| Go west (ridge), young man
Quandary Peak (West ridge ascent, Cristo descent)
I once again planned to attempt the Longs Loft route this weekend, but called it off after the results of Thursday and Friday's weather. I'd been wanting to try the "starter" class 3 route on Quandary for some time, so I headed up there on Saturday morning. I parked at the lower Blue Lake so I could get my 3000' in.
Looking up the gulch from lower Blue Lake.
The summit is up there... somewhere...
Sunrise over the divide. I wish I knew how to adjust the settings on my camera.
Cristo Coulour from the dam. How scenic.
At the Upper Blue Lake dam, there are several trails heading west across the slope. I took one heading more upward than west and ended up slogging through willows, bushes and marshy areas. The trail eventually met up with the lower trail, which is probably the better/correct way to go. In any case, it was pretty clear where to go... generally west, doing a gradual ascending traverse across the slope.
Wheeler Mtn from the slope above the lake.
I followed the well-trod trail through a nice tundra-covered area surrounding Monte Cristo Creek, crossing snowmelt runoff and rockslide areas, until a a hidden plateau appeared. Among the numerous streams and small ponds, the trail gets a little sketchy here. But again, it was pretty obvious to just keep heading up the valley.
Ridge below Fletcher Mtn.
Mining remains on the plateau.
Looking up to the Fletcher/Quandary saddle.
I attempted an ascent of the red-tinted snowfield, but it was frozen solid. Fortunately, the rock just to the left was exceptionally climbable.
A look back down the valley.
A look at some of the west ridge from just past the snowfield.
After passing the snowfield, the trail finally petered out for good. I figured that the quickest way to the ridge looked to be a gully leading to a notch just east of the low point on the saddle. The route up there consisted of easy talus and a lot more running water.
Closeup of the gully leading to the notch on the ridge.
Once on the ridge, the fun began. The wind, which was not unpleasantly chilly in the valley, now cranked up a few notches. So, on went the warmer layer. There were a few towers right off the bat, but I bypassed them easily on the south side.
Looking east up to the false summits.
For the next 4-500' vertical, I just did the basic talus slog, following the "trail" segments scattered about when possible. I was sucking a lot of air at this point and the ridge seemed to be going by pretty slowly, but I eventually felt like I was making progress. The trail switched back and forth from the south to north side a few times, livening up the scenery.
Must've been a pretty good view from their living room.
The ridge started to get a little more dodgy from here, with some exposed climbing among the loose rock. The route is rarely right up to the edge (which was a relief), but I was always made very aware that it was there. The tricky part was figuring out the safest way around the obstacles. A group of 4 dudes had caught up with me, and it was helpful to have more input on the decisions. I went exploring and found a few dead-ends, but eventually found the easier paths.
A few examples of the terrain.
Soon we could see the humanity-covered summit, tantalizingly close. But there were a few more tests left before it would be ours.
The second-to-last obstacle had this nice climbable gully right up the left side of it.
The final challenge. Dont look down.
The Decalibron, North Star Mtn and upper Blue Lake from the top of Cristo Coulour.
Descending the coulour was pretty much as nasty as I thought it would be. How can it take so much work to go straight downhill? Ah well, my knees will forgive me later. Probably.
All in all, the hike was a great way to turn a "beginner's 14er" into something of a challenge for a non-climber like me. Highly recommended.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):