Peak(s):  Quandary Peak  -  14,265 feet
Date Posted:  07/30/2014
Date Climbed:   07/26/2014
Author:  hokiehead
 Quandary - East Ridge (1st 14'er for 3 of us)  

Start of climb: 6:45AM
Summit time: 9:35AM
Start descent: 10:05AM
Complete descent: 12:30PM
mileage: 6.75

I know that trip reports for Quandary - East Ridge are not in high demand. However, I decided to make it my first post on 14'ers anyway. This TR is targeting two classes of people:
1. those considering a 14'er for the first time
2. the future hokiehead (group of one)

Regarding group #1, I tried to include all the information that I found myself searching for when planning my first 14'er. I hope this helps you decide when you're ready.

Equipment and supplies taken:
water -- all three of us used some type of pack
  • I took 3 liters, drank 1
  • Little H took 2 liters, drank 0.5
  • it was overcast and not very hot, otherwise I'm sure we would've drank more

food: beef jerky, bananas, PBJ, granola bars -- a little over half of it was eaten (I did not pack food for the contingency of a night in the woods)

  • Trails Illustrated map // used for planning, but not needed -- the map shows the trail as essentially a straight line; we did use it to identify other peaks visible from the summit
  • compass (never used it)
  • downloaded route info from 14'ers to my phone (never used)

  • hokiehead: REI Sahara hiking pants, synthetic T, flannel overshirt, rain jacket, gloves, stocking cap, sunglasses, wool socks, hiking boots //used all except stocking cap
  • Little H: Champion line capris, cotton t-shirt, cotton sweatshirt (need to invest in some better clothes for her), sunglasses, wool socks, hiking boots, gloves, stocking cap //used all

  • sunscreen
  • bug spray (didn't use, didn't need)
  • trekking poles (future area of research for me: whether or not, and how, to use trekking poles on scree. Thanks in advance if anyone posts links to relevant material discussing this)
  • camera (very important -- taking pictures gives you an excuse to stop and catch your breath without having to admit that you're stopping to rest)
  • TP
  • first aid supplies (didn't use, didn't need!)

Summary of the trip:
The trip description and photos for this route on 14'ers are great; nothing I would contribute right now is going to add much value to someone planning their first ascent on this route.

We selected Quandary Peak based off info on this site. Multiple threads discussing reco's for a good "first 14'er" and after careful consideration we selected Quandary (over Bierstadt and Sherman). Little H and I left home and met The Captain in Golden at 5AM. Arrived at the TH, parked and hit the trail by 6:45. Note: the small lot by the TH was only half full (i.e. 3/6 cars), but the overflow lot was full and cars were parked on the roadside. We started up --- no warm up on level surface, just UP from the beginning. My body didn't like that one bit, and for about the first 3/4 mile I was hurting, wondering if I was going to feel like crap the whole way. Then my heart found a rhythm and I felt much better. It was a Saturday in July and there were hundreds of people. 95% of the hike we had other humans within both view and earshot. Probably 80 people at the summit. That isn't my favorite but I knew to expect it so I won't complain (much).

The route was just as described on this site -- well defined trail and signs anywhere it crosses a road or other trail. Cairns on the scree part where you might lose the path. We reached summit at 9:35AM and took the standard picture holding summit sign at top (1). The Captain ran into a friend of his at the summit -- small world. Took pictures, ate a snack, found the survey medallion (2) and then started descent 10:05AM. On the way back, we saw a family of mountain goats, including two kids (3) -- they got within feet of the trail. For a bit, the kids were playing 'king of the mountain' on a boulder -- too cool. After lots of pictures and watching the goats for 15 minutes, we headed down and got caught in brief rain shower with light hail (see below) just above tree line. Back at car around 12:30PM.

Conditioning, acclimatization and comparable hikes.
The big question for me leading up to this has been, "how do I know if I'm in shape enough, and acclimated enough, to summit a 14'er?" I hope these data points help someone make a good decision.
  • hokiehead (no altitude symptoms on this summit): lived above 8700', worked at 5400' for the last year
  • Little H (no altitude symptoms on this summit): lived and went to school around 5400' for the last year
  • The Captain (minor dizziness, fully mitigated with rest breaks): lived and worked around 5400' for 7 years

  • hokiehead: 44 years old. moved to CO a year ago and have been averaging 5 - 10 miles of hiking per week over that time (heavy increase since summer started).
  • Little H: 19 years old. moved to CO a year ago but not quite as active as her dad.
  • The Captain: in better shape and more active than the younger people he's hiking with.

hikes I've done recently of similar distance:
This was my first 14'er, but here's a few other 5 - 10 mile hikes I've done recently and how I'd compare them to Quandary.
  • RMNP Fern Lake -- we took a wrong turn on this and made 7 miles into ~10, but even with that additional mileage it notably less strenuous than Quandary.
  • Mt. Audobon -- did this two weeks ago and I would rate it about the same in terms of strenuous level. The hikes were comparable in terms of being steep climbing on scree at altitude.
  • RMNP Mills Lake trail from Glacier Gulch to Black Lake -- did this a week ago and I was actually more sore and tired the next day than after Quandary. Could be other factors than strain of the hikes, as there wasn't the mileage or elevation gain, but this is a tough hike and if you've completed it without issue, you should feel confident about Quandary.
  • Great Sand Dunes NP hike to summit Star Dune from the visitor center -- the hike out to the summit Star Dune may have been more stenuous than ascending Quandary Peak. Walking on sand is really inefficient. Climbing a steep slope in sand even more-so.
  • Boulder County Open Space Walker Ranch Loop Trail -- Quandary was much more strenuous than this. Only comparable in terms of mileage.

Notes to prospective 1st timers (from someone who just went through it):
  • Prepare for weather. We did everything smart in terms of leaving early to be back below the tree line before noon. And taking rain jackets. And, we got caught in a rain shower about 11:15AM just above the tree line that turned to small hail for about 30 seconds. Mountain weather is crazy and changes fast -- we checked the forecast before leaving and wasn't exprecting that at all.
  • Give a lot of thought before taking small children with you. I saw about 4 people carrying infants in backpacks (or in one case in their arms). I generally don't give out unsolicited parental advice, but I wouldn't consider taking an infant on this unless I was an expert climber. The footing isn't great in parts. All three of us slipped some on loose scree on steep parts at least once, and if one had a fragile load on their back, especially if the rocks are wet from a recent rain it could be scarry. Also, see above bullet about hail.
  • I was glad I did a 13'er first before attempting a 14'er, for a number of reasons. Before trying Audubon, I was pretty sure I had the conditioning and endurance for a 14'er, but was concerned about the acclimatization. My concerns were set aside after Audubon, so I was confident on Quandary.
  • Suggest you read available route info so to know what you're going to see -- knowing there were false summits ahead of me helped win the mental game.
  • Consider that above treeline there's really very few places to relieve yourself privately. I have an embarrassing coffee addiction, drank > 1 pot that morning, and in general did not plan for that (I have a humorous story here but will keep the potty-humour out of my first post on 14'ers).
  • if you make the typical "summit sign" for pictures like we did (4), use dark marker so it'll show up better in the photos ;)

Regarding group #2 (future me): I hope that in another year if I look back on this post that I laugh at this. I also hope I have reached many more summits by then. I also wanted to start the habit of writing trip reports.

Summary thoughts:
  • next time I start a summit that begins above 10k feet and then begins ascending immediately, I might make a point to walk 1/2 mile or so at 10 - 11,000' before I start climbing. I think that would've made a difference.
  • I really liked the feeling of reaching the summit. Really liked. That stuff Bill talks about on the peakbagging page makes sense now. I see why y'all are addicted to altitude. I have a lot of skills to learn and want to be one of you guys that does them all, but I hope I never get to where I'd rather climb Mt. Sherman by myself rather than hiking Booth Creek Falls with a group of friends.
  • The point is made frequently on the forums here that unless you just want to "check the box" for a 14'er, there are other great climbs with less crowds offering the same workouts and same or better views. I've only done two summits > 13k', but based on those two data points: Audobon had (much) better views, (much) less crowds and a similar workout to Quandary Peak. That being said, I'm still glad I successfully summitted my first 14'er in my first year here in CO.
  • The crowds weren't my favorite part, but I was expecting them baeed on what I read here, so I won't complain. I suspect to avoid them on 14'ers, I need to gain the skills to take the non-standard routes as well as the skills to hike outside of summer months.
  • Proud daddy here: Little H, "I'll never lack the confidence to do a day hike again. any hike (well, maybe not any mountain peak)".
  • 14'ers is a great website. I appreciate all the information here as well as the patience and willingness of members to help out noobs.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 2 3 4

 Comments or Questions

Great write-up
07/31/2014 14:55
I think you've created a valuable resource for your intended group #1. Fantastic detail and thought in this report and I would love to see everyone who attempts a 14er, even one like Quandary, put in the same forethought and concern that a mountain of 14,000 elevation demands. Thanks for sharing!


08/03/2014 18:15
Thank you for sharing your perspective. Very helpful as Quandary is next on my list. I'm a 14er newbie also- and just shared my thoughts on my Bierstadt hike yesterday...lessons learned.

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