| Quandary Peak - East Ridge
On Thursday January 24 I brought a group of hiker to the summit of their first 14er. This may sound crazy, but together we successfully climbed to the top of Quandary Peak in the middle of winter. It was not the easiest hike for them, but as a group we prevailed!
We departed Vail at 6 am with high spirits. We arrived to the TH around 7:20 am, after a momentary stop to gaze at the beautiful sunrise just south of Breckenridge. We quickly geared up and set off through the trees for the summit. We faced 15 degree F weather at the onset, but as the sun rose so did the temperature, with a high of 35 degrees F predicted for the day. It was quite the warm week. (The hike is starting to sound tame, doesn’t it?!)
Then we hit tree line.
We were instantly greeted with constant 20-30 mph winds as we began to hike up the ridge. As if that were not enough of a challenge we encountered 55 mph gusts quite frequently! Looking at the forecast I was aware of the conditions we would face, but decided that it was not bad enough to scrap attempting to summit Quandary. Part of the decision was due to the fact my two friends were visiting from Connecticut and this was the only day we would get to attempt their first 14er. Also, the warmer temperatures meant that the overall wind chill factor would not be unbearable. Yes, it was a risk and more of a challenging hike, but after informing my friends with this information they all unanimously agreed they wanted to at least attempt the hike and also agreed if it became too risky we would immediately turn back.
Even with the winds, the group embraced the hike as we climbed. No one complained, and all of my friends prevailed through the windy conditions, each of us motivated by the magnificent views and the assistance of our micro spikes. Step by step everyone climbed until we reached the summit.
As I pulled up the rear I was enthused to witness every one of my crew summit amidst the ultra windy conditions, each of them celebrating as they greeted each other atop Quandary Peak. Four hours after departing the TH we each stood atop Quandary.
Through steep grades, personal trials, physical challenges, and of course the wind, we each reached the summit. After quick (very quick) pictures, high fives and hugs we descended hoping to escape the wind. I was last to depart. It was a very special moment as I watched them all scurry down the ridge.
This was my third successful winter 14er. It was such a great feeling, however, to be able to share the experience of reaching the summit of a peak with this unlikely. Two of the group members were my friends from Connecticut, one of who this was her first trip to Colorado. The other two were newly met friends enthralled with the idea of climbing to the top of this beautiful state.
I descended last of them all just relishing the moment. We all had our story and struggles we overcame of how we got to the peak, but together we reached the summit and it overwhelmed me with complete bliss. Behind my bandana scarf I smiled the entire descent. We joked, complained and laughed. Each member made a new friend and an unforgettable climbing partner and story to return home with.
The conditions were, to put it lightly, not good, but the hike was unforgettable not for that reason. In the end, I am another peak toward completing my goal, but with each climb and 14er I appreciate the company and experience of the journey more and more. Even though the summit is always the goal, the journey is what I learn to cherish more and more with each climb.
My one friend has a travel blog and we each wrote a brief vignette on each of our own take on the Quandary hike. Check out the link to read about my fellow hikers perspectives and for some additional photos.
For those of looking for specific trail condition info:
The trail was well packed and all we needed were micro spikes. I use the Kahtoola micro spikes and they were amazing. I highly recommend them, even though they are a bit more expensive.
(Also, a special thanks to the previous group who hiked earlier for the report, as we avoided bringing snow shoes and enjoyed a well packed trail!).
The bowl was bare, but after this latest winter storm this is likely to change.
To all, enjoy the hike and have a safe summit!
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):