Conundrum Peak

Conundrum Peak. Photo Credit: Robin Lindsay – OutThere Colorado.

Conundrum Peak, a 14,060-foot sub-summit of 14,279-foot Castle Peak, lies in the Elk Range and Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness Area south of Aspen. The elegant peak is considered an unofficial fourteener since its rise above the saddle adjacent to Castle is 240 feet, not the 300 feet needed to be considered a separate mountain. Conundrum Peak, easily climbed along a Class 2 ridge from Castle Peak, has two summits (the north one being the highest). Conundrum Couloir, a steep snow- and ice-filled gully that splits the mountain’s southeast face, is a good snow climb and ski descent in late spring.

Pro Tips

  • Conundrum Peak and Castle Peak are usually climbed together. Begin by hiking and scrambling up Castle Peak’s Northeast Ridge route, then descend back down the ridge to a saddle between the two at 13,790 feet. Climb Conundrum’s South Ridge, sticking to a trail along the ridge crest as much as possible, to the lower summit. Descend to a sharp notch, and climb loose rock to the high summit. You made it!
  • Conundrum Peak is a serious climb with a lot of loose, shattered rock and snowfields. The regular Northwest Ridge route up Castle Peak and the South Ridge up Conundrum from the saddle requires moderate snow climbing most of the year to rock scrambling on the ridges. Bring crampons and an ice axe for safe climbing. Inexperienced climbers may require a rope and a belay on steep sections.
  • The hike up Castle and Conundrum Peaks begins at the lower trailhead at 9,800 feet and gains a total of 4,850 feet to the summit of Castle. There is less elevation gain if you have a four-wheel vehicle and can drive to a higher trailhead at 11,200 feet. Hiking mileage from the low trailhead is 14.5 miles, and 8 miles from the upper. Route difficulty is hard Class 2. Allow a full day to climb both peaks.
  • Conundrum Couloir, a fun climb for experienced mountaineers, is one of the best snow routes in the Elk Range. To climb it in spring after the snow has consolidated, hike into the basin between Castle and Conundrum and turn right to the base of the obvious couloirs. Climb the steep Class 3 couloir to crux climbing past a cornice at the top. Descend the South Ridge route or ski down the couloirs (experts only!). Bring crampons and ice axe.
  • Recommended season(s): June through September.

    —Stewart M. Green


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