| Miles to go before I sleep
This being my first winter attempt I was a bit anxious, I didn't know what to expect. All I kept thinking about was frostbite, frozen camelbak hoses, and snow blindness. What I actually experienced was a great day in the woods with good people all around.
With my wife in Steamboat I had the perfect opportunity to celebrate my 31st birthday in the place I enjoy the most, plus with the Quandary gathering coinciding on that same weekend I would feel much more at ease with this hike. I rented snow shoes the night before, set up a meeting at the trailhead with a buddy from work and went to bed albeit anxious, but ready. I arrived at the Quandary trailhead around 6am the next morning and met MountainMike, he gave me some good advice along with some confidence, thanks again Mike. Shortly afterwards, my buddy Joe pulled into the trailhead and we hit the trail at 630
Hiking in this forest was ethereal. It was so quiet, and so full of snow I felt like the trees were watching me, like large sentinels forbidding me to go further. But the trail was so hard packed and inviting that I had to continue. I could almost see Robert Frost standing in the middle of the trail with an old leather notebook in hand, writing "Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening".
After about an hour of sneaking under the watchful eye of the silent guardians, the air became much too thin for their survival and they relented. I was now at the mercy of the wind, but thankfully the wind wasn't too much of a factor. My wife had given me a new softshell jacket for my b-day and I didn't know for sure if it would hold up to the frigid air, it turns out my fears were unwarranted. I stayed warm and mostly dry for the remainder of the hike.
Just breaking treeline
I was amazed at how easy it was to hike in snowshoes, I was equally as happy with how the snow smoothed out the trail! At times It sounded like- and felt like- I was walking on a bamboo floor. I was amazed at the floatation afforded me by the snowshoes. The snowshoes coupled with flat terrain also kept my ankle from rolling, I like hiking in the winter!
The miasma that surrounded Quandary the last time I summited looked like it had returned, I was destined not to witness the view from the summit
I was resigned to another confused Quandary summit shot. It was difficult to differentiate the ground from the sky until I broke through the clouds around 12,500. This was the most pervasive cloud ceiling I have ever seen! It seemed to cover all of Colorado, it was so beautiful I was speechless.
Stunning low cloud ceiling, fellow 14er.com members can be seen lower right
My buddy Joe who was skinning up, decided this was where he would finish. He was up here a few days ago so I can totally understand. It was a pleasure hiking with you Joe! After he left I was tempted to take off my rented snowshoes, but truthfully I thought that the crampons would make the ascent a little easier. It did.
Summit is still quite far!
The wind wasn't too bad on the ridge, there was a gust or two that nearly knocked me on my butt. I thought it was pretty cool.
Another cool low cloud picture
While I was on the ridge I thought I spotted a chair lift, can you see it?
Possible chair lift
After being passed my numerous 14er.com members on the ridge, I finally realized my goal of summiting my first winter 14er! It was cool meeting all of you up there, it was nice to see some familiar faces as well.
Lone hiker on summit ridge
It was cool being apart of Quandary 4, this was the first "official" gathering I've attended. It reminded me why I started using this site, because everyone of you I met was totally cool. I know this isn't a very comprehensive trip report, or very thoroughly documented but my hands were too cold to take my gloves off! I definitely need some mittens if I am going to continue winter hiking.
Summiting a 14er on my birthday was sweeter than chocolate cake!
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):