Colorado Skiing Continues to Provide – Montezuma Basin – Castle Peak

Post by blogger | June 14, 2007      

Film maker Mike Cuseo called me the other day, he needed more interview footage for the Davenport fourteeners movie (they’re still working on it.) I’ve gotten tired of interviews here in the Carbondale banana belt — why not get out in the mountains? So we headed up to Montezuma Basin this morning, figuring we’d find something to ski and a nice place set a tripod. Boy did we.

Skiing Castle Peak, Colorado Fourteener
You can drive just about any SUV or 4×4 truck to within hiking distance of snowline this time of year, but bringing Rumble Bee makes the day special so the yellow Jeep joined our crew. We parked where snow is blocking the summer road, at about 12,000 feet.

Skiing Castle Peak, Colorado Fourteener
When you smell snow, you’re almost there. That’s Montezuma Basin (lower tier) up ahead. At this point we didn’t know if Castle Peak (14,265′) would be in. Turned out we made a summit ski descent with continuous snow back down to snowline a few hundred vertical feet above our parking spot. Pretty good for June 14 on a somewhat average snow year. What does the trick is a bit of colder weather and a few snowstorms to renew the snow surface.

Skiing Castle Peak, Colorado Fourteener
At the summit, me on the right and a guy named Jason on the left. Jason and his friend Frank were bagging the peak (no skis) and were the kind of guys you like meeting in the mountains Super friendly, smiling, having a good time. As this was Jason’s first fourteener we took this congratulatory shot with him and the “fourteener celebrity.” Congratulations Jason — may you climb many more mountains!

Skiing Castle Peak, Colorado Fourteener
Cuseo in the North Couloir. He’s a product of the Colorado Rocky Mtn. School of outdoor fun and telemarking, that latter of which he does quite well — and the former too I’d imagine.

We had fun filming at the summit. Per modern convention Cuseo documented my turns off the summit, then shot more in the couloir and basin. It’ll be fun if he got some good video of yours truly skiing — not much of that exists as the present day filming frenzy came after I did most of my core mountaineering.

Skiing Castle Peak, Colorado Fourteener
Another shot of Cuseo. The snow surface was terrific, a bit punchy in places but mostly smooth sailing that allowed for various styles of glisse. I love it when it’s like that, as you feel like you’re really blending with the peak, riding the planet under your feet like you were born with skis on your feet.

(Did I just write that? See what three hours of sleep does to the mind?)

Skiing Castle Peak, Colorado Fourteener
This photo from a previous trip shows the North Couloir route. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve been up here skiing various routes. It’s a fantastic place. Easy access to the alpine, high terrain rising everywhere, mining heritage — even skiing heritage because of the summer race camps that were held here in the 1960s.

Skiing Castle Peak, Colorado Fourteener
Only bummer of the day was a vicious marmot attack on Cuseo’s goggle foam, along with a few nicks in my steering wheel, a small hole in a seat, and some tattered exhaust pipe insulation. Someone has to do something about these marmots. They’re pests. Anyone know of a solution? Spread moth balls around? Shoot a few and hang them from the car bumpers? Find a marmot whisperer who can tell them it’s just not cool to eat car parts and stinky goggle foam?

Once back at parking I grabbed the skis mounted with Marker Dukes and hiked back up for a few turns. Wow, are those things solid! More soon on that.


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13 Responses to “Colorado Skiing Continues to Provide – Montezuma Basin – Castle Peak”

  1. Sky June 14th, 2007 5:14 pm

    Looks fun, Lou. Some of those old mining roads into high basins seem like pretty sporty driving – that’s a different kind of adventure that we really don’t have in the Cascades.

  2. Woody June 14th, 2007 10:05 pm

    Nice trip Lou. What is the coulouir on the left margin of the picture, by Jasons right hand? Looks like a good one!

  3. Mark June 15th, 2007 4:10 am

    Nice descent! Sorry about the marmots. I’ve always liked seeing them in the mountains, but they’ve never chewed up my gear.

  4. Mark June 15th, 2007 4:14 am

    That helmet you’re wearing looks nice Lou. What kind is it?

  5. Lou June 15th, 2007 5:36 am

    Woody, that’s the Conundrum Couloir. Mark, it’s a BD Tracer, very nice, built like a bicycle helmet, lightweight but with excellent protection.

  6. Joel June 15th, 2007 7:38 am

    damn dirty marmots!

  7. Claudius June 15th, 2007 7:44 am

    Great trip, Lou. Any idea whether Grizzly Peak is still in??


  8. Ken Gross June 15th, 2007 8:24 am

    Cool Jeep!! Got to love old Iron, even if they are money sucking pigs!

  9. Jerry Shustrin June 15th, 2007 6:08 pm

    Two words…

    Coyote Urine!

    Get a small plastic bottle at Sportsman’s Warehouse or ranch supply, put a few drops around the vehicle/tent, and woila, marmots head for the hills.

  10. Lou June 15th, 2007 6:27 pm

    Jerry, will do!

    Equipment list:

    Helmet, check.
    Ice ax, check.
    Camera, check.
    Coyote urine, check…

  11. John Rehmer June 17th, 2007 2:57 pm

    Lou you did NW Castle at a good time! Can’t believe Chad on Grizzly Chute June 12 – looks more like ’06? Sandbag going on ! NW Couloir Castle an interesting place. Lots of tracks here last 3 yrs. April/May including way out into cliff bands on south. I’ve done it twice in April – mixed bullet proof and breakable crust – wild ride. Always wondered if pocket is lurking in the cross loaded/cross slope into rock – high altitude varibility? Check for “punch-ability”. This yr. did 2 trips to Castle/Conundrum saddle – safer – 2 Pks. plus a good run usually down “Maxies Glacier”. Another level – try E. Couloir Castle – quick from huts – done this once. Another level – “Davenport” couloirs SE Ridge – Some of Aspens most awesome – like “Grand” or “Bell Cord”.

  12. Sky June 18th, 2007 1:57 pm

    Could someone parse that for non-Coloradans?

  13. John O' July 3rd, 2007 12:16 pm

    coyote urine ???? …. thats “coyote ugly”!! but thanks for the great report Lou. have hiked the area and its a pristine gem.

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