| Quandary 1/20/09
I did Quandary this morning...just wanted to give a few details for anyone interested in this popular Winter hike:
1) You cannot use the Monte Cristo TH as Roach shows as this TH is closed. I wasted some time looking around until I finally realized you just have to read the trail closed sign. (Watch the deep snow drifts near the sign!) But I'll save you the time here: you still take Rte 9 and turn onto 850 (Blue Lakes Road - the 850 is hard to read on this sign in the dark!). Instead of taking 850 till the end, you turn immediately onto 851 (McCullough Gulch). The road is basically blocked with snow so all you have to do is park right there and walk 1/4 mile or so and you'll see the new TH starting there on the left of the fire-road.
2) I started at 6:20am with a temperature of about 10 degF (car said 6, internet said high teens). The first half of the trail was hard-packed till the pitch got steeper. At that point because it was so cold even the deeper stuff was hard -- no post holing. Because of the previous reports, I left the cramp-ons in the car and only packed the snow shoes. I never unpacked them from my backpack.
3) As for the trail, you can follow the hard packed trail about half way or so and then after that, at least until we get another fresh snow, you can see wind-blown foot prints. There are some cairns as you get pretty high but at that point you just keep working your way up.
4) With the temps I started out, I had a long sleeve medium thickness poly turtle neck, a fleece layer and then a windproof marmot jacket and was fine the whole day. I wore biking tights under nylon loose pants. My gortex mittens with thick filling kept my hands fine. One layer of socks and a heat pad in each boot was just barely enough to keep my toes from going numb. I added another heat pad halfway which didn't do too much but I was fine. I had a balaclava and extra hat which were both needed. Don‘t forget the sunglasses and sunscreen! Also, I did follow someone‘s advice of putting the camelbak water tube in my jacket and that worked great!
5) I was welcomed by mountain goats about 3/4 the way up and wisely navigated around them - they look intimidating!
6) Under sun and about 10mph winds, I summited alone about 9am and had the peak to myself, so around 2:45 for the trip up. It was still cold so I headed down pretty quick.
7) The sun really heated things up on the way down. The snow became much softer but the shallow post-holing worked well to cushion the impact coming down. I ran into a few guys about half way -- everyone at that point coming up was either using cramp-ons or snow shoes. I was slipping around a bit but my boots really don't have much tread so I think you'd be ok if you summited early enough (again, unless we get more snow).
8) I finished at around 11am, so in summary it was about 2:45 up, a 15 min rest and about 1:30 for the trip down, giving about 4.5 hrs total trip. This might give you a guide on timing for someone of average climbing/hiking ability, no acclimation to the altitude but pretty good fitness level for a 45 yr old. Keep in mind, I think I was a little faster with just boots than if I had used snow shoes or cramp-ons.
Overall a great day. Cold to start out with and the legs were definitely feeling the climbing grade and the altitude about 3/4 of the way up. But seeing the sun and the friendly visitors as I came down was a great change after the cold solitude going up! This was my 24th 14er and certainly a different experience that was well worth it!
Thanks for reading and have a great trip!
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):