| Long, Glorious Day on Quandary
Summiting my first 14er, Quandary Peak, on Friday, May 30, provided a real thrill and sense of accomplishment for me. My first thoughts are to thank Piker and the dozens of folks who generously provide information and encouragement on 14ers.com. I would not have been nearly as prepared or motivated for this trip without your participation.
I had a window of opportunity in late May to come up to Colorado to camp and hike. I spent the first couple of nights in Rocky Mountain National Park, getting acclimated and hiking to Chasm Lake junction. Then I relocated to Summit County, camping at Heaton Bay campground on Lake Dillon. Late Thursday afternoon, I made a scouting run up to the East Ridge trailhead, meeting a trio who had gotten part way up the mountain but turned back when they got tired of melting snow and wet feet. Their recommendations: Get snowshoes. Get an early start. And take your time.
Friday morning at 5:15, I was the first one at the trailhead. I had not been first for something since I bought the first ticket for the first showing of Rocky II in College Station back in the late '70s ... I ate some breakfast and pulled my gear together, setting out on the trail by 5:40. As someone on the backside of 50 coming from 1200' and knowing that my training regimen consists primarily of walking the dogs around a couple of holes on the golf course each evening, I knew my day of hiking would be long. "Take your time," yesterday's hikers had encouraged.
Sunrise on the trail
Like a previous poster, I want to thank whoever tied pink markers in the trees along the trail route; very helpful in snow conditions. I lost a good bit of time somewhere between 11,500 and 12,000 when instead of cutting up the mountain and following the snowpacked path toward the ridge I attempted to stay on the "new" trail that skirts the reclamation area. Very difficult to follow in the snow and when I tried to make some corrections on the south side of that slope, I just slowed myself down, probably put myself in some precarious positions, and tired myself a bit more. Finally, I found some stone steps protruding from the snow and that helped me gain the ridge. (For those who hike Quandary when there is no snow covering the route, I'm sure the well-developed "new" trail is an excellent experience.)
Almost at treeline, looking up to the summit
From that point, I slowly ascended the mountain, hugging the rocks where they were visible along the ridge. At some point prior to what seemed to me to be the steepest section of the ascent, I was pleased to look back and see other hikers coming up behind me. It wasn't long before a twosome packing skis overtook me. Further down the trail, a trio using snowshoes (as I was at that point) was slowly, surely making their way up.
Looking back down the ridge at two groups of approaching climbers
For me, it took a good deal of physical exertion and some ongoing mental prodding to keep myself going over the next crest and the next. I motivated myself by thinking about how much I desired to achieve the summit of a 14,000-foot peak, by thinking about a special photo I wanted to take for my friend Anne back in Texas who is scheduled for reconstructive surgery after successfully battling breast cancer (LiveStrong, Anne!), and by the positive, persistent approach of the trio coming up behind me. We can all do this, I reckoned. Take your time.
Finally, at noon on this beautifully clear and not too windy day, I achieved the summit ridge and made my way to the summit register. I made the acquaintance of Brandon, who was readying himself to board down the couloir. He was kind enough to snap a couple of summit shots for me. I called my wife, who was happy and surprised to receive a call from the summit. Three bars, Verizon!
Maybe 20 or 30 minutes into my rest, the trio behind me achieved the summit. What a great group. Lori and John from Chicago and their friend John from Roswell, NM. Lori and John had left their 2-year-old and 2-month old with Grandmother back down in Breck to come out on this beautiful day. Later as I descended with them and my head cleared a bit, I turned to John and asked, "Two-month-old? Did y'all adopt?" Nope. Lori! Awesome and inspirational to be summiting your first 14er eight weeks after the birth of your second child! John from Roswell was adversely affected by the altitude and though none of us really enjoyed the "mashed potato" conditions as we continued our descent, I know it must have been particularly grueling for him. He toughed it out and we got back to the trailhead and said our goodbyes. John from Chicago is a medical resident and knew ongoing monitoring and caution was required for his friend. I was grateful they allowed me to be part of their descent team and glad for everyone who had the opportunity to enjoy Quandary on such a beautiful day.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):