CASTLE PEAK (9,103') CLASS 3
Location: 1.5 miles N of Boreal Ridge Ski Area (I-80)
Drive: See Basin Peak, Route A, Drive.
Climb: See Basin Peak, Route A, Climb, to reach signed Castle Pass (7,880'). Here, a good use trail right (east) leaves the PCT. It heads atop the main, west ridge, toward the north summit of the peak. This use trail climbs steeply up the west, forested slope of the north summit, and gains this first peak. Many hikers stop here. There is a good, side, use trail, right (south), that bypasses this first summit, about 100 feet below the top. Otherwise, a broken, class 2, use trail descends, on the far side of the northern peak, to the southeast, and winds over to the right (west) side of the ridge, passing under 100 foot, vertical, volcanic mud flow walls, and eventually around to the south side of the southeasternmost and highest crag. An approximately 50 foot high, near vertical, class 3 gully is climbed on plenty of large, good, holds of knobby agglomerate. This leads to the small, flat summit with the USGS benchmark. Some persons have climbed this crag from the northwest side, which is badly exposed and more vertical. I would consider that side class 4 or 5.
ROUTE A ALTERNATE
Drive: Same as Route A.
Climb: From the green gate at the end of pavement, take the dirt road that goes right and down (east) and follow it as it turns into a bulldozed track. Road beds lead several ways. The main one shortly crosses Castle Creek, which was easiest about 20 yards north of the freeway culvert, or now over a collapsed wooden bridge. Follow the trail or road bed as it meanders along the freeway. Or, perhaps, just take a cross-country bearing roughly eastward to intersect the old trail. At one time, if somehow on a trail, after about 0.3 mile, take a sharp left at a switchback with a sign "PCT." The right fork ends shortly at the freeway rest area. In about a mile, cross a dirt road. Continue straight ahead along the signed "PCT." On July 8, 2010, I saw no signs or markings to indicate the now former PCT till this dirt road junction about a mile up. It was only a "no bikes" marker. You will be passing through an ancient red fir forest. Cross a few small creeks, and perhaps pass a National Forest Property Boundary marker. After 2.5 miles from the start, come to the junction with Route A with various signs, "Hwy I-80 3 Donner Pass 7" and "Peter Grubb Hut 1 Sand Ridge Trail 1 1/4" and "PCT." Go right and up. Come to signed Castle Pass, and continue on Route A.
Drive: Same as Route A, Drive.
Climb: See Route A Alternate, Climb. From the junction with the dirt road jeep track about a mile from the fork near the rest area, take the dirt road right and up. After almost a half mile, cross over some slash, and continue east up the track. In a quarter mile, come to some granite slabs, and climb up to their top, which is about 8,000 feet elevation. Continue cross-country north up the sagebrush covered hill, and hike directly up this hill to the right of some crags on the ridge. One then will eventually come to the main crags and a third-class gap, which can be downclimbed on loose class 3 rubble, or passed entirely on loose class 2 slopes, backtracking to go around and down on the left (west) side, below the main ridge. After this problem is passed, one can scramble back up to the southern base of the southeasternmost crag and join Route A.
WINTER SKI ASCENT: See Basin Peak, Winter Ski Ascent. Route A is usually followed. Castle Valley is an extremely popular site for cross-country skiing, with many users during a winter weekend.
Warning: Persons have been buried and killed by avalanches in this area. Use extreme caution when traveling on snow slopes. Please check the current backcountry avalanche conditions postings by the United States Forest Service, Tahoe National Forest, Truckee Ranger District, and please do heed them!
TRIP STATS: Route A, 2,000 feet gain, 3 miles one way; Route A Alternate, same gain as Route A with slightly more mileage; Route B, 2,000 feet gain, 1.7 miles one way; winter ski ascent, same as for Routes A, A Alternate, and B, except for an extra 0.5 mile and 100 feet gain each way from the Sno-Park.
Notes: See Basin Peak, Notes.