Hiking Distance: 18.2 miles round trip
Elevation Gain: 5,003 feet
Trip Date: June 16, 2002
Participants: Gary Swing, Jim Harrington
Castleabra is an officially unnamed 13,803 foot peak 0.8 miles west from the fourteener Castle Peak. It is usually climbed in connection with a backpack to Conundrum Hot Springs. I chose to do it as a day trip.
Jim and I left Denver at about 3:30 am, driving over Independence Pass and through Aspen to the Conundrum Creek Trailhead at 8,800 feet.
We started hiking at our own paces around 8:00 am, with Jim headed for the hot springs while I set my sights on the peak. It took me 2 hours and 40 minutes to hike eight miles south up the good, scenic Conundrum Creek Trail to the hot springs at 11,200 feet. Along the way, I saw many backpackers hiking out this Sunday morning, but none hiking in.
Not having copied down Garratt and Martin's directions, I followed the Roaches' route up the west face of Castleabra. From the hot springs, I climbed east into and up an obvious rock glacier filled with an infinite supply of steep, loose rotten talus and scree. This led to a small basin that I climbed east all the way to the 13,620 foot saddle on the ridge south of Castleabra. There was absolutely nothing solid in this wretched terrain. I slid backwards with nearly every step, dislodging rocks as I went.
The Roaches recommend climbing this route with early season snow, and I could see why. With the drought, the snow was almost entirely gone, and the footing was terrible. Garratt and Martin describe a slightly different route up Castleabra that might be worth examining.
From the saddle, it was a simple matter to climb 100 yards north to the top. The summit offered excellent views of Castle Peak to the east. To the west, I could see Thunder Pyramid and its neighbors, which I climbed three weeks later.
It took me two hours and 15 minutes to climb 2,600 vertical feet from the hot springs to the summit in 1.1 mile. The descent back to the hot springs took only 50 minutes, but I fell on the loose rock on the way, spraining one of my fingers.
When I got back to the hot springs, I spent an hour and a half skinnydipping. There was a young woman there, also skyclad. She hadn't seen my friend Jim. Eventually, I headed back down the trail at a rapid clip and caught up to Jim about a mile from the car, on his way back from the hot springs. We capped off our long day with dinner at a Mexican restaurant in Leadville on the way back to Denver.
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