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    Taking in the view from the summit of Crystal Peak - Tenmile Range, Colorado
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Quandary Peak (summer & winter)

July 8, 1999 - East Ridge - Summer

February 5, 2012 - East Ridge - Winter


July 8, 1999 - East Ridge - Summer

Quandary was the first peak of a climbing weekend that would complete my pursuit of the 10 Mile and Mosquito Range 14ers.  I got what I would now characterize as a late start and parked at the trailhead at seven in the morning.  There were already a dozen cars parked along the Monte Christo road so I knew I would have plenty of company on the hike up the east flank of Quandary.  The trail was obvious, a touch of old road and lots of well traveled dirt leading up to a brief steep section and then on up the ridge portion of the peak.  There were a few steep parts but it was mostly a case of just putting one foot in front of the other until I reached the top.

The only real thing of interest on Quandary that day was a certified weirdo on the summit.  This dude was wearing some sort of a cloak looking cassock, high top hiking boots and a touch of white make-up on his face.  What the story was with this guy I have no idea but I know another climber who saw the same dude on top of another peak.  He seemed to be holding court of some sort and had the attention of more than a few of the crowd of Cottoneers on the summit.  I did not stick around for a dose of his wisdom but instead headed down to secure a camp spot for the next day’s climb, Mount Sherman.

February 5, 2012 - East Ridge - Winter

Denver had just been hit with a nice winter storm, dropping one to two feet of snow on the Front Range. As the storm had come up from the southeast, the snows did not penetrate beyond the Divide, leaving other ranges still tender as to avi conditions but with little new snow. Bob and I had a prior attempt on Quandary in the winter, an attempt that went no further than the car as I managed to leave my boots in Cheyenne much earlier that morning. All turned out well, as we went to Neptune's in Boulder and Bob got his first pair of serious mountaineering boots.

A few years had passed and on Saturday afternoon Bob floated the idea of getting out on Super Bowl Sunday, an idea I heartily joined with as I have no interest in football and realized that what the big game really offered was a dearth of ski traffic on I-70 when it would otherwise be bumper to bumper on what as to be a bluebird day in the mountains. We left Cheyenne at 5 in the morning and after a stop or two along the way for some gas and poor breakfast substitutes, we arrived at the Quandary Peak trailhead at about 8:30. I changed in the frigid morning air, guessing it to be around zero as the temp in Frisco was a balmy 2 degrees when we went through. Trust me, there was no inversion to make for warmth at higher elevations.

We left the truck and walked the 100 yards or so up snow bound road to the start of the Quandary Peak trail. We cut off to the left and hiked what was functionally a groomed trail up through the woods, past a junction or two to the remains of an igloo undoubtedly constructed earlier in the season for an overnight experience. So many folks had hiked the trail through the woods that it was literally three feet wide and compacted enough that no snow shoes were needed at all . . . all the way to tree line. Above the igloo the trees got sparse and we came to an open are where we could see a large avalanche that had broken on the flank of the peak and made it clear to use that skiing that bowl was out of the question for now.

We traversed left and crossed an open area that required some brief thought as to avi issues but seemed safe at this point. We stuck to the same well compacted trail that skirted through the midpoint of the open area. Once across to the other side, we traversed back and forth a bit to gain the ridge proper which was also the end of any real vegetation and which was blown mostly clear of snow . . . lots of rocks poking through. I recalled that the climb would be on the ridge from this point on and that the next mile would be a combination of gentle climbs and a few flat spots before we would arrive at the base of the summit climb proper. We trod on, sticking to the path that crossed gently graded wind hammered sections as well as some softer areas on the edge of the ridge.

We came to the last flat spot, I'd guess at elevation 13,000 or so and looked up at the last 1200 feet of climb. It didn't look bad but it was every bit the slog that I remembered from over a decade before. I carved it up into pieces and knocked them off one at a time and after what seemed a long time, but was certainly less than an hour, Bob and I arrived at the top of the ridge and hiked to the summit proper. We dropped the packs and broke out some lunch, as it was 12:30 and we'd taken 3 1/2 hours to summit. Another group arrived while we ate and we passed along some nearby peak identifications before they headed down. We packed up the food, knowing that our now numb fingers were not going to get any warmer staying on top of the mountain.

We headed down, and made it to the truck in 2 hours, passing a group of skiers and three other hiking groups headed for the summit. As we had a relatively early start, we beat the predicted change in weather that the others did not, Our climb was tame in the wind department but as we descended, the wind came up and no doubt made the afternoon climbers' experience a bit more challenging than ours had been earlier that morning.

Our total climb time was five and one half hours, a time that was surely enhanced by the efforts of those who had climbed before us . . .


An alternate route, Quandary's Christo Couloir on Spring snow . . .