Peak(s):  Pacific Pk  -  13,950 feet
Atlantic Pk  -  13,841 feet
Date Posted:  08/16/2012
Modified:  08/17/2012
Date Climbed:   08/12/2012
Author:  djkest
 "Coast to Coast" on the Tenmile  

Blog post with bigger pictures and a cool black background

Whatever, so I climbed these mountains the other day, after suggestions from some that my climbing choices have been too mainstream. It's pretty obscure, I doubt you've ever heard of it. I guess it's over 13,000 feet tall, but it isn't one of those dreaded "14ers". Ugh, they are just way too popular and played out. At 5:30 AM as I drove by the Quandary trailhead, the crowds reminded me of release day at the Apple store. Some "broskies" made some humping motions at me as I drove by... lovely.

I got the the parking area and it was empty, except for a vintage truck that looked like it had been there all night. Starting off just before dawn without a headlamp, I could feel the excitement almost immediately. I didn't figure I'd see anyone on the way up.

"Being solitary is being alone well: being alone luxuriously immersed in doings of your own choice, aware of the fullness of your won presence rather than of the absence of others. Because solitude is an achievement. "

-Alice Koller

Bill's route description, as usual, is right on the money. The turn-off from the road to the trail is well marked (with a sign) and there are frequent signs and cairns posted along the way. There is one point where you climb up a rock slab, which can make the trail somewhat hard to see. Once you get to the lake, the trail becomes a little fainter (few continue on from here).

Some sort of lake people hike to

Alpenglow on the north slopes of some played-out 14er

Looking Back from just above the lake

You go up and to the left under this headwall thing

Above the headwall, it's flat

In the upper basin, the route calls for you to go far west before going North. It may seem like a little extra work, but it ISN't. There are talus and boulders everywhere and Bill is helping you avoid a ton of rock-hopping. I naively attempted a "shortcut" which didn't really save me any time.

The crux dirt is near the right middle of the photo. It's the part that looks... disturbed.

The crux of the route fully earned the designation "Difficult Class 2" with a combination of loose dirt/rocks and a high amount of steepness. When you finally reach the top, you can see the summit of Atlantic. It's kind of deceiving, since it's actually just a little further away than it looks. None-the-less, it's easy to reach no matter what line you take from here.

Looking up just before the cruxy area:

Looking back at Boulder world:

I topped out on Atlantic Peak after 2 hours and 30 minutes. The summit is large and worth exploring. Amazing thing about this summit- it's pristine. I didn't see a summit marker, no trash, not even a trail. The ridge traverse to Fletcher looks very difficult and obscure.

"Growth, in some curious way, I suspect, depends on being always in motion just a little bit, one way or another."

-Norman Mailer

Traverse to Fletcher- that's serious business right there

Obscure summit snack- you've never heard of:

On the summit of Atlantic Peak (timer shot):

The ants marching on Quandary (so mainstream):

The traverse to Pacific Peak is relatively easy, and there is even a trail in some parts. It took me 35 minutes summit to summit. Pacific Peak is surprisingly easy to summit from this angle.

On Pacific looking back from whence I came:

"Every moment of one's existence one is growing into more or retreating into less. One is always living a little more or dying a little bit."

-Norman Mailer

The summit of Pacific is much smaller and it drops off very abruptly to the North. Like Atlantic, it has some pretty classic views, and it gives you a nice perspective on Crystal and Father Dyer peaks. Like Atlantic, there was very little evidence of human activity on the summit.

Looking down into Mohawk Lakes area:

Pacific Tarn!

Summit Beverage:


I was much looking forward to checking out Pacific Tarn, the highest named lake in the United States. Because of it's altitude and location, it's a very obscure and out of the way place, tucked into a sub-ridge on Pacific Peak. When I was nearing the lake, I realized I had left my specs on the summit, something I'd never done before. I dropped my pack (in a place I would be able to find it), and slogged back up the summit, got my specs, and came back down. I got to summit Pacific Peak twice, how fortunate.

Finally, I got to look at Pacific Tarn and it was totally deck. It's very quiet and peaceful here, and the east side reminds me of an infinity pool. The isolated experience was sublime. There are some unique red plants that survive on the shores of this hostile environment.

Relaxing at Pacific Tarn:

"I lived in solitude in the country and noticed how the monotony of a quiet life stimulates the creative mind"
-Albert Einstein

The "crux gulley" was much more difficult coming down- amazingly it got steeper since I was there last. I started a small rockslide (yelling "Rock! Rock!" to no one at all), fell on my butt, and skidded to a stop right before a 4 foot drop. I eventually slipped and slided down and got to the doom talus. It was here where I scraped my leg and cut my knee on some jagged rocks. No biggie, I can still walk fine. I felt kind of stupid for moving so much earth. I wonder how dramatic it is when other people come down?

I decided to cut back directly to the lakes instead of going around. After all, it LOOKED good. Well, I can firmly tell you that... it was OK. I had about 1000 yards of boulder/talus hopping, which wasn't fun. Once I hit the grass,
it was smooth sailing. The valley easily "goes" back to the lake, with only a short but painful willow-bash to merge with the existing trail. I'd say it's worth it if you like variety.

Coming down on the grass: panorama

This 2-shot pano looking back at Atlantic is my favorite photo:

"There are no words that can tell the hidden spirit of the wilderness, that can reveal its mystery, its melancholy, and its charm."

-Theodore Roosevelt

As soon as I left the lake, I saw hordes of people. Fat women, little girls, dogs, old men, and everything in between. I had no idea this hike was so popular. I tried to lower my head and hike past everyone. Sheesh, you'd think there was a Starbucks at the lake or something. One group of hikers had a single 16.9 oz bottle of water between the two of them, which was nearly empty a mile from the trailhead. My illusion of isolation was instantly shattered. Several people made a comment about my leg and one person even offered to render first aid to me. It's okay people, it's not even bleeding anymore.

Pressed for time, I jogged the 1/2 mile on the road back to my car, where I learned someone had parked less than 2 feet from my rear bumper. Thanks, friend! Car to car was a little over 5 hours, since I had to be back in Breckenridge by 11 AM.

Passing the Quandary trailhead, there were well over 50 cars parked and double parked all over the place, causing a traffic jam. Quandary is SO mainstream.

Map of my journey, including my descent variant.

 Comments or Questions
Chicago Transplant

08/17/2012 16:04
All the cool kids do this loop from the west anymore 8)

Nice play on the hipster 13er theme. Fun read.


Way to go
08/18/2012 15:01
Nice traverse & great report. This is a traverse I really want to do as I'm starting to check off the tenmile 13ers. One question I would like to ask you though, is the crux gulley an area that dogs could handle? As always I love bringing my dogs hiking with me, but of course I'm very protective to not get them in rough situations unlike other people.


08/20/2012 14:08
Chicago: Thanks, glad you enjoyed it. Apparently not everyone has a sense of humor.

Gonzalj: I don't really know what your dog is capable of, but I suspect a 4-legged creature would be much better suited to negotiate the crux gulley than I was. Besides that, the rest of the hike should be cake for them, but there is a large boulder field, so maybe paw protection would be good?


So, what did you enjoy more?
09/07/2012 02:35
Quandary or Pacific/Atlantic?


That's a very good question
09/07/2012 03:48
And it's not easy to answer. When I did Quandary it was in late October with perfect weather and beautiful snow cover. View from the top was sublime.

Pacific / Atlantic was more challenging, more remote, and frankly had more alpine lakes and interesting scenery. The only knock against it was the crux gulley from this side was horrendous.

Overall, I'd say they both have their merits, and I am unable to pick a favorite. I will say that the 13er experience was fully intact for these centennials- and it was a nice change of pace.

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