First 14er in February

FAQ and threads for those just starting to hike the Colorado 14ers.
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vrogers
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First 14er in February

Post by vrogers »

Hi all! My wife and I are going to be in Breckenridge in early February and we were considering doing the Quandary Peak East ridge trail. We are both fit and have a decent amount of hiking experience (just did a backpacking trip though the Tetons). I have read that that trail is "easy" relative to other 14ers and that its a great first trail but most of that appears to be referring to the summer/fall, not the middle of winter! Having never done a 14er at all, would it be a bad idea to do this? If its not a crazy idea, what would be some helpful advice?
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Jorts
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Re: First 14er in February

Post by Jorts »

It's fairly easy on nice days in the winter. There will be a stomped out trench. It is not so easy on windy, snowy days. Visibility drops, the trench and your up tracks will be filled in and scoured so you can't just easily sight your way down. If you get off the ridge, you might quickly find yourself in slide terrain. Having said that, if you have experience navigating in whiteouts with gps, it's not so bad.

Summit County Rescue has had many rescues in one particular spot just above treeline during whiteouts in the winter when parties become disoriented. Nearly all of these parties reported, "We thought Quandary was the easy winter 14er."
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vrogers
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Re: First 14er in February

Post by vrogers »

Thank you for the insight. The "I thought quandary was the easy one in winter" is precisely what I'm trying to avoid! so would you say that a GPS is essential safety equipment for the winter?
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Mtnman200
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Re: First 14er in February

Post by Mtnman200 »

I wouldn’t do a winter climb without an InReach or Spot in case things go sideways and you need SAR.
"Adventure without risk is not possible." - Reinhold Messner
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Carl_Healy
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Re: First 14er in February

Post by Carl_Healy »

vrogers wrote: Tue Oct 12, 2021 6:56 pm Thank you for the insight. The "I thought quandary was the easy one in winter" is precisely what I'm trying to avoid! so would you say that a GPS is essential safety equipment for the winter?
Just get a satellite messenger/gps if you can afford it.
Outside of hiking it's a real nice thing to have for a variety of activities: hiking in summer, hunting, camping, deep sea fishing... heck it'll have its use if you take a safari in Africa.

Actually it's also kinda nice to keep in your car as well in case you end up in an accident on a road somewhere far from cell coverage.
If you can't run, you walk
If you can't walk, you crawl
If you can't crawl, you find someone to carry you
peter303
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Re: First 14er in February

Post by peter303 »

I'd recommend Sniktau, a 13er off Loveland Pass, jot far from Breckenridge. Great views from the start.
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mtree
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Re: First 14er in February

Post by mtree »

If the weather is good Quandary is certainly in reach! If the weather is crappy or threatening, hanging in Breck is a far better idea. Plan accordingly. Realize you will be going up high so be aware of altitude issues (you list no 14er experience).

I'll assume your going on a primo day. It is a straight forward hike as long as nothing goes sideways. Bring gear to cover every inch of your body including face. Goggles recommended even if its a blue bird day. Wind up high can be brutal. Dress accordingly. You probably won't need any special gear to complete the hike, but trekking poles are nice (ski poles should suffice) to seek out nasty spots and assist with balance. You probably won't need any spikes that time of year, but bring them if you have them. Just know winter hiking is far more strenuous than in the summer. And the margin of error is thin. Pack plenty of water inside backpack and get an early start. Sun goes down early. Round trip will take you anywhere from 5-8 hours depending on a huge variety of reasons too numerous to list. If it goes beyond 8... well, hope you left info with someone in town! Don't do anything stupid and stay on course. If things look sketchy turn around. Getting lost or disoriented up there can kill you. Pretty simple, really! Enjoy.
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JQDivide
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Re: First 14er in February

Post by JQDivide »

There is usually someone hiking Quandary every day of the year, unless it is storming. So you probably won't be alone.
But as you get closer to the date, you can always seek partners, here or via social media.

One thing to consider as a newbie to 14ers.... WIND. Cold days and high winds make for a miserable experience.
Ski goggles and face coverings are a must on windy days.
Keep an eye on the forecast.

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Re: First 14er in February

Post by Ptglhs »

I mostly agree with the other posters. I've done quandary a few times. I had a day in late March where it was clear, low 30s up top, almost no wind, and all I needed were micro spikes. It was a Sunday but only a couple dozen people summitted. Did it NYE one year and the wind was brutal. Wind polished ice near 14k at the steepest part. I needed an axe and full layering everywhere, and chose to use crampons as well. Quandary is the easiest winter 14er, imo, but that's like saying you're the thinnest kid at fat camp.

If you have a specific date in a couple months you could always post on here and ask if anyone with more experience was also going and could you tag along.

If you use a camelback: keep the bladder inside a couple of layers and blow out your hose so it doesn't get stopped up with ice. Sunglasses and sunblock! If it's sunny the UV from the sky, bouncing off the snow, and the thinner air will fry someone.

Tldr: It's a crap shoot. Bring layers and traction and be prepared to do something below treeline if the weather is even questionable.
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mindfolded
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Re: First 14er in February

Post by mindfolded »

Ptglhs wrote: Wed Oct 13, 2021 3:05 pm If you use a camelback: keep the bladder inside a couple of layers and blow out your hose so it doesn't get stopped up with ice
If you use a Nalgene, flip it upside down. The highest side freezes first, so make that the bottom, otherwise you might not even be able to get the cap off and when you do, you might have to break through a layer of ice. I guess if you bring an ice axe, you won't have to worry about this as much.
"I get all the news I need on the weather report."
arianna2
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Re: First 14er in February

Post by arianna2 »

We got turned around twice, we'll actually three I think, two on one day, in the winter. All above is true. The one extra lovely thing we experienced was static. Got painful static shocks until we retreated probably500 ft below the summit. On the way down my husband couldn't see me and I was like 10 feet in front of him and once I looked at his cheek and it was white in a section below his goggles, like frostbite starting. It would have been easy if it was a bluebird day however you just have to be prepared for everything. We climbed up and got turned around by a blizzard and by the time we got to the car it was a bluebird sky so we decided to try again and I think that's when we got turned around at the top when some clouds came in and we got static and I think it's snowed again too. So it can be really volatile.
vrogers
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Re: First 14er in February

Post by vrogers »

Thank you for all of the advice and info! We only have on day that we can go unfortunately so we will really be hoping that the weather cooperates but if not, the mountain will be there next time.
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