Montezuma Basin is an alpine basin located in the Elk Range of the Rocky Mountains outside Aspen Colorado.
This post was supposed to be titled Castle and Conundrum Peak, since my intent was to summit both in one outing, but Mother Nature said nay-nay as last weekend’s snowstorm brought a whole bunch of light fluffy powder to the Rockies. Great if you’re going skiing or snowboarding, not so great if you’re trying to pick off a few 14ers.
The Jeep made it up to 10,700 feet on Pearl Pass/Montezuma road before the snow got too deep to where it was just pushing along with the front bumper. A good excuse for a 6 inch lift and 37s? Methinks that the CFO will deny this expenditure.
Mountain-Forecast blatantly lied, forecasting overnight lows around 14 degrees at this elevation.
When I woke up at 4am – 2 degrees showing on my watch from the Garmin Tempe sitting outside. Back to sleep.
6am – 2 degrees. Back to sleep.
7am – it’s not getting any warmer, might as well get up and get it over with.
I did NOT expect that all of my Nalgenes and my backpack water bladder would freeze solid inside the Jeep, so a cold half hour was spent boiling water and melting everything out. It IS really nice though to hike with warm water in your hydration pack, warms you up with every sip if you sip often enough to keep the hose from freezing solid.
Inside the Freezer
I didn’t expect all of my Nalgenes and my backpack water bladder to freeze solid inside the Jeep.
My feet wouldn’t warm up in the deep snow and I debated turning around within the first half hour due to frostbite concerns, but once the sun was high enough to hit me everything warmed up nicely and the rest of the day turned out absolutely gorgeous.
Pearl Pass Road
The fresh powder is beautiful, but it’s really tough on the legs when you’re snowshoeing. Every step sinks in, then every lift up carries snow that you push along with you. It’s like doing weighted high steps for hour after hour.
500ft Tall Shadow
The entire Elk Range is known for really loose, crappy rock. I discovered that deep fresh powder covers up the rock and makes it almost impossible to pick good footing and handholds.
After slogging up to the ridgeline 500 vertical feet below Castle Peak, I decided that the powder and loose rock combination made the remainder of the route too sketchy for my sense of self-preservation and called it.
The mountains aren’t going anywhere, no sense becoming a statistic or needing to press the SOS button on the InReach.
Castle Peak Summit
Going down in powder is much easier, especially when you’ve trenched through the snow already. 6 hours up, 2:15 down.
If I rated this outing by summits it would be a dismal failure. If I rated it by sheer beauty, complete solitude, and a killer workout – I’d say this was a huge success.