Peak(s):  Quandary Peak  -  14,265 feet
Date Posted:  05/24/2012
Date Climbed:   05/24/2012
Author:  zephyr_pelicante
 Quandary - East Ridge  

According to the NOAA weather there was going to be 30% chance of snow with 20-30 mph winds and up to 50 mph gusts, I also knew that it had snowed the night before, but was unaware of how much. I started my hike at 7:30

At the start, near the trailhead, there was a few inches of snow but no noticeable wind, so I wasn't too concerned.
Below treeline, some snow but manageable

However, after I got above treeline, things started to change. The night before was obviously pretty windy and the wind accumulated on the trail since it was not rocky like the surrounding terrain, and each step offered 6-8 inches of snow with the occasional posthole. Because of the snow, above treeline the trail was almost impossible for me to find.

Quite a bit of snow on the trail

The wind became noticeable, but I was staying warm in my multiple layers well enough. I was able to follow the cairns every now and again, until I got to the valley before the final summit pitch.

Final summit pitch

At this point, the wind started to become extreme, and I started postholeing up to my knee quite a bit. I would look toward the summit, and see a wave of snow coming over the ridge down from the summit toward me, and turn away and crouch until it blew over. Eventually the snow covered the rocks so well that I had to posthole through a field of snow if I wanted to travel between sections of solid rock. There was about a foot of snow at this point.

I figured I must have been around 14000 ft, but couldn't see a trail and was getting tired of wading through snow, and didn't want to become lost. Eventually I dropped down to the south side of the mountain, only because it was the only place within seeing distance where there was any rocks, and I didn't want to get stuck in snow with the crazy wind. I got to a point where the only way to move west was to move along this massive (100ft) very steep snow bank. I hugged the bank with my hands and carefully shuffled along it until I got to some rocks.

(no picture, I was concentrating on the route)

Now on a section of rocks on the south side of the mountain, I decided I was not going to go on if I had to cross another snow bank like the one I just crossed. I decided I would climb north up to the ridge as high as I could, and try to find a safe route down. To my great surprise, when I climbed north up to the ridge again I spotted the register capsule, I was at the summit. I was so elated, first for finally knowing where I was, and second for finally having reached the summit, I started crying.

I looked at the registry and confirmed that I was indeed the first person to reach the peak today but unfortunately there was not a pen in the capsule so I couldn't sign my name.

No pen!

At the summit I found my water had slightly frozen and my camelpak had some ice in it too. My hands were so cold, I had to put them in gloves before I could even move my fingers to snap a few photos and head down.

Looking north from summit.

Looking south from summit (mt lincoln)

Looking southeast from summit

Fortunately after reaching the summit, I found a better looking way down. After I got about to the point where I went south of the summit I found some other hikers who said they had been following my trail and I suggested they follow my decent trail the rest of the way instead of my assent trail.

Fortunately after this I was walking in 3 people's footprints so the post-holing was more tolerable. I then met two more hikers and it became 5 footprints and once I got below treeline the sun came out and I was walking on land again.

This certainly was my most adventurous 14er so far by being the first hiker on fresh snow and some crazy wind. I'm sure this is a class 1 hike in the summer on dry ground but with today's weather conditions it proved to be more challenging than some difficult class 2 trails I've been on in the past. I have a feeling that by the weekend most of the snow will be gone, but I'm happy to have hiked quandary when I did because I think the views look so majestic with snow everywhere.

With this now being my 5th 14er I'm starting to feel an addiction. I very well might be back again a bit south hiking democrat/lincoln this weekend.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

Nice work..
05/25/2012 01:52
...and congrats on #5!


Good Work
05/25/2012 04:28
A friend and I tried Quandary about a month ago, and it was very similar conditions. We got to about 12,000 feet and the wind/snow was so bad it turned us around. Now I have an even bigger urge to summit it. And I commend you on your accomplishment. I know what its like up there when conditions aren't the best.


05/25/2012 17:30
Good, low-sweat, no snow-burn conditions. Makes for better pics anyways.

Did you happen to get a picture of Wheeler? Just to the right of North Star in your picture 7?


05/26/2012 11:16
I have two more pics. If you PM me your email I will send them to you. Better yet, I am hiking Lincoln today and can send you some more this afternoon.


Thanks for the reply!
05/30/2012 17:29
I was just wondering if the NE couloir was in. Wound up going up a different aspect instead. Thanks again, though.


Congratulations on #5!
05/30/2012 21:33
I read your trip report before heading out today. I figured there'd still be snow and the forecast suggested similar conditions. Instead there was no snow... clean trail almost all the way up. Beautiful weather, lest some wind higher up on the ridge and on the summit. Chose the wrong boots


05/31/2012 23:34
Yeah, I did the 4 peaks just south of quandary two days later and they were almost completely dry. Just goes to show how fast conditions change. Thanks for the update.

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