Peak(s):  Quandary Peak  -  14,265 feet
Date Posted:  03/19/2014
Modified:  03/20/2014
Date Climbed:   03/15/2014
Author:  sheilahbo
 Beware of the Ides of March  

We stayed at Skier's Edge (great choice-need reservations) just South of the McCullough Gulch TH by about 2 miles. We scoped out the TH parking lot the day before, which was critical because we were planning an early start (don't expect to know which one to take in the dark). We were confused about routes from conflicting reports in books, TR and TH...After consulting with Summit County Search and Rescue (love them), we confirmed that the winter route is the East Ridge as accessed from McCullough Gulch--nothing else is suggested due to Avy danger.

The TH can't be accessed by car, but the parking lot just off Blue Lakes Road (from the 9) is an easy find. {But you don't take the Blue Lakes Trailhead, nor Monte Cristo.) It's an immediate right after you turn onto blue lakes road. There is a house on the left, and the access to McCullough Gulch TH is through the snow embankment across from the first house on the left. It's where the street sign for 851/MuCullough Gulch is located. We started at 630 am (headlamps not really needed, but any earlier and they would be). After 10 minutes of hiking, you veer left off that gulch trail to "Quandary Trail."

The first hour is laborious--we wasted a lot of time because we were over-dressed (it was about 15 degrees, but when you are ascending at that pitch, you get hot and sweaty)--just have your baclava and eskimo gear handy in your pack for higher up on the ridge when the wind kicks in. We wore spikes, but lost them higher up because they weren't attached with Velcro. Spikes helpful on rocks, and they help avoid slips because the rocks/ice pack gets slippery, especially on the way down. No real need for snowshoes because trail very packed, but IT (the trail) WAS VERY HARD TO FIND. Ice axe very handy for assessing actual packed trail (via depth it sunk) because it was snowing and blowing, and we could not see any trail the whole way. Other trip reports give good insight on feeling the packed trail out so I won't repeat. If you only go up to 11600-12000 for the skiing, it's pretty straight-forward...after that, it's sketchy.

Take a compass, especially for the way down--stay on the ridge; trust the rocks not the snow, and go west up and east down. It's very deceiving in a white-out. We wore beacons, had probes and Avy shovels. You don't need it on packed trail, but you can't expect to always stay on that trail, especially if winds/white-out occur. Don't even think about trying the hike on a cloudy day unless you are spot-on with the compass or GPS; we used a compass. When you get to the buried trail sign (see pic--about two/three hours in and 12,000 ish), wrong tracks make you think you go left...don't. Go right, and you will find the rocky ridge just up the slope. We were fortunate enough to follow a search and rescue guy up who was out having fun. (Thanks Warren.)

We each wore about three layers...base, fleece and winter jacket w/shell. 3 layers of pants too. Wear glove liners that you never take off, and have a good hood to cover your hat on the ridge. Poles were very handy; we used them all the way up and down. Make sure all your skin is covered on your face, and goggles are a must. We had a cloudy, windy, cold day....such a bummer because the day before and after were beautiful. We turned back at about 13,000 feet because we saw the black sky rolling in (we were about 4.5 hours in at that point...hard to turn around, but the right thing) was white-out the rest of the day, but we had made a good decision before it was too late (hanging out waiting for the clear would be insanely cold and potentially deadly); we packed our phone in a thermal case, as service to call 911 is important if you get stuck in a white-out. We packed a stove just in case, and a complete set of extra clothes. The wind did blow one hat away, so extra stuff is critical.

We packed waters in nalgene bottles stuffed into down jackets, and had a hot tea in a stanley thermos--amazing. Eating was hard because it was so cold....just nuts, snacks, that type of thing until we were back to the car, where we had lunch around 1 pm. The trail and experience were beautiful and well-worth all the time it takes to plan.

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Almost back to tree line on our way down. One of the last clear moments.

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The same view of the E Ridge without clouds.

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The same view of the E Ridge without clouds.

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The same view of the E Ridge without clouds.

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 Comments or Questions

Beware of TRs without paragraphs breaks!
03/20/2014 21:31
Your TR is almost unreadable due to the lack of paragraph breaks!


Rookie mistake
03/21/2014 03:50
Thanks so much. My pictures are messed up too. I appreciate the advice.

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