Peak(s):  Quandary Peak  -  14,265 feet
Date Posted:  08/06/2011
Date Climbed:   08/06/2011
Author:  DanielL
 Quandary's West Ridge  

Although I've summited quite a few 14ers, I've never reached the summit of a 13er, despite attempting multiple times. So, this morning, a few of my siblings and I got up early and took off with a couple of friends to Blue Lakes Trailhead to climb Quandary's West Ridge and hopefully add a few of the nearby 13ers (Fletcher, Atlantic, Pacific, etc.), since it would definitely take no time at all to get up Quandary. But we were wrong. We didn't count on the time it would take for us to figure out the route, especially getting up from the trailhead to the ridgeline. However, we had a great day and I would definitely climb this route again.

Mountain goats at Blue Lakes TH

On our way, looking back at the lake and the dam


The trail was difficult to follow in some spots, but overall we managed to keep on it most of the way up.

Looking up at the route to the West Ridge

The slope leading up to the ridge had lots of loose and teetery rock, and we had to be super careful. Many times I stepped and lost as much or more elevation than I had gained, which was very annoying.

Climbing up the loose slope to the ridge

Eventually, we found the trail again and gained the ridge crest.

The Fletcher-Atlantic ridge. Someday...

Looking up the West Ridge

The trail stays on the right (south) side of the ridge for a bit, and then swings over to the north side until 14,000', and then the most difficult, exciting part begins.

Regaining the ridge crest

Hiking up an easier stretch of the ridge

We noticed the ever increasing amount of time it had been taking us to get up, and started to doubt whether we would be hitting any 13ers this time. But we were still having an awesome time, and the best part was just ahead.

The first bump

There are several bumps that have to be climbed over to get to the summit. The first one has some loose rock, but it's not that difficult.

The summit and the obstacles between

The next one has a dirt gully with loose rock running all the way up. We stayed more to the sides, and found it much more stable.

The second bump

Looking down the dirt gully

The next is a wall with a big crack running down the middle. We stuck to the right of the crack and found it quite solid, and we got to do some more difficult Class 3 climbing.

The third bump - more difficult climbing here



After the cracked wall, we got a full view of the final wall, considered the crux of the route. We had to descend a Class 3 white wall to get there.

Descending a white wall before the crux

We all found the crux wall to be less difficult than we expected, although it was the hardest part of the route. A few of our group climbed up the stairs which make up the lower part of the wall and bypassed the top of the wall by traversing to the left and avoided this difficult part altogether, however it is a lot funner just to go straight up over the top.

Climbing the crux wall

Climbing directly up the top of the wall

Once at the top of the crux wall, the summit is probably a 1/10 mile away at most. We quickly hiked to the top.

Almost to the summit!

On the top, looking down to Blue Lakes

At this point, we decided that we were done for the day, as dark clouds were quickly forming. We descended the South Gully (Cristo couloir) route to get back to Blue Lakes.

Descending the Cristo couloir

A long way down...

This gully has a lot of loose rock on the upper half, and then it gets less steep and more stable lower down. It was though, more difficult than anyone was expecting. On our way down, I noticed that there was still snow in the gully and decided to attempt a glissade. BIG MISTAKE! The snow was too steep and compact, and I lost control and ended up being dumped out on the rocks. Fortunately, it was all smooth rock and I had managed to slow down enough with my bare hands, because I didn't bring gloves along (Mistake #2) that I got by without an injury. However, it could have been a lot worse, so next time I will definitely remember these mistakes I made and learn from them.

My glissade track

From this point, we were past the main gully and very close to the trailhead.

Looking back up the gully

Almost down



All in all, we had a lot of fun on this climb and I would enjoy doing it again! Although I still can't seem to get that elusive first 13er, I suppose it will come some time or another.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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 Comments or Questions

Nice report....
08/07/2011 20:08
looks like a fun route. I'm taking all 3 of my kiddos up for a summit attempt of Quandary this next weekend...but not on that route since this will be my 11 yr old daughter's first 14er. I want her to have a fun experience, not scare the crap out of her. Enjoyed your report and the great photos.


Nice Job
08/07/2011 21:16
Looks like you had a great day. We are planning on doing this route in a couple weeks and have been trying to decide which way to get down. How was Cristo coulior? You think it saves much time over backtracking the West Ridge or going down the East Ridge and hitching a ride to the dam? Or just a different route and different experience?
Thanks and great job and nice report.


Re: Nice Job
08/07/2011 23:19
Thanks for the comment! Cristo couloir was pretty loose and steep, especially near the top, and it is much longer than it looks. There would probably be plenty of people that would be willing to take you back to the dam if you go down the East ridge, as long as it is on a weekend. It's one of the most beautiful trailheads I've seen, and some people drive up from the standard TH anyways.


08/08/2011 23:13
We did the same route Saturday, up the West Ridge and down Cristo, though somewhat behind you. Nice pictures. We really enjoyed the route too.


Great Pictures!
06/20/2012 13:17
The best pictures I've seen so far on the site, illustrating the crux areas of the route...very nice! Coming in from Chicago in about 10 days and this route is one of the routes I'm hoping to tackle.

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