Peak(s):  Quandary Peak  -  14,265 feet
Date Posted:  06/09/2012
Date Climbed:   06/09/2012
Author:  SSC_43

 A True Quandary on Quandary  

Well, as this is my first TR, I'll give a small backstory. I apologize in advance, I tend to be wordy.

I moved from the beautiful state of Michigan in October '11. Within my first four days in Colorado, the friend I moved here with had told me about "14ers." Apparently these were big mountains that people liked to climb, or something. Cool! So, in late October, on my fifth day in Colorado, we figured it'd be a good idea to go try one of the easy ones... Gray's Peak. Needless to say, it didn't go well. We didn't reach the summit and that experience just hung over my head ever since then.

Then, after months and months of researching and trying to sponge all the knowledge I could off of, eventually weather rolled around that made it appear that a 14er would be doable. About two months ago we attempted to summit Bierdstadt. I had no issues whatsoever, but this time my friend got the altitude sickness. D'oh!

Lastly, two weeks ago the same friend and I (as well as our other one who had never done one,) decided to hit Gray's again. Conditions were manageable...ish... and we had the gear and equipment. Kind of. Well, we DID summit, and it was amazing! This was the weekend where there were some EPIC winds on the Front Range. All reports I had read had winds estimated on our day of ascent around 60-70 MPH. It was tough-as-nails, and apparently we (as well as everyone else that day) ended up totally bypassing switchbacks for a straight ascent. Either way, we did it. We freaking did it.

Fast forward to today. My normal hiking comrade was off doing the Tough Mudder. I'm too much of a cheapskate for that, so why not try a 14er?! This was my first attempted ascent as a solo hiker, along with my puppy, so I wanted to make sure I had all my bases covered. I was wrong. Quandary is supposed to be pretty easy, and it's within 2 hours from Denver, so why the heck not?

Left Denver around 3:30am. I think I got somewhere between 1-2 hours of sleep, despite trying to get to sleep at 8pm. Not a good sign of things to come. I wasn't really dragging on the drive, and felt fine, however. Eventually I got to the Trailhead (and almost passed it, too, I did think that the road was at least going to have a bigger sign that a mere footnote...)

Got there, layered up a bit, and started my ascent. Before I continue - I feel I should mention something. I'm a bodybuilder. A 220-lb bodybuilder. I keep myself in great cardiovascular shape, too, but there's only so much I can do when I'm doing stuff at an elevation twice as high as where I normally train it. That being said... Fridays are my "leg days." For those who don't know what that entails, I'll keep it brief. It's the worst day of the week. It separates the men from the boys. I go HEAVY, and I go hard. Yesterday was no different. It did make the Gray's ascent two weeks ago more challenging, yes, but doable. Today, my legs were just freaking fried. YOU try squatting 500+ (legitimate squats. Not "knee-bends," as we call them in the industry,) and then doing a 14'er the next day, lol!

Anyway, I start making my way upward. And upward. And more. It was warmer than I had anticipated, and quickly found myself shedding a layer, and switching things up a bit. Lucky for me, when I reached about this point, the wind had started to kick in and the temperature wasn't as excessive.

Just getting out of the treeline, for the most part. Didn't quite get alpen glow, but close enough I guess.

So, I kept on going and trucking forward. Views started to come about. My work capacity seemed fine, and the legs were holding up much better than I had originally expected. I was getting "good juju" from nature, and was expecting a triumphant day.

Working my way up still!

I kept trudging along, still feeling pretty good. It was somewhat breezy, but nothing to the extent that we had faced on our Gray's summit just weeks prior. Probably somewhere around 25-35MPH gusts, if I were a betting man. The trail conditions were fantastic, though by the time I got to this point it was already rougher terrain than I had ever experienced. I know... "rough" terrain is laughable for most here, in reference to Quandary. But, Bierdstadt seemed to be easier and Gray's was all snow. There was a heck of a lot of shale... or skree... I don't know. What we Michiganders would call an "crapload of rocks everywhere."

Ugh. That's a long way up.

I'm sure the views at the top of Quandary are amazing, but I wasn't as "overall" impressed with the climb compared to our Gray's stints. I suppose I wasn't going on Quandary necessarily expecting the greatest views of all time. They were certainly beautiful and serene, though.

Some views while working up.

At a certain point, where the following image comes in, I started getting my butt kicked by altitude. I really can't put a finger on why, either. It was nothing drastic initially. I would be able to go, go, and keep going for a good amount of time but I would occasionally get... er, stomach pains, to avoid being crude. Remember how I talked about being a bodybuilder? I take in a LOT of fiber every day. This became a huge issue during the hike, if you're starting to catch my drift. I remember once reading that OTHER physical duress mixed with altitude sickness can actually compound the effect of altitude sickness.

Now, I wouldn't by any means say that I had actually experienced altitude sickness at this point, but it was lurking in the back of my mind, which is also bad.


Eventually, I got to a certain point somewhere between 13,5 and 13,8 that I found myself having to sit down fairly often due to stomach pains, head aches and light headedness. Having felt the altitude sickness once before and having felt the challenging effect of altitude on another hike but without sickness, I started to contemplate if I was being a wuss or if my body was actually telling me something. After having my pace slow down to a snails' pace, and having a plethora of friendly hikers pass me by, I eventually made the executive decision to call it an attempt at that point. It was extreme disappointing, and I regret it to no end, but I think it was the best idea. Given that I was a solo hiker with little experience and a 2-hour drive home, I felt that risking legitimate altitude sickness (if not already there) was a very poor idea.

This isn't "exposure" for Colorado folks, but for a wee Michigander, it's a long way down!

Looking down after I called it. I had made it higher than this, but felt so daffy that my phone seemed like more of a burden than anything up there.

My puppy - and praise the Lord that the tree line actually exists! lol

So, I was able to learn some valuable lessons today. I didn't have a successful ascent but upon speaking with quite a few hikers on the way down, I was actually commended for my attentiveness to what my body was telling me. Sure didn't feel like a good thing to me, but what do I know? I come from a land of trees and lakes, definitely not mountains.

Next weekend is my birthday... I've had my eyes on Uncompongrangre, (sp?, lol) Mt. of the Holy Cross, Handies and the East Ridge of Yale to get exposed to some scrambling. Maybe I can try one of those next weekend... or maybe I should just go back to Quandary or Bierdstadt and knock those guys out first. Oh, what to do... ?

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

The Experience
06/09/2012 20:52
Sometimes the experience of doing what you set out to do and learning lessons from it are more valuable accomplishments in the long run. Sounds like you made the right call. Did you do this hike yesterday or today? I was skiing on Fletcher Mountain, across the west saddle of Quandary yesterday.


nice try!
06/09/2012 23:06
Keep it up! Hydration will help stave off the affects of altitude, you'll get there!


06/09/2012 23:43
Did you feel better at the car? If so then it was AMS. If not then it was something else. Bravo on having the stones to turn around; giving up is harder than continuing on IMO. I've summited twice with AMS; once on Longs where I definitely should have turned around, and once on Quandary (trip report ) and it's no joke. I'm much better at giving advice than taking my own. Good luck on your next ones.

Craig Cook

Good call
06/10/2012 05:40
Now that you're living in Colorado, you'll have plenty of opportunities to go back and get Quandary. Like many others here have said before me, the mountain isn't going anywhere.


Nice try
06/11/2012 11:28
listening to your body is always a good thing, don't beat yourself up about it. Spending more time at high elevation should help you and you will eventually get the summit. I know how hard it is to miss a workout, but skip your leg workout the day before you try again, just saying, give yourself a break! Remember to take deep breaths, I mean make yourself take deep breaths. Stay hydrated, maybe take a couple ibuprofin before you start and keep working at it. Keep us posted when you get there!


Thanks for the comments!
06/11/2012 18:27
JMC - The hike was done on Saturday, the 9th. I remember trying to keep my eyes peeled for skiiers or anyone else across the ridge, but, my eyes were intent downwards to the trail, trying to just pace myself and keep moving. And thanks! I like to think I definitely learned some good lessons this last weekend.

JA_Son - I will keep trying! I finally broke down and bought a Camel Bak... (I know!) I can only stop and glug out of water bottles so many times before it becomes a chore. And it's a lot less extra weight in my backpack, too!

A94Buff - Wow! That TR is much more epic than mine, lol, good on you for hanging in there! Yes, as soon as I got to near tree-level I started to feel the effects taper off slightly. I actually don't remember a large portion of the drive back to Denver too well (yikes!) and slept for a good 3-4 hours after the hike without even eating. Thanks for the luck, I'll be needing it.

Craig - That's what a lot of folks told me on the way down. I appreciate it! It's a little disheartening but I've got to realize I'm pretty new at this... patience and practice makes perfect..ish, right?

Boudreaux - Thanks for all the advice. I'm hoping that two consecutive weekends at altitude coming up will help me tackle my next peak. And I totally understand about the workout, it's something I'm really going to have to consolidate if I want to be successful I think. Thanks for the advice about the deep breaths and Ibprofun, those are simple things I would have easily overlooked.

   Using your forum id/password. Not registered? Click Here

Caution: The information contained in this report may not be accurate and should not be the only resource used in preparation for your climb. Failure to have the necessary experience, physical conditioning, supplies or equipment can result in injury or death. and the author(s) of this report provide no warranties, either express or implied, that the information provided is accurate or reliable. By using the information provided, you agree to indemnify and hold harmless and the report author(s) with respect to any claims and demands against them, including any attorney fees and expenses. Please read the Safety and Disclaimer pages for more information.

© 2017®, 14ers Inc.