| New 7-11 Slurpee flavor: Quandary
I was in the middle of a really good climbing dream when my alarm woke me up at 4 a.m. this morning. Jen and I had decided to climb Quandary Peak on this Sunday, but our bodies were still beat from our 9-pitch Flatiron climb with Jeffro on Saturday.
Driving west on I-70, I told Jen it felt like we had just finished the climb. But we pushed on with our plan.
< Side note: We really wanted to get a "high" peak in this weekend so that we would be better prepared for next week's climbs along the Nevada-California border. Ironically, we were making those climbs to better prepare ourselves for upcoming 14er climbs. So I guess it's kinda' circular. >
We parked right next to the trailhead at 6:45, almost an hour later than we had hoped. By the way, there is a little snow on the road, but we saw 2WD cars make it through without too much trouble. Just a little snow scraping.
The first section of trail was dry, but snow blanketed the trail not far up the path.
It didn't take us long to lose the trail, as we were baited by some fresh tracks ... and then they split again ... and again. Once we realized we were off course (based on compass readings), I ignored all the incorrect trails and we slushed our way through the forest in a northwest direction.
The snow was pretty crappy. Even though it was early in the morning, we postholed often -- even in snowshoes. Here's a shot of Jen on the old powder:
Eventually we made it to a big snowfield, which is where we regained the proper trail. Of course, most of the trail was under snow from this point on, but at least we knew we were back in the game.
There were only a few "islands" of dry ground from that point on. As I was passing one of these "islands," I heard a quiet, low-pitched chirping. Just feet away were two ptarmigans. One of them still had its winter plumage (white), but it was still incredibly camouflaged. Can you see both of them here?
The climbing was quite a slog, and it was slow and cumbersome. Our packs, laden with winter gear, were heavy. And we continued to posthole here and there. Sometimes I dropped rather abruptly down to my waist. Like dropping through the ice on a frozen lake, it always woke me up.
Here's a shot, from roughly two-thirds the way up, looking back down on the valley.
As we ascended the ridge we passed a group of climbers coming down (they ascended a couloir). Here's a shot of a cornice, with the climbers in the background.
Quandary's summit was clearly in our sights now, but it seemed like it took forever to move any closer to it. For a time, we were able to ride the dried-out rocks, but we inevitably had to cross sections of deep snow. Some sections were frustratingly slushy. At one point, after falling through the snow, it felt like I had to swim to get myself out.
My snowshoes felt inadequate. But like a soldier and his rifle, my ice axe came in rather handy, and I'm super glad I had it. I don't think I would've felt comfortable going any further without it.
Dark, ominous clouds seemed to be encompassing us -- to our north, south and west -- but the sky in our "area" was holding pretty solidly. But we still weren't going to take any chances. Even though we were both exhausted and continued to take breaks every dozen or so steps, we kept ribbing each other to "go faster." 1/4 crankiness, 1/4 joking, 1/4 seriousness, 1/4 delirium.
We kept slogging up and finally made it to the false peak. With all the sketchy snow up there, we hugged the middle of the ridge and moved quickly and carefully over to the true summit -- which, with all the snowpack, was a few feet higher than it is in the summer. Made me wonder ... some of those near-14ers might just make the status in the winter!
It was 10:30 a.m.
Here's an eastward shot of Jen on the summit:
Here's a westward shot of me on the summit, striking a classic mountain pose:
We didn't spend much time up there, as we don't mess around with sketchy weather. The snow was getting crappier by the minute, too. And a dark cloud loomed to our east (as you can see in the following pic of Jen heading down). It ended up blowing to our east and it never ended up causing any problems, but we didn't want to take any chances.
Climbing down seemed to be almost as hard as climbing up. I only recall a few hundred yards of good, consistent snow all the way down (I was in a "flow," heel-stepping in the snow shoes; it was great).
Some areas of snow (which seemed to be just upslope of dry areas), on the other hand, were ruthless. After falling through the top layer of snow, it was like swimming in a Slurpee -- hence my trip report title. And it was kind of demeaning, especially in that really tired state.
Below tree line, we had more "false" trails to navigate. Boot/snowshoe prints were everywhere. Then, some trails would just "end" on dry ground, and we'd have to scout around for a few minutes to get back on track. The trusty compass came in handy yet again.
Throughout the day, we must've put on and taken off our snowshoes a baker's dozen times.
We continued to posthole here and there, but the snow seemed to get more solid the further down we got.
Made it back to the trailhead at 1 p.m.
Very tired now, but we're all ready for Boundary and some other peaks next weekend!
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):