The Castle is a stupendous crag on the northern limits of the South Platte, and while it may more properly belong to the Lost Creek Wilderness area, it is usually cobbled together with other Buffalo Creek crags. This is a magnificent piece of granite that has seen ascents for close to half a century and remains today a flagship crag from the glory days of the early '70s. The Castle looms over Wellington Lake like some feature out of a Transylvanian nightmare - except to a climber it looks a lot more like paradise than hell.
Most of the climbing is on the North and South-facing plates and cracks and is best tackled in warm weather. The rock itself is immaculate South Platte granite with a bit of Devil's Head features thrown in. It is well-featured with moderate crack systems running up to six pitches up the crag. Most of the described routes, fewer than ten, take the obvious crack systems, although some of the described lines do have complex route finding problems. As near as we could tell, none of the well-featured face routes have ever been done, and one suspects that The Castle overall could hold at least ten times as many routes as have been described. Many of the established crack routes dish out sections that get pretty wide and for that reason see little traffic, but some are also excellent hand and finger-sized. For example, we found a superb, un-named line that went mostly at 5.9/5.8 with a pitch of 10a that never got unpleasantly wide and sucked up pro like a tornado.
All of the descents from the top are walkoffs North or South with the South being a bit more convenient for most of the routes in the main, central feature. Nonetheless, it is possible to rap some of the cleanest cracks after only one or two pitches and still get your rope back. In fact, the first pitch of "The Throne Room" may be one of the best, long 5.9 cracks in the South Platte, can be rapped from a ledge at 150 feet, and stays in the range of the standard rack (biggest piece is a #4 Friend).
Early in the year the lake is swamped by fishermen, boats, and noisy children; however, if you hold off until after Labor Day, the mid to late fall season will deliver an experience that is as good as it gets on planet Earth.
First, find Wellington Lake on the map. It is South and East of Bailey. Coming in from Bailey is far and away the easiest way in to the crag. Coming either East or West on US 285, in the center of Bailey and just at the bottom of Crow Hill, locate the dirt road leading to Wellington Lake and the Castle Mountain recreation area. The way is well marked with signs, but folows first FR 543 and then FR 550. The lake and some of the surrounding land is private, but not (sic) the crag which is bisected by public land and the Lost Creek Wilderness. The best way to handle climbing seems to be to grab a picnic spot for the day.
The Castle Mountain Recreation Company owns the camping/picnic spots and they charge a modest fee ($4.00) for a single day and a bit more to stay overnight. The fee has increased to $9/person/day!
Per Tyson Ferryman: as of 2014, the day use is $5 per person and $5 for your car.
The crag is the obvious huge "Castle" South of the lake, and to minimize the approach try getting a spot as close to the crag as possible, since under the best of circumstances the hike up will take close to an hour. We found a trail for the return trip but did not locate it on the approach until nearly at the crag. Bushwhacking is straightforward, however.
19 Total Routes
['4 Stars',2],['3 Stars',6],['2 Stars',8],['1 Star',3],['Bomb',0]
Browse More Classics in The Castle
Mountain Project's determination of some of the classic, most popular, highest rated routes for The Castle:
Wiggins Route 5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- 19 E2 5b
PG13 Trad, 3 pitches, 425'
Throne Room 5.10 6b 20 VII- 19 E2 5b Trad, 3 pitches, 600'
Rapunzel 5.11a 6c 22 VII+ 22 E3 5c Trad, 1 pitch, 180'
Featured Route For The Castle
Rapunzel 5.11a 6c 22 VII+ 22 E3 5c CO
: South Platte
: ... : The Castle
This is the sustained, tight-hands crack located on the climbers' right side wall at the entrance of the mountaineer's gully. There is no real crux to this climb, but if you've gotten through the first hundred feet you're probably on your way to the send. There used to be a loose flake in the pod about 80 feet up, but last checked it wasn't there. Make sure you have finger and thin-hand-size gear left after the last roof as the climb keeps going although difficulty eases. Set up a belay at the o...[more] Browse More Classics in CO
Local Information for The Castle
Latest Regional Forum Messages
|By Kevin Craig|
Jan 31, 2003
I've driven past Wellington Lake quite a few times and wondered if there had been any climbing development on The Castle. It's such an obvious and awesome feature that it was hard to imagine that it had escaped the attention of the hoards of world-class climbers around here. It's great to hear that it hasn't. From the road, the SE face especially looks like primo wall rat terrain. Looking forward to seeing routes added to this area on c-b. Are any of the routes documented in any of the guidebooks?
|By Andrew Gram|
From: Salt Lake City, UT
Feb 2, 2003
Hands down the most awful approach to a crag I have ever seen - makes Cynical Pinnacle look roadside. Pretty place though.
|By Richard M. Wright|
From: Lakewood, CO
Feb 3, 2003
Sorry Ben - it must feel a bit like someone else taking your drop dead gorgeous new girlfriend to the prom. But have heart, the approach will stall out all but the most determined. In addition, there are numerous interesting other crags in the Lost Creek Wilderness, some just on the boundary, they all have great personalities, and almost no one has climbed them!
|By Brian Milhaupt|
From: Golden, CO
Apr 7, 2003
A little approach beta. From the picnic area by the lake hike towards the south end of the Castle on an abandoned road. The tendency is to break off to the right and head directly toward the crag, don't. Continue to the road's end and follow a faint trail up through a bushy boulderfield. This puts you at the castle's south end. This info. is a couple years old, so take it for what it's worth. Poison Ivy is abundant at the base, and even on some ledges.
|By Scott Duke|
Jun 15, 2004
Park your car at DIA, then hike to Lumpy. It'll be faster than getting to the climbs at the Castle. But if you must, the cracks are epic. The approach may not be worth it, but after having been there, I'm glad I went. Some climbs go 4-6 pitches on cracks that go forever. Bring medium to large cams and plenty of stoppers. We did the chimney route and it was a blast. Just don't get your rope stuck in one of the hundreds of cracks on the rappel. $5 per person entry fee. Great camping, parking, facilities, etc. Email me for more beta.Scott
|By Anonymous Coward|
Aug 13, 2004
I work just off of wellington lake during the summer at a youth camp. A couple of weeks ago me and a friend climbed the castle. We went up the front where there are plenty of trees and it was an easy route but there are a lot of challenging routes and the view is awesome. If you ever get the chance to climb the castle, go for it!
|By Darren Mabe|
From: Flagstaff, AZ
May 16, 2005
Some more beta. Approach from south end (as mentioned above) and follow the ridge all the way up. do not get sucked into the drainage below Baron's Estate. This holds bad juju.
The descents are similar to those in Lumpy.
Treat climbing here as if you were on first ascent. the current info in the guides are very confusing and inaccurate. There was a quality three pitch roue we climbed but dont know what the hell it was but was somewhere near the Dungeon, Nose Route, who knows.
Couldn't find the Throneroom. Hell, Maybe we were on it? Ha ha.
Have fun. Thanks for the booty cam, Ben. If you don't call me to go climbing, I will blow my Fairy Dust on you.
Oh yeah, they charge $5 per day per PERSON. That's right, if you and your partner stay from Friday night to Sunday, that's $30.
|By Dean Carpenter|
From: Boulder, CO
Aug 21, 2007
I was up climbing at The Castle last week, and I told the lady at the front desk we came to climb and she didn't charge us. She just didn't mention anything about a fee, and I didn't bring it up.
|By Allen Hill|
From: FIve Points, Colorado and Pine
Jun 18, 2008
Because we are on the subject of the Castle, I seem to remember someone telling me that it was first climbed by Larry Dalke and partner the week after they climbed the first ascent of the Prayer Book on Cynical Pinnacle. They spotted it from the summit. How I know this I couldn't say but it's true. At least I think so.
Also of note is the big rock down and left of it. It has a number of routes on it as a result of hungover climbers giving up on the Castle as their stated goal from the night before at one of the infamous "Baked Wellington" parties in the nineties. I was there so I know this is true.
I just thought of another funny Castle story. When the guidebook author (whose name is scratched into the Bucksnort men's room towel dispenser) was writing the first edition of his Platte guide he and his friends went on a route bender that would put Charles Bukowski to shame, reporting all of them no matter how silly to said scribe. We all knew this. Everyone was trying to get in that guide. But me and Scotty McClowery had a different route to offer.
One night after climbing up at the spires, we got Tom to pull the big yellow book down from that dusty television perch at the Bucksnort. We had been up to the Castle the week before and at that point had our heads around the place. We also knew for that said penman had never been there let alone even asked people about the area while writing his soon to be published screed. Plus he pissed us off. We made a topo up out of nowhere and simply renamed the Parapet "Dildo Rock" and he actually published it in his book without asking a soul.
I was 22 years old. Please forgive me.
|By Jason Kaplan|
From: Glenwood ,Co
Aug 7, 2008
Does anyone have information pertaining to the chimney route?
|By Bosier Parsons|
From: Colorado Springs, CO
Apr 22, 2009
I added a description of Baron's Estate (the rock formation below and to the left of the Castle), along with the route The Baron, back in July, 08. It can be found under the Buffalo Creek section. Certainly not a destination in and of itself, but we enjoyed it as a bonus approach pitch, especially considering the heinous slog up to The Castle. Just wanted to let people know.
We also climbed a moderate hand and fist crack on the far right side of The Castle, just left of the gully and left of Rapunzel. Again, this wasn't fantastic, but if you want something a little more moderate, it was probably 5.9-. It seems like we rapped off a tree, after one long pitch.
Aug 30, 2011
The company managing the lake is now charging $9 PER PERSON to park and go climb. Either be prepared to pay out the a$$ to climb here or be creative.
|By Nathanael Hansen|
From: Colorado Springs, Colorado
Jun 30, 2012
Thanks to the young men of the Colorado Springs North Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, there is now an established trail to the Castle from Wellington Lake.
It starts at the end of the lake's camping areas (next to the gated entrance to a Boy Scout Camp) and goes all the way up to the southern base of The Castle. You'll need to traverse north to get to the base of routes like Castle Corner, etc... (or you could just break from the trail when you feel like it)
I wouldn't say it's an "unawful" approach, but at least it's well-marked and cleared, which is much better than hacking your way up the hill.
This should hopefully make enjoying that amazing view more accessible to everyone.
Thanks for your powerful service!
| || New trail to The Castle. |
|By Tom Ormond|
Jun 24, 2013
If you climb up the first bit of Uncle Wiggly, then instead of going out left to traverse under the overhang and into the left-facing corner, keep going up the bush filled crack. The vegetation ends - it gets nice steep fingers and ends at a small overhang, a few moves on the face right brings you to another crack, easier and wider.
What is this route?
|By mike h|
From: Denver, CO
Aug 3, 2013
To get to the new trail, park at the Boy Scout camp gate on the SW side of the lake as Nathaniel mentions. Walk the road and stay straight through the initial clearings (tempting to turn because you're walking away from the rock). Look for signs to the Waterfall/Castle, and follow the "obvious" trail - much of the way it is bordered by dead sticks on either side and is popular with the camping families in the summer.
Once you get into the woods, if you're on something that you think might be a wash but kind of looks like a trail, and does not have regular sticks marking the way, you're doing it wrong. The trail generally follows the top of the ridge above the river valley, going well south of Barons Estate. Have fun.