Peak(s):  Quandary Peak  -  14,265 feet
Date Posted:  08/23/2013
Date Climbed:   08/22/2013
Author:  heathahhhh

 Overnight Hike of Quandary to Watch the Sunrise  

I was trying to figure out how to be able to summit Quandary in a cool way, but I wanted to get it out of the way and not wait until winter. My solution? Do it overnight! A close girlfriend and I left our home of Frisco at 8pm and stopped at the liquor store for a few items. We wanted whiskey and coke, and conveniently enough they had 5-Hour Energies which we were sure to need in the early hours of the next day. Neither of us had done a night hike, but felt confident and safe having the other there. We arrived at the trailhead at 9ish. No one was parked in the parking lot right off Hoosier Pass (there was a sign that said no overnight parking so I guess that's why.)


We continued on up the Blue Lakes 850 Rd, not knowing that the actual TH was down the road we passed on the right (McCullough Gulch 851 Rd). So we parked a little ways down where the road widened up and we were definitely out of the way. On the walk back down the road, we saw where we should have turned and decided to just keep walking. We'd worry about the car tomorrow. We reach the trail and begin walking at 9:35.

Trailhead by headlamp

Most of the first 20-30 minutes of the hike was spent back tracking. We lost the trail several times. Sometimes we would stumble upon a trail and go one way, thinking it was right only to end up going downhill, or losing the trail completely to wide open spaces. This was a lot harder than I figured it would be! I mean for such a popular 14er, I figured the trail would atleast be intact in the forest. But we eventually were able to find the trail and follow it the correct way, passing signs which marked the way to go, and began making some good elevation gain. At 10:15 we stopped to make a fire in a secluded open spot. We had a bottle of whiskey to drink afterall!

Me finding some firewood!

After a short time searching for wood/rocks, we had a blazing fire and 2 content hikers. We sat around, drank a few whiskey + Cokes, and had a jolly good time swapping stories. Our plan was to leave the area at 2 to finish the hike. We waited around a little longer, enjoying the evening and eventually started to put the fire out, gather our things and get ready for this moonlight hike! It was the first time I ever helped put a fire out by peeing on it

Blaze on

We continued walking at 2:37. First time hiking under the influence for me

Moonlit friends

Me and Mo- About to leave the fire spot, heading to the summit!

The trail is great through the forest. Once out of the woods, we switched back on nice rock steps for a while before gaining the ridge. The clouds had come in and blocked the direct moonlight, but we still had yet to turn on our headlamps since leaving the fire! With the silhouette of Quandary's summit looming in the distance, I knew it was going to be a steep scramble for the last push. (Good thing I like that) I looked down from where we came, and I'm not sure what time it was but I saw the flash of a headlamp or two in the forest below. I wondered when we would see them I got into the zone after about 12,500, pushing 13' and we both were making great time, having to take literally no breaks. After losing the trail a few times, we always made our way back to it. I looked up towards the summit every so often, and I remember seeing a large hump before the summit, thinking that it would look like a false summit the closer we got. Well, we kept making good time and I was sure we were about to get over the false summit. Mo thought otherwise, and a few hundred feet below it she was saying how little we have left! I verbalized my thoughts of it being a false summit, but alas. We make it to the top and there was no where else to go! Not sure when we actually got over that bump in the way, but we did. At 5:11, we were the first two to summit that day.

My first night summit!

We bunkered down so as to block some of the wind, and even covered up in Mo's hammock for a little bit. We faced east and began to see the tiny sliver of daybreak just beyond the Front Range.

Summit illuminated by Mo's headlamp; daybreak in the distance

For the next half hour we cuddled and tried to stay dry and it was spitting drizzle/flurries. What we did not do, was look behind us (directly west) since sitting down. We were just eagerly awaiting the sunrise. As the light is getting brighter, Mo points out that "it looks pretty gnarly behind us too". I turn around and stand up in disbelief. There is a giant, opaque wall of rain about to encase us. No lightning or thunder with this storm, but heavy cold rain for sure. Not wanting to risk any more time at such an exposed altitude, we pack up and start descending immediately. Of course, on the one night/morning where the forecast calls for 0%-10% chance of rain until 11am, it WOULD rain at 6am. Well, our goal was accomplished so we were not the least bit bummed.

Heading down

The only time we saw the sun on the whole hike

We saw hikers on their way up at 6:15 (must've been those headlamps I saw earlier!) 2 motivated young guys for sure! Since we passed them I wondered if we fudged their plans of being the first summiters of the day We also ran into the famous goats, who apparently wake up for the sunrise too!

Hello friends

At 8:50 we made it back to the TH. Having been awake for 24+ hours, we both decided to go take naps and then wake up for celebratory meal
And I think we also both decided to atleast a handful more 14ers at night. It was such a great experience.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

08/23/2013 23:26
sounds like fun! we didn't get to see the goats, glad yall did!


Good for you!
08/23/2013 23:57
Quandary does make a good night hike. And don't feel bad about losing the trail at the beginning--we did it at night back in '07, with more 14ers under our belts, and still had the same problem!


Whiskey & Coke ?!?
08/24/2013 00:35
Congrats on completing you first night qual! No Aviators can call themselves fighter pilots until they've landed aboard the carrier at night. You and Mo are now a fully qualified Fourteener Climbers!

Yep, the world is a very different place after the sun goes down -- especially in the woods and the mountains. Trails, cairns and tree blazes that might be obvious by daylight have a way of morphing into the dark at night. Good headwork on getting back on track on the way to timberline -- and for picking your way through the tundra and boulders higher up.

But, for me, the solitude (even with a group) from being wrapped in the protective blanket of the early hours dark -- with only the weak illumination of a headlamp, the vapor of my breath, and my thoughts for company -- is one of the chief joys of climbing Fourteeners.

And, particular kudos as well for not straying over the edge (on either side) after your (gag!) midnight repast!

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