We're Powered by Donations. Will You Join the Cause? Donate Now
×
Record Snow Year!

With all the snow that has fallen, access to the high country will be a challenge for a significant part of the summer. If you have useful updates to road, trail or peak access, please post on our Facebook page. "Like" our FB page to receive email notices of new updates posted. Be prepared & be safe out there! 

×

#105 / 13,803' UN 13803 Castleabra

Range › Elks Range
Quadrangle › Maroon Bells
Summit Location › Peak Route Icon N 39° 00' 25.98", W 106° 52' 35.50" (Not Field Checked)

Peak Summary

UN13,803 (Castleabra) is a difficult to reach summit connected to the 14er Castle Peak by a 3rd Class rated ridge, that offers some difficulties. Castleabra may be climbed by a couple other different routes that include an ascent from Conundrum Hot Springs (which will require a backpack trip for most), or a longer day hike up into Cumberland Basin from the Pearl Pass road on the Crested Butte side. These other route options can keep the hike at a Class 2+ level at the most. All approaches to Castleabra will involve some tedious, loose rock. To minimize hiking distance 4WD with good clearance is advised. Our route takes you over the summit of Castle Peak, so you can bag a 14er if it's on your list or don't mind doing it again. 

Castleabra East Ridge Route

Class 3
Long Day // Back for Dinner
RT From Castle Ck./Castle Pk.: 12.1 mi / 5,850'
  • Trailhead Photos
    • Castle Ck./Castle Pk. Trailhead

      From the busy traffic circle on the west side of Aspen on SH82 and just east of the airport business center, take the exit for the Castle Creek Road (CR15) and drive a long 11 miles to the townsite of Ashcroft. Measure from the Toklat Lodge and drive another 2.0 miles south to an intersection at these coordinates: N 39° 01' 45.17"  W 106° 48' 28.26". (Or from the Pine Creek Cookhouse and the Ashcroft Ski Touring Center located on the west side of the highway it's another .6 mile). There is a kiosk sign here and parking for a number of vehicles on the west side of the road. If in a passenger vehicle with lower clearance, you may  want to park here, but some crossover types may still proceed to make a right turn and head SW on FR 102, aka: the Pearl Pass Road. (ON GE this is labelled CR 15D). At the aforementioned intersection, there is a paved road that continues due south and goes all the way to a mine/quarry on the northern flank of Star Peak. That road does not show on the unrevised USGS quad and other maps as well like FSTopo 2016. You do not want that road anyhow for the Castle Creek TH. 

      Once you've turned onto FR 102, drive SW for about 1.4 mile to a low water crossing of Castle Creek. In early runoff season, fording here could be problematic. Roach points out that about a half mile in on this road, it steepens and becomes "dramatically rougher." His more recent report validates what we also found in 1993. There is also a footbridge for hikers. It's been there at least since 1980. There are some at-large campsites along the way. If you have a higher clearance vehicle and don't mind the rougher road, continue to the stream crossing. This is what we are identifying as the trailhead. See coordinates above. On the other side of the creek and a little farther along are more campsites. Beyond this point, we recommend 4WD with good clearance if you want to drive farther. With an adequate 4WD, the road may be driven all the way up into the basin north of Castle Peak at 12,775 ft. In prior years, we have made it up here in both a Jeep Cherokee and a Toyota T-100. It is rough and slow going and downed trees that have not been cleared off may stymie progress. If you make it as far as the Pearl Pass junction, the road to Pearl Pass takes off to the left and begins a steep climb through the trees. The road is very rocky and is a challenge to drive. (See photo). Stream runoff on the road has washed away most dirt leaving only rocks to drive on. Once out of the trees, the difficulty moderates some for a while. There is room at the intersection for Pearl Pass and the Castle/Conundrum Basin for about two or three vehicles to park. 

      If continuing to drive north into the basin north of Castle, the last time we were on this road (2003), the roughest section came shortly after the Pearl Pass turnoff. It was not too difficult, but the remaining drive will be slow because the road remains rocky and rough. We were in a Toyota T-100 at the time.


      Camping

      There are no National Forest campgrounds along the road to Ashcroft. As mentioned before, there are a few at-large primitive sites along FR102 both before & after crossing Castle Creek. There may also be usable sites back near Ashcroft and around the turnoff for the Taylor Pass road. Also, on the road up to the Cathdral Lake TH, there are a couple of primitive sites. There is a lot of private property all along CR15. Be careful where you try to camp. As with most areas in the summer, weekend use is heavy and unoccupied camp spots difficult to locate. 

    Peak Icon Route Map Photos

    Route Info Castleabra East Ridge

    Route Description

    Year Climbed: 1993

    The route for Castleabra begins where the Pearl Pass Road crosses Castle Creek. As mentioned before, if you have 4WD with good clearance, it's possible to drive all the way up into the basin below Castle Peak at just under 12,800 ft. Otherwise, strap on the hiking boots and walk up the Pearl Pass Road to the SW for 1.8 miles until you come to an intersection at the third of a series of switchbacks. For those who wish to drive no further, there is parking here for several vehicles. To continue, take the right fork that heads north into the Castle/Conundrum Basin and proceed all the way to the upper parking area just below 12,800 ft. That's another 2.25 miles. 

    From this upper parking area, there are two basic routes to the summit of Castle Peak. A trail has been built that goes up along the NE ridge and that is now considered the "standard" route rated at a Class 2. The other route climbs to the Castle/Conundrum saddle. If the snow in the basin has receded enough, the upper portion of this route, just below the saddle will offer a steep, loose dirt ascent to the saddle. For most of the summer, you can expect snow on either route. This is a good place to practice some ice axe technique. When we climbed Castleabra in 1993, we chose to take the route to the Castle/Conundrum saddle. The basin was so filled with snow that we did not have to contend with the loose gravel/dirt. Both routes rate a Class 2. Either route covers about one mile to the summit. 

    From the saddle, hike SSE to the summit of Castle with just a few rock-steps along the way, but generally the ridge becomes steeper the higher you go and with more loose rock. If you've already climbed Castle before, it's tempting to think you can contour over to the saddle on Castle's west ridge at 13,580 ft. The contour however, would be extremely tedious on very unstable rock, so we judged it as best to just go on over the summit of Castle. (If you need more detail regarding a climb of Castle, consult Gerry Roach's book on the 14ers.) From the summit, turn and head west down along the ridge that connects over to Castleabra. The initial descent from the summit of Castle will be on loose, small rock. The first ridge step can be easily handled. The second presented more of a problem to us. The north side of the ridge will appear to offer the best way through the step, however, in 1993, we found ourselves at the head of a large snowfield. The gap between snow and rock at the head of the snowfield provided a way to contour across the head and make our way back to the ridge but working between the snow and the rock was slow and difficult. When you reach the first saddle at 13,580 ft., this is where the most significant obstacle is to be found. There is a large gash that drops 60 vertical feet or more. We descended off the ridge on the north side utilizing ledges covered in loose rock and sand. Progress was slow and tedious because we had to be very careful. Rock fall is a problem so helmets are useful here. We made it into the gully below the gash/saddle and then climbed back up a good 100 vertical feet before beginning a contour on the north side of the 13,820 ft. ridge bump. Getting past this gash was where we encountered the 3rd class work. 

    The attempt to contour below the 13,820 ft. point was met with slow progress on more unstable, steep, broken rock. On our way back, we chose to just go over the top rather than contour again. The drop to the next saddle presents only minor obstacles with little to no delays. The remaining ridge to the Castleabra summit will become clearly visible now and consists of an easy walk-up on tundra, some rock and possibly snow. The summit will offer an great view looking down into the Conundrum Basin as well as the Cumberland. The Cumberland approach to Castleabra requires more hiking, but the climb is easier overall. You can read a good report on that approach on LoJ. From this summit, you have a view of all the Elk Mountain 14ers. 

    For the return trip go back across the connecting ridge as you came, repeating the 3rd class traverse down to and back up the to bypass the gash. As you approach the Castle summit, again it will be tempting to contour north and avoid going over the summit. You will likely find as we did that doing so will become very unappealing. We ended up contouring only about 200 feet below the Castle summit and that was tedious enough. Go back to the Castle/Conundrum saddle, then hopefully enjoy a rapid glissade back down into the upper basin. Return to wherever you left your trusty vehicle. 


    Additional BETA

    Links to other information, routes & trip reports for this peak that may be helpful.
"Blessed are those who can give without remembering and take without forgetting." --Anonymous
Warning! Climbing peaks can be dangerous! By using this site and the information contained herein, you're agreeing to use common sense, good judgement, and to not hold us liable nor sue us for any reason. Legal Notice & Terms of Use.
x
Donate to Climb13ers.com ›