Peak Name: Quandary Peak
Route Length: 6.66 Miles
Elevation Gain/Loss: 3.375 Feet
Living on the front range in the shadow of Long's Peak will occasionally result in a yearning to explore peaks situated closer to the heart of beloved Colorado. Having had a few mountains under my belt, I decided to show another the world that few see on the distant, snow laden ridge-lines far to the west. Without a doubt in my mind our first fourteener together would be the infamous Quandary East Ridge.
We left Loveland at a cool 4:00am and after dodging the police, figuring out which tail-light was out and grabbing some much needed McDonalds we blazed down the I-70 corridor and quickly found ourselves captivated in the heart of the Tenmile range. We found ourselves at the trail-head around 7am. A strange tranquility was in the air as a few fellow climbers assembled their gear in quiet meditation. With our gear assembled, we passed harmoniously through the sentinels of tall conifers which seem to have guarded Quandary's ridge-line for centuries.
The morning glow breaks over North Star ridge.
The mountain peaks seem to erupt with life having survived the cold, cloudless night. We find ourselves confronted in sensory amazement as the Blue Lakes placidly reveal themselves.
Blue Lakes revealed above the timberline.
The trail remains clear of any snow and alternates between dirt and talus. Often we find ourselves staring seemingly endlessly at the trail beneath our feet and at once look back.
Morning sun rays bask over Hoosier Pass; the shimmering water makes her double back for a photo..
A swift rise in elevation throws hard patches of autumn snow; the sky appears to unfold into infinity as familiar peaks greet us on our journey. A smile and a nod. We continue higher.
As the altitude rises, friendly patches of snow seem to greet the wanderers on their quest to reach the summit.
The East Ridge seems endless as a series of false summits reveal themselves. With each passing cairn, spirits are lifted and a surge of energy (in CLIF Goo form) inches the climbers ever closer to their destination.
The final pitch.
The final pitch raises a melancholy sense of elation.
Now the mountain is more beneath us than above. What was a view obscured by loose rock formations explodes into a 360 degree panorama of intense sensory awareness. Peaks, troughs, snowy crags; blankets of conifers and pallets of aspens encircle us.
We are greeted by a plethora of fellow adventurers who dare tackle Quandary's fierce weather and terrain.
Mixed emotions. Fourteeners seem to be a great personal triumph; the land says you can't but you persist and reach the summit anyhow. Here on top of the world where the land meets the sky we are greeted by others who have made the same pilgrimage. The mountains are meant to be shared, as with many great things in life.
Summit PDA. (Elbert and Massive shown to the left in the distance).
The summit is crystal clear. The Collegiate peaks cascade over the distant Elk mountains in a land torn apart by the conflict of summer and winter. It is quiet. The problems of the world disappear. Nothing else seems to matter but here and now.
They say nothing lasts forever; that seems to be especially true with fourteener summits. We traverse familiar ground, heading home. It's getting warmer and we seem to dance the whole way down.
Leaving the summit behind reveals a somber descent and a reincarnated pair of souls.
The return trip always seems longer than the ascent - time to reflect. We are greeted by friendly groves of trees, thickets and the like.
Near the terminus of descent; entering the forest feels like going home.
We return to the car; a little sad about the place we're leaving, but a little happy about the place we're going. A beautiful sadness I think it's called.
On a trail traversed by few.
On a blue-bird day.
In a land we call home.
Some people will never know.
Thank you for reading
- Ryan S.