| Quandry: west ridgin it up
I was so excited for my first trip back into the realm of 14ers since ACL surgery in March. I decided to climb Quandry's west ridge and conned a couple of my friends into doing it after a late night in the denver bars. Arriving at the trailhead at 7:30, we were all pretty tired, but psyched for a fun hike on what was setting up to be a beautiful day. Though my fiend John had summitted Quandry twice, he had yet to try the west ridge, and this was going to be my friend Vick's first 14er. We decided to park a ways short of the dam (about a mile) so that we could uphold the 3000' rule and got on our way. As we passed by the dam and began to traverse around the lake, which was only about a quarter full, we found that it was easy to climb too high too fast. After feeling silly about losing the trail so fast, we found a little path through some willows that quickly opened up onto the trail leading up the basin. Once away from the road and into the basin, the scenery is great and the wildflowers are everywhere this time of the year.
Since the river in the basin was flowing pretty well, we hiked a ways up on the right side before finding a little narrow spot to cross. note: Be careful not to step into a pothole while hiking along the stream. I loved being by the water which was clearer than the stuff I drink most of the time.
We made friends with a group of guys that we passed on the way up and chatted with them for a while. Later, after my buddy told me there was "no way I could throw a snowball that far" I landed a snowball about five feet from one of them. To tell the truth I didn't think I could have gotten it that close either and would have felt pretty bad if I had actually hit someone since we were about two hundred feet above them. The path in the upper part of the basin picked its way through small snowfields and is pretty well cairned making the going quick and painless... besides the lingering hangovers. This is a view back down the basin from about 2/3 of the way up
and another of the remaining section up to gain the west ridge.
It is easiest to gain the ridge to the east (right) of a large hump on the Quandry-Fletcher saddle. As you are nearing the saddle, you get the first views along the lower portion of thw west ridge. As Bill says in his route description, the more technical or fun parts of the ridge and the summit are not visible from here.
We were all feeling better when we reached the ridge especially after a little snack break. We had been graced by crystal clear skies to this point and could not have possibly asked for better weather for the rest of the day.
The first section of the ridge was a simple hike past some cool old mine ruins and around to the north side of the ridge. This is a view back of Fletcher (13,9something') with Mt. of the Holy Cross in the background just left of center.
The trail gradually drags you off the ridge proper and it is important to pay attention when it comes time to regain the ridge a bit further up. If you pass the gully that you are intended to take (which is cairned near the top), you will round a little corner and get stuck climbing a steeper more exposed gully to regain the ridge crest. The gully to regain the ridge is the first short class 3 section of the climb. Once back up on the crest of the west ridge, the fun begins. The last portion of the ridge is made up of a series of gullies and chimneys that must be climbed up and over to reach the route's crux and ultimately the summit. This is a picture of me working my way up the first straightforward gully on the ridge.
Since we did not bring helmets on this trip we decided to climb the ridge obstacles one person at a time to avoid any loose rock hazards. This added a bit of time to our trip, but was certainly no big deal. The second obstacle that you reach is topped by a fun little chimney that must be negotiated. The way we decided to climb it is the way Bill suggested-straight up the middle, and in my opinion this reqired a 4th class move or two. The section is short though, and hand and foot holds are plentiful on either side of the crack. This is my friend Vick posing on his way up.
From this point there is one more section of class 3 scrambling up another gully before you reach the route's crux. The entrance to this gully is kind of exposed and adds a little excitement to the route. Before reaching the crux, you walk across a short, but exposed section along the ridge crest
and then have a short downclimb. You can down climb on either side of the ridge, just be sure to watch your footing, because a slip here could end very poorly. Like the first chimney that we encountered along the ridge, we decided to follow a path straight up the center of the crux. I think Bill recommends topping out just left of the gap in the ridge which would be the way to keep to class 3 climbing. The more difficult upper section of the crux was a little bit scary for me since I have experienced few if any class 4 sections while climbing. John starting up the crux:
If you just take a second to find handholds (and don't look down), the short climb up the crux is over before you know it. In hindsight, I don't know if you could classify the path up the middle of the crux as class 5, but it seemed a lot like climbing to me.
Anyways... The views afforded from here are amazing and were taken in with the knowledge that the hardest parts of our day were now behind us.
Only a minute later we stood on Quandry's crowded 14,265' summit. This is me on the summit looking back at the west ridge.
It took us about 4 hours to summit which included frequent stops for pictures, to talk and to let hangovers subside. We ended up meeting some of our friends that had hiked the east ridge on the summit and spent close to an hour hanging out and enjoying the scenery. Both Vick and Joline (climbing from the east side) now had their first 14er under their belt and recieved the requisite high fiving on the summit. John, Vick and I had the great feeling that we had indeed earned that summit climbing via the west ridge. Despite the fact that I was gripping the rock hard enough to make little rock babies in a couple spots, I think that the west ridge route was a ton of fun. I would certainly recommend it to anyone who feels comfortable on steep rock and has no issue with a bit of exposure.
The day was still so clear that we could make out Holy Cross, the Bells, Pyramid, Snowmass and Capitol off in the distance along with more than half a dozen other nearby 14ers. This is our group united on the summit with the east siders on the left and the west side crew representin on the right.
This last picture was taken to the north looking down into McCullough Gulch just before we began our descent back to a land of more plentiful oxygen.
We decended the standard route back to the trailhead and got a ride back up to our truck. The east ridge route is very straightforward and got a bit old for me after a couple miles. The descent took maybe a little under two hours and we were back in time for a little late lunch BBQ in Frisco. Upon reaching the standard route trailhead we had finished our tour of Quandry in great company and high spirits. Another great safe day in the mountains.
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