| January Nuber II-Quandary East Ridge
Summit: Quandary Peak (14,265 ft)
#2 Winter Climb (Sherman in May of 2008 was the First)
Total hiking time: 3.5 hours to the summit
Distance: 5.4 miles
Elevation gain: 3,370
Trailhead: Monte Cristo Trailhead
Date: January 17, 2009
Overall impression: A fabulous Colorado bluebird day in January. The day was filled with warm weather, little to no wind and my 1st 14ers.com huge climb-athon.
Description: Met a group of 14ers.com friends at the Ken Caryl Park-n-Ride at 4:15am including Al who posted this climb in December. I ended up carpooling with Al and Monroe from Amarillo. We drove up to the Morrison Park-n-Ride to pick up Scott from Denver and say hi to 30 or so other 14ers.com friends that were heading up to Quandary. I must admit I have never seen the Park-n-Ride so alive at 5am.
It seemed like we made great time getting to the trailhead but it was probably due to all the talking on the way up. Al engaged all of us with his Alps avalanche story and about his climb on Mt. Blanc. While we getting ready for the climb the sun was just coming up and lighting up Quandary. We could tell it was going to be a great day because it was surprisingly warm at 6:30am. I had two layers of fleece, light gloves and a hat and was warm enough to start snowshoeing. The group donned snowshoes, individual packs and headed up the trail. After a few hundred yards we encountered 5-10 people waiting to start up the trail. Some chose to try going up without snowshoes and one person was skinning up the trail.
Getting ready before sun-up
Quandary in the early morning light
Across the valley before sunrise
The initial trail was well packed and I was wondering if the snowshoes were needed. But after 30 minutes or so we got into a clearing and several people were post holing. After watching people flounder in the powder I was glad I brought my 30" Atlas shoes as I stayed afloat in all the powder.
Scott, aka Skeetis, snowshoeing through the trees
The line of snowshoers and Kona in the early morning
A 14ers member flailing in the snow, think Kona wants a sniff
About ¾ of the way through the trees we all started to spread out finding our own pace. I plodded ahead and talked to several different people up the trail. It was fun meeting all sorts of different people from different places. I met Yikes in the rock fields and talked to him about Salida. I met another guy who had the cool Denali Ascent snowshoes with the heel bar. We leap frogged each other all the way to the summit. He had hare pace, very quick but then needed a rest. While I the tortoise had the slow but steady gait, refusing to take a break even when gasping for air.
Mountain to the South of Quandary
The first wave of climbers headed to the summit
I reached the summit at 10:30 and there had to be 15 people already on the summit. On the summit I tried to take a few photos but my batteries had frozen or ran down due to the cold. I pulled some spares I carried closer to my skin and found they had enough strength for a few photos. On the summit I met Kevin8020 who had found someone's head lamp, LongLiveTheHuskers and Fox045.
It was just gorgeous on the summit. There was literally no wind and the sky was filled with wispy clouds. I have had much colder summer summits including Elbert a few years back.
Artsy Summit Shot but not good enough for the competition
I headed down with LongLiveTheHuskers and I was amazed to see the line of people still coming up. It has been a while since I was on one of the popular summer 14ers but it reminded me of that. There had to be 30 people slogging up the last steep slope trying to reach the summit. We stopped and said hi to many people and I found my carpooling buddies (Al, Monroe and Scott) nearing the summit. I continued down and then stopped with LongLiveTheHuskers in a rock field to take a break and wait for my carpooling climbers. Fox045 hung out with us a while. LongLiveTheHuskers pulled out two 10-packs of Yukon Jack. I couldn't believe he dragged whiskey up here. I usually celebrate with a beer at the car, but whiskey on a 14er? This just didn't seem right. Well after 15 minutes I caved and had my first celebratory shot with my new Nebraska friend. We greeted everyone as they came down the mountain and LongLiveTheHuskers was handing out shots to any takers.
LongLiveTheHuskers and two of his victims
After several hours of waiting my carpooling buddies finally came down the mountain. I thought they must have been the last ones on the summit but I think there were a few stragglers still up there. The four of us ended up going down with LongLiveTheHuskers, Abbey, her husband (sorry forgot your name after the Yukon Jack) and Kona. Kona is a wonderful German Shepherd with a great disposition. We all hiked down, practiced self arrest on the steepest slope we could find and then hiked out. Once we were at the bottom, Al went to the house to bring Horton out. Apparently Horton is somewhat of a celebrity on Quandary. I have to admit I was totally unaware of Horton's celebrity status. Monroe, from Amarillo, TX has heard wonderful things about Horton and was thrilled to meet him. He got his picture taken with Horton and he declared that was more thrilling than summiting Quandary in the winter.
After stashing our stuff we headed to Breckenridge for dinner and a beer. We told climbing stories, dreamed of future climbs and filled our empty stomach. This was truly a great day with many new friends. While I generally like to climb to enjoy nature and get away from the crowds this was a very special day. I'm looking forward to another big 14ers.com outing in the near future.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):