helmet and we all should have had them. There is a lot of loose rock on this saddle down. I would definitely have one for the exit.

Climbing up Conundrum is easier than going down Castle. There are two peaks separated by a wide and exciting couloir that still held snow. Everyone debated which peak is higher but there are both easy to climb so tag them both. I ran over to the last peak and got my summit photos (was on that summit by 10 AM) without people in them and then all joined and we group shot. The way down is fine until the saddle. Our GL/medic did a superb job of managing the decent making sure each climber was out of harms way as we snaked through the well worn use trail and there were no close calls with tumbling rock at all. We shared poles with the ladies that joined us and did not have helmets or poles and all shared info about lose rocks on the way down and we successfully avoided knocking rock down near anyone.

Another nice 14er day!
Click on photo for original larger-size version.
Conundrum and South Conundrum (to the right) during a period where the permanent snow field nearly melted out (left) (2018-08-17). Photo by William Musser.
Click here for larger-size photo.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:275 ft / 83 m
    Total Elevation Loss:3215 ft / 979 m
    Round-Trip Distance:4.2 mi / 6.8 km
    Quality:7 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Open Country, Scramble
    Gear Used:
Ski Poles
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:225 ft / 68 m
        Gain Breakdown:Net: 200 ft / 61 m; Extra: 25 ft / 7m
    Loss on way in:25 ft / 7 m
    Distance:0.8 mi / 1.3 km
    Route:SE Ridge
    Start Trailhead:saddle between peaks  13840 ft / 4218 m
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:3190 ft / 972 m
        Loss Breakdown:Net: 3140 ft / 957 m; Extra: 50 ft / 15m
    Gain on way out:50 ft / 15 m
    Distance:3.4 mi / 5.5 km
    Route:Nasty Scree saddle down
    End Trailhead:4 wheel parking  10900 ft / 3322 m
Ascent Part of Trip: CO-BigDay

Complete Trip Sequence:
1Castle Peak2018-08-17 a3385 ft / 1032 m
3Conundrum Peak2018-08-17 c275 ft / 84 m
4pt 135002018-08-17 d1440 ft / 439 m
5Twining Peak2018-08-17 e696 ft / 212 m
Total Trip Gain: 5796 ft / 1767 m    Total Trip Loss: 5796 ft / 1767 m

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