| Quandary - East Slopes Classic
This occasion marked my fifth ascent of the undeniably “Classic” East slopes of the Ten Mile Monarch. My colleague and friend, Steve, wanted a relatively benign undertaking for his follow-up to our Pikes Peak (Crags) season opener, so Quandary seemed the logical choice. The popularity of this peak, particularly the East Ridge trail, has obviously led to the posting of this prominent sign at the trailhead and serves as a valuable reminder that the notion of an “easy fourteener” is both incorrect and rather misleading.
Easy? Think Again!
This trail wastes no time in introducing its hikers to what an average ascent of just over a thousand feet every mile feels like. My choice of descriptor was “nice and steep”, which Steve quickly branded an oxymoron!
There are now well-positioned signs along the trail indicating the path to follow as the trail winds its way through the trees.
Still below treeline, we got our first glimpse of the traverse along the ridge and the false summit in the distance.
East ridge in the distance
The views looking back to the southeast showcased the beauty of this region.
View to the SE
As the trees started to get sparser, there were more signs guiding hikers along the right path.
We soon noticed the trail slowly transitioning to rockier terrain as the peak continued to come in and out of view.
Glimpse of the peak
As we pressed on, the rock “staircase” was our next challenge.
Just as we surmounted the steps and passed treeline near 12,000 feet, we were rewarded with a guest appearance by one of many the denizens of the region, a rocky mountain goat and her lovely lamb!
Fluffy white beauties!
Also enthralling hikers on this day was the pristine beauty of Blue Lake and the valley nestled between Quandary's daunting southwest slopes and North Star Mountain.
The trail continued its steady ascent, the peak beckoning to us even as sinister dark clouds hovered over it.
Just over 13,000 feet, we got some respite as the trail flattened before launching into the final pitch on the ridge. Keen eyes will spot the faint trail decorating the ridge in these shots, as well as hikers that appear as tiny specks!
Trail flattens near 13,000'
This shot looks back over the ridge trail we’d just traversed, also speckled with hikers and giving some idea of the scale of that pitch.
The next 1000 feet of elevation gain proved to be the crux of the hike.
Crux of the hike
Even as we labored through this pitch, the majesty of the surroundings was not lost on us.
As we inched closer to the top, we got our first glimpse of the pole marking the summit – so near yet so far!
Is that the Summit or am I dreaming?
The trail finally relented just over 14,000 feet making for an easy saunter to the rocky summit.
The last 200'
Here are the weary but victorious hikers – Steve even manages a wry smile after that valiant effort!
I, for one, will never tire of the magnificent views from the summits of Colorado’s high peaks. To the south, we see the Lincoln group framing the picture behind North Star Mountain.
The views to the west – equally impressive!
View to the West
Our return trip was relatively uneventful as the clouds that threatened, thankfully never delivered on their promise.
On the way back, we stopped at the "Highest Saloon in the U.S." (how could we not?) in the quaint little town of Alma for refreshments - indeed a fitting end to a perfect day!
The sign says it all!
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):