| And now for something completely different
Post-holers: Darrin (kansas) & me
Ascent Route: Standard
Elevation Gain: ~3,450'
What, no skis?
Considering the action packed year of mountaineering Darrin and I have planned, a sunny nice day can't be wasted. So while skiing closing weekend at Breckenridge on Saturday, we made a spur of the moment decision to go climb Quandary the next day. We didn't think we could summit and descend with skis fast enough, so after a long discussion, we decided to hike it – 'light and fast'. Only complication, Darrin didn't bring all the gear required for it. So I dug into my gear room to get the necessary items: day pack & gaiters. Too bad there were no extra boots or large crampons, as that eliminated the possibility of ascending the Cristo Couloir.
A caffeinated morning
We woke up as early as we could stand it, so that we would have the firmest snow, and hopefully a quick descent before post-holing hell. Alas we arrived at the trailhead a bit later than planned, and started up the snowy road at 8am.
North Star Mountain
The first couple switchback up the slope are close to being bare. A few more days and there may not be any more snow left in some places. Most of the trail was pretty firm, but stepping off of it by a foot is not advised. Between 11,200 and 11,600 we could see evidence for post-holing. This would be the crux of the descent.
First views of Quandary
Above 11,600 to 13,200 the wind was quite relentless and made the sunny warm day feel quite chillier. There was nothing to do other than put your head down and forge ahead. The snow above treeline is quite firm, and makes for easy walking. Some wind reworked powder, with areas of melted and refrozen zones.
Minor ground blizzard to contend with
Facing the peak
Greys and Torreys with Baldy
Once on the first hump at around 13K, the views were spectacular in the sun drenched landscape. With the wind dying down, it made the day in to mountaineering eye candy. The surrounding 13ers look tempting for future snow climbs and ski descents.
Pacific and Crystal Peak
Blue Lakes Dam
As we were making the final push to the summit on the last slope, 2 teams of skiers are on their way up, making it look easy. Jealous for sure, as I wish I had my AT gear on. The snow was better than I thought it would be. Above 13.2K the snow seems like it was still stuck in winter, and hasn't seen too much warming yet. After skiing Breck, I was concerned it would be slushy later in the day.
Narrow summit snow ridge
On the summit we find the 2 ski teams waiting for snow conditions to improve. Now I'm really jealous, as I can see that it will be a fun descent down the Cristo for them. So I resort to taking tons of photos of the surrounding peaks, and of the start of the groups ski down.
I took a bunch of photos of the skiers, only a few to post here. See link below for more.
First Ski group
Second Ski group
Bomber snow glissade to post-hole craziness:
Having summited at noon, we realized we would eventually have to deal with super soft snow near treeline. So reluctantly, we start our descent, trying to get down as quickly as possible. Glissading off the upper section of the peak was painful at best. The snow was still rock hard, and quite a few bumps were encountered by our backsides. But we did make it down to the lower area quickly enough. Below 13K the snow was soft enough now for plunge stepping, as it wasn't steep enough to glissade.
Some parting shots before too much elevation was lost
We met a guy on the way up, who mentioned he had post-holed a bit around treeline. So we knew we were too late to avoid this complication. The best glissade came around the start of the trees. Nice soft snow and steep enough to keep up the momentum, with a good run-out at the bottom.
Sure enough the area we noted on the way up, turned out to be a post-holing nightmare. But as this was an amazingly beautiful day, with an easy climb behind us, the post-holing didn't trouble us. It was a short zone, and even snowshoers seemed to posthole a bit. To have carried snowshoes the entire distance for about a quarter mile of post-holing wasn't warranted in my mind. Though getting through this section was rather hilarious. Maybe future hikers can just expand the trench we made on the way down, as it's not like the snow will get better this season!
Can you say post-hole trench. Let's crawl!
Full Photo Album
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):