| Cloudy day on Quandary‘s East Ridge
• Total Distance: 6.75mi
• Elevation Gain 3,450ft
• Trailhead Time: 6:30am
• Summit time: 10:23am
• Completion Time: 12:40pm
• Total Time: 6 hours
Cool day on the mountain. The wind was completely calm other than an occasional gust of 5 or 6mph. The first hour of the climb was completely in the clouds. Ardound 8:30 or so the lower bank of clouds lifted, leaving clouds below and clouds above. The summit was in the sun, though still surrounded by clouds. The sun was VERY strong. There was snow falling very lightly the entire day.
The new snow that's fallen over the last few days has NOT bonded well AT ALL with the old snow. There were a few times where I could get the top layer on the east ridge to slide a small bit, but it is not steep enough there for major issues. Overall though, all avalanche-capable slopes (including Cristo) are probably going to be a mess for a while. Conditions will change quickly though, especially with warm temperatures and rain, so keep your eyes open and be smart.
Planning this trip stated early, and with good reason – as the weather forecast changed significantly from day to day. The forecast always called for some precip, though amounts differed from 1inch of snow to 4, 20% chance of precip to 60%, 29 degrees to 45 degrees. Ironically, the Monday forecast was probably the least accurate.
After an early morning wake up, Ryan, Thomas, and his dad set off for the trailhead. The drive up, though rainy and snowy, was rather scenic and allowed the four of us to get caught up.
The trailhead felt warm compared to what we expected, and most of us started by taking off layers. We started off at a good pace. Those of you from La Plata back in November who hiked with Ryan know how fast he can go. Eventually, he paced back to us, realizing that there was really no point in going too far ahead.
The trail currently is an odd combo of the summer and winter routes. After the junction between the old trail (still used in winter) and the new CFI route, the CFI route is clear for a brief time. Just before the switchbacks to regain the ridge, the trail is snow covered and crosses some slopes that are still avalanche prone. We opted to backtrack a short while and regain the ridge prior to the well-compacted, badly-bonded avalanche slope.
From there to the flat part below the upper ridge was an easy climb. Snow was well compacted and easy to climb. Most snow was thin enough that all the larger rocks stuck through, helping route finding. At times the cloud cover was heavy, making for some difficulty in finding where to go, but we kept on heading west and made sure not to drop into either the northeast bowl or the south slopes.
The summit ridge was the crux of the climb, as it began with very deep post-holing around 13,300ft and then grew more consolidated and frozen up to the final segment of very slick slopes. Ryan, Thomas, and I made it, though Thomas's dad decided to head back the trailhead due to the post –holing. He kept us up-to-date on the weather via cell phone throughout the rest of the ascent and descent.
The summit was pleasantly warm and calm. There was absolutely no wind, and the clear skies directly overhead gave us the only sunny spot in the area as far as I can tell. We could see over towards Pacific, Atlantic, and Northstar, though everything else remained in the clouds. After a summit picture and a brief break, we made our descent.
Due to the avalanche danger and soft snow, we decided to avoid Cristo and descend the East Ridge. There were a few opportunities to glissade on the ridge towards the top, but the big story was post-holing through most of the descent. We stuck to rocks as much as possible and made fast work of the descent, taking under 2 hours to get back to the car.
A final stop at Beau Jo's Pizza on the way home completed the day. Overall, a very fun and good day!
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):