Castle Peak Tour

  Castle Peak
Castle Peak

There are two ways to get up Castle Peak, and I'm going to tell you the about the other one.

But first, note that this tour begins not at the Sno-Park near Boreal (see the start of the previous tour), but at the proper Donner Pass, on old US 40 just past Sugar Bowl and Donner Ski Ranch (I-80's pass is called Donner Summit). Why start the tour from a farther trailhead? Perhaps because the Castle Peak Sno-Park was full. But really because we need to fill a gap between the Mt. Lola Tour and Donner-to-Squaw, and because the lakes route from Donner Pass to Donner Summit is a pretty cool addition to the tour.

Anyway, you can usually park at Donner Pass just to the east of Donner Ski Ranch near ASI's Donner Spitze Hutte, along the road (not in the parking lots). There are two good routes to get from Donner Pass to the Boreal/ Castle Peak junction at I-80:

Once you get to the vicinity of the Castle Peak SnoPark and Boreal's parking area, walk across under I-80 to the Castle Peak trailhead (see the start of the previous tour).

Now what most people do from here to get to Castle Peak is to follow the Grubb Hut route to Andesite Ridge, and then ascend from there onto the west shoulder of Castle Peak. Then, within a few yards of Castle Peak's summit pinnacles, they say "nah" and ski back down.

  Descent from Castle Pk.
Descent from Castle Peak (Steve Lear blames his fall on a faulty binding)
But we're going to be different. Check your map, remembering that I-80 doesn't show up on the Donner Pass 15' quad. Now, Follow the Grubb Hut trail only about a half-mile from I-80, and then head out across the meadow, due northeast. About a mile later, start heading north up the moderate south-facing bowl. Things start to level out around 8500'. From here, you can head up the southeast side of Castle Peak. Where you'll stand a few yards from Castle Peak's summit pinnacles, say "nah", and ski back down. The south-facing bowl that you ascended can be quite nice, depending on the snow conditions!

Speaking of snow conditions, this one's probably best mid-to-late winter. Average elevation is only 7700', so you can't do this one too late, but you do want a healthy snowpack for descending that bowl.

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