We climbed the Conundrum Couloir of Conundrum Peak and then traversed over to Castle Peak via the northwest ridge before descending Castle Peak's northeast ridge back to our starting point. This was a short and fun hike that offered a snow climb, ridge scramble, and good views of the Elk Range.
We left Denver at 9:30 Friday night and arrived at our starting point at 2:00 just in time for some miserable sleep. We made it to the second creek crossing on the four-wheel-drive road and parked just shy of 11,000'. As previously mentioned, we slept intermittently from 2:20 to 4:40, but decided to just start hiking after someone hiked by and another vehicle arrived. Although snow existed for many portions of the hike in, it was still a reasonably easy approach because it is on a road for much of the time.
We rounded the corner at Montezuma Mine and got our first real views of Conundrum Peak and Castle Peak. At 12,800', near the end of the road, the snow became continuous in the basin. We continued southwest into the cirque surrounded by the two mountains. At the base of Conundrum Couloir, we assessed snow conditions and prepared for the climb. Although it was already 7:15, the snow remained solid and we proceeded up the couloir. It was a good climb, with my only complaint being its brevity. Before I knew it, we were skirting the cornice on top of the couloir and standing on Conundrum Peak's summit after 45 minutes of climbing. The couloir is relatively steep measuring 47 degrees in some parts.
The traverse to Castle Peak took 45 minutes. The ridge was snow free and went relatively quickly. The weather was cooperating, and we took a 20 minute break in the notch on the northeast ridge of Castle Peak, which is also the top of Castle Peak's North Couloir. We decided to descend the northeast ridge rather than backtrack out the standard route. We caught a couple of manageable glissades, and then finished the hike back down to the creek. The round trip took us 6 hours and 20 minutes.