Castle Peak is one of the most iconic peaks in the entire Elk mountain range. It’s up there with the Maroon Bells, and Snowmass. Castle is the tallest mountain in the entire range standing menacingly at 14,265 feet!
Castle is one of the most popular Colorado climbs due to its high 14er prominence, and being the 24th tallest mountain in the United States.
This thing has been on my list for over a year, and I’ve spent an embarrassing amount of time in class as an upcoming junior at high school researching this hike, and many others. While everyone is in the library at school studying for their next history test, or figuring out what in the world calculus is, I am over on the desktops checking out the latest condition updates, trip reports, and photos from not only Castle Peak, but every mountain within a 50 mile radius of Crested Butte. I just spend my time going over routes from GPX files, or checking out the elevation profiles from these surrounding peaks thinking, ‘I wonder if I could do this in a day…’ Living 1600 miles away from these majestic peaks is not easy, but Google Earth and 14ers.com keeps me sane during these long dry periods of no climbing while I’m “at home”.
I wasn’t always this addicted to the mountains. I used to come up to Crested Butte and spend my summers doing the regular things people do like bike the lower loop, eat at the restaurants in town, or occasionally participate in hiking Mount Crested Butte’s peak, from the lift of course.
In 7th grade I was waiting in line at Camp4Coffee and noticed a poster on the wall right by the entrance for something called “Peak of the Week”. I had no idea what this was, but I ripped off the poster off the wall and took it back home for my parents to see it. The Crested Butte/Irwin Guides had organized a hike up one of Crested Butte’s most iconic and recognizable peaks each week, and I decided to branch out and join them for a hike.
Mount Baldy was the first hike I ever did with the guides, and I will forever remember that hike because it was the first time that I had truly been in the actual back country, it was a hike that didn’t have a chair lift going up 4/5 of the peak and that made summiting even sweeter. I remember summiting that day feeling an immense amount of pride knowing that I had climbed something that you actually have to leave a trail to get up, and find your own line. This was the beginning of a lifelong adventure. Mountain peaks will always be tugging at me.
Over the next few summers I participated in just about every Peak of the Week the guides did. Not only could I say I had summited these mountains, but now I was learning routes and found myself helping others seeking adventure, as well as myself in years to come. As a 13 year old, I was guiding my parents and friends up these mountains, regurgitating information that I had recalled from the guides such as different routes, elevation, kinds of wildlife, and tips/techniques on how to climb in certain conditions that they had given me.
I write this now as a 17 year old from Alabama who is absolutely sold on the idea of mountaineering and every aspect that goes along with it. If it weren’t for the Peak of the Week hikes, I feel I may have simply elected to be that kid that hangs out in the town and sits around all day. Peak of the Week sparked my passion to be outside and climb; I even feel bad some days that I’m not climbing something! The excitement that was stirred by those early climbs has made me a more knowledgeable, safer and more experienced aficionado.
These past 4 years of experience have cultivated my desire to solo climb Castle alone from town. A journey of 58 miles and 8500’ of vertical elevation gain. Prior to the Peak of the Week climbs those numbers used to be daunting. I would’ve said “Are you kidding me?! How am I supposed to do that in one day, it’s impossible!”
I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves, but this has been the most enjoyable, beautiful, painful, and longest hike/ride I had ever attempted. So glad I made that decision as a 12 year old to hike my first real peak with the guides, now I am hooked for life on all the adventure and thrill Colorado has in store for everyone!
I’m now the one on top of the peaks everyone is taking pictures of from the valley floor.
Headed up Pearl Pass early.
A deer sits in the plateau to the left of the pass.
Almost at the top of the pass, the sun coming out over Star Peak.
Looking back toward Crested Butte.
Finally at the top of Peal Pass!!! Castle looms in the distance.
Spires from Pearl Peak.
Nomming on a bagel. Food always tastes better not the trail.
On the Aspen side of Pearl Pass looking back toward Crested Butte.
Entrance to Castle/Conundrum basin at the top of the scree.
Looking at Caste's NE ridge toward conundrum.
Cathedral Peak and its spires in the distance, a centennial.
Finally at the top of Castle, and it's snowing.
The Maroon Bells, Pyramid, Snowmass and Capital all loom in the distance.
Conundrum and an unnamed lake snug in the basin.