Quandary Peak - North Gully aka Quandary Couloir
Climbing mountains is dangerous! Please read the Mountaineering Safety Page and make sure you have a map+compass and can use them effectively. A GPS or cell phone can be very helpful with navigation but you should still be able to use a map+compass in case your device stops working.
(WINTER) HOLD ON! If you don't have much high-elevation, winter climbing experience, be careful in your planning and take a partner. Even the "easy" 14ers (Quandary, Sherman, Grays & Torreys) can be deadly in winter.
|Difficulty:||Class 3, Steep Snow|
Ski: Advanced, D11 / R3 / II
|Total Gain:||3,250 feet|
|RT Length:||5.25 miles|
|County Sheriff:||Summit: 970-453-2232
|National Forest:||White River|
From Breckenridge, drive 8 miles south on Colorado 9. Turn right (west) on the Blue Lakes 850 Road. Drive a few hundred yards and turn right on the McCullough Gulch 851 Road. Drive 2.1 miles to the end of the road near a gate. Before 2 miles, there is a road junction, stay left on the main road. Park on the side of the road.
This couloir should be done with adequate snow cover and is not recommended as a summer climb - Photo #1. It's located on the north side of Quandary and can only be seen in its entirety from McCullough Gulch. Taken from Mt. Helen (13,164'), Photo #2 and Photo #3 show the upper portion of the route.
Walk past the gate and follow the old road up to the left. Pass a building after about 1/4 mile and, after almost 1/2 mile, take the marked trail that leaves the left side of the road - Photo #4. Follow the good trail through forest, over a few small log bridges and across a small boulder field - Photo #5. Near 11,600', the trail approaches some waterfalls that can be heard beyond the trees. There are social trails that lead to the falls - stay right and continue onto a rocky hill just north of the waterfalls. Hike up through ledges to reach a point where you get a great view of the "Quandary Couloir" - Photo #6. Gain the top of the rocks to reach a small, unnamed lake at 11,900' - Photo #7.
From the lake, you can see all of the couloir (Photo #8) and it's a good location to carefully assess conditions before committing to the climb. Drop left (east), cross the stream below the lake (Photo #9), and hike over to the large rock/snow apron below the couloir. If you're lucky, the entire base will be snow-covered, making it easier to reach the base of the couloir - Photo #10.
Once on the apron, strap on crampons and hike 200' to reach steeper terrain - Photo #11. Near 12,400', the walls of the couloir begin to close in as you approach the crux of the climb - a 100-foot section of that forms a "choke" in the couloir - Photo #12. Depending on the snow-depth in the choke, the snow may be less than 10 feet wide and the angle of this pitch can range from 40 to 45+ degrees. Carefully climb through the choke to reach easier terrain, above 12,800'. Photo #13 and Photo #14 look down on the crux.
The next 800'+ of climbing is straightforward (although not straight) and has a fairly consistent angle - Photo #15, Photo #16 and Photo #17. Near 13,500', the couloir turns right and you can finally see the terrain near the top - Photo #18. Follow the middle of the couloir to 13,700' where you will likely encounter some rock outcroppings in the center - Photo #19. Turn slightly left and continue up steeper terrain (Photo #20) to reach the top of the couloir - Photo #21, Photo #22, Photo #23 and Photo #24. Turn right (Photo #25) and hike 350' to reach the summit - Photo #26.
Near the waterfalls (11,800'), the route can be a bit confusing due to social trails. If you go left to reach the falls, you have left the main trail - stay right and look for a small trail that climbs up through rocky terrain in the forest.
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