Quandary Peak (1)
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  • Statistics:
    • Date Hiked:  February 16, 2004
    • Miles Hiked:  5.4
    • Elevation Gain:  3,370'
    • Hiking Partner(s):  None
  • Description:
    • 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.
  • Maps:
    • Click here to view a 2D map of the area where this hike is located.
  • Photographs:
 

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