- Date Hiked: February 16,
- Miles Hiked: 5.4
- Elevation Gain: 3,370'
- Hiking Partner(s): None
- Since I had President's Day off, I was anxious to
get out and attempt another peak. I watched the weather all week
and wasn't very optimistic. Breckenridge and Leadville were both
showing snow, so I decided just to play it by ear. When I woke up
Monday morning, the forecast had changed to a few snow showers in the
a.m. with things clearing up around noon. As a result, I hit the
road from Highlands Ranch (CO) at 6:00 and was at the trailhead for
Quandary Peak by 7:45.
- Apparently there are some changes being made
regarding the location of this particular trailhead. The Colorado
Fourteeners Initiative and the Forest Service are attempting to move it
from the well documented Monte Cristo Trailhead to CR 851. CR 851
was not plowed, so I decided to drive to the old trailhead and check it
out. A man promptly told me that this area is closed and the
trailhead is back where CR 850 (Blue Lakes Road) and CR 851 intersect.
There was a small parking area plowed out and I didn't want to piss the
guy off, so that's where I started from. I was basically about 500
feet off of Highway 9.
- Anyway, the roads were icy, snow was falling, and
I wasn't certain what my outing would amount to. I decided to go
as far as I felt comfortable and at least get some exercise since made
the drive from Denver. I strapped on the MSR snowshoes that I
rented from REI and headed up CR 851. After a couple of hundred
yards, I made a sharp left and followed some steep tracks to the west.
The tracks had a couple of inches of fresh snow on them, but they were
easy to follow. I gained a couple of hundred feet in elevation
when the tracks I was following tied in to what appeared to be the main
trail. This trail intersected a couple of spur routes, but I
simply took the westerly route that gained elevation.
- The snow continued to fall and snow shoeing in
the trees was actually very pleasant. I didn't notice the wind,
and other than the ominous sky above me, I was having a good time.
As I got to tree line, I decided to take a break and see how things
would develop. I ate, drank, and put on another layer as the wind
was already stronger. At this point, I heard some noise from the
south. Another snow shoer appeared and I asked him if he thought
the weather was going to hold. He laughed and simply stated that
at this elevation you never know; he kept on hiking.
- I think seeing someone else gave me a boost of
confidence, so after gathering my gear, I began to follow him. In
my opinion you don't really start hiking Quandary until you are above
tree line. The first part of the hike lulls you to sleep and then
sneaks up on you once above the trees as the route becomes more steep.
Despite the wind and cold, it didn't take long before I had to shed the
layer I added earlier due to overheating. The MSR's I rented had a
descent crampon and also traction blades for traversing, I thought they
worked well on the steeper terrain.
- The weather didn't clear and the wind remained
strong. My visibility varied greatly depending on wind
gusts. At times I thought it was going to clear, and the next
minute it was less than a quarter of a mile. I tried to
hang with the solo climber, but he slowly pulled away from me. At
times, I could barely tell where his tracks were. I caught my last
glimpse of the other hiker as I sat at 13,200' just before the final
steepest 1,000' of the hike. On this shelf at 13,200', I decided
to trade in the trekking poles and snow shoes for an ice axe and
crampons. The snow on this final section of the ridge is wind
packed and hard. After climbing for only a few hundred feet, I was
extremely happy with my decision.
- Given the increasing grade, unrelenting weather,
fatigue, and elevation, my pace slowed considerably. I finally
passed the other hiker (me up, him down). We introduced each other
and visited for 5-10 minutes. It turns out that he has his own
business in Breckenridge (CO) as an adventure guide.
(southparkadventureguides.com) After learning this, I didn't feel
as bad for not being able to keep up with him. We said goodbye and
I was on the summit in another 30 minutes.
- My time on top of Quandary was short and
miserable. The views were limited and it was very cold. I
took a few photos, put on my shell, ate a PowerGel, drank some water,
and started my descent. At approximately 13,400', I ran into a
pair of hikers making their summit bid. Per our conversation, it
appeared as though our experience was similar and we briefly
discussed getting together for a hike. We exchanged contact
information and parted ways.
- I found my cached snow shoes and trekking poles
and continued my hike out. By the time I was back at tree line,
the skies had cleared and I imagine that the second group I ran into had
a pleasant hike down. Although the stats on this trail aren't too
impressive, and Quandary is considered an "easy" 14er, this was
a difficult hike for me. A winter ascent of a tall mountain is
much different than going in July or August. It took me 4 hours to
reach the summit and 2 hours & 15 minutes to return.
- Click here to view a 2D map of
the area where this hike is located.