so i've returned from my CO trip and was able to summit Quandary and Elbert on back-to-back days. my wife did not manage to make it all the way up Quandary, the trail became too steep, loose and rocky above treeline for her (she hates loose rocky terrain and if i'd known in advance what the terrain on this peak was like, i would have chosen a different peak for her; given the Class 1 rating of this route, the condition of the trail was unexpected). she waited for me just below treeline, which i felt was safe given the ease of the trail up to that point, and the constant flow of people up and down the trail. i trusted her not to leave until i returned, but if she had had to, there were plenty of people for her to descend with so she wouldn't have been alone, and she had a map and gps with the route mapped out. with the radios we were able to communicate the entire time, so it did not feel unsafe.
i took the black cloud trail up Elbert the next day and it was fabulous. i'll write up a trip report when i have more time, but i didn't encounter any problems with willows, treefall, or routefinding, in fact the trail was in better condition than Quandary all the way to the ridge, and even on the ridge, there was much better trail than i expected. it's not an easy route by any means, but for me it felt easier in a lot of ways, probably because i wasn't dodging other hikers the entire time, which can make a hike feel longer and more difficult for me than it actually is. i only saw one other hiker, and two CFI volunteers, the entire way up. i did come down the East Ridge route, just to make it easier on myself, and hiked all the way back to Twin Lakes where my wife picked me up.
all in all, it was a great trip, and i'm hoping i can make it back for some more 14ers in the future (and maybe an easier "easier 14er" for my wife; i'm thinking Bierstadt might turn out better, or even Elbert via the East Ridge, even though it's longer and more elevation gain, the trail was a relatively moderate dirt trail the entire way, none of the loose rocky stuff that gave her problems this time).
social distancing since the day i was born...