Peak(s):  Quandary Peak  -  14,265 feet
Date Posted: 
Date Climbed:   09/17/2005
Author:  larrygang
 Quandary Peak - West Ridge  

After giving up earlier in the summer due to running out of water, I took on the West Ridge. I was a bit unnerved in the early stages by southwesterly winds gusting to 50mph. After clearing the hanging valley at 12,200 that had shed its lush summer green carpet, I climbed the upper headwall of the valley too far to the West and ended up pulling myself gingerly up an unnerving Class 4 cliff. I reached the dramatic plateau (13,400) well past noon and climbed onto the col between Fletcher, which I had climbed with my 12 year old son the previous week, and Quandary. With the wind battering me, I thought seriously about quitting but the shards of ice skirting the wetlands warned that the season for climbing exposed rock would soon end. Surprisingly, I came to an easy hikers trail on the south side of the West Ridge that I followed to the first of the towers near 14,000 feet. It was pretty easy to follow the route finding of other climbers, going south by the first tower, west by the next, down a gully on the south side and back up to bypass the next and over the last. The exposure, technical difficulty and scariness were not nearly as great as I had feared. I reached the summit in late afternoon and then hiked down the steep upper part of the east ridge route before cutting south down steep talus and boulders toward the Blue Lake Dam. As the daylight was replaced by a stunning full moon that gave the mountains a glowing grayish white cast, I got into trouble, realizing that I was east of the South Couloir descent route and above bands of cliffs. I deliberately picked my way down a series of ravines until I reached a cliff where I held onto a weed in an attempt to lower myself to a 6 inch ledge that angled down a bit. I dropped two feet to the ledge, gained no traction, and slid off the cliff, tearing up a knee, knocking myself unconscious for a time, spraining a shoulder and suffering numerous other bumps and bruises. When I awakened, I could not find my headlamp so I made my way gingerly down the remainder of the forbiddingly steep slope by the light of the moon, falling frequently due to the inability of my knee to support me on the steep scree. The Blue Lakes Road was tantalizingly close but frequent stops to rest and pick glove penetrating thistles out of my hands and rear end, where my pants had been shredded by the fall delayed my reaching the road until well after 11PM. The descent from the East Ridge to Blue Lakes Road had taken me just over 4 hours, counting the time I was unconscious. Still the hike overall was a thrill. I'm quite pleased with my 51 year old body and the way it handled the West Ridge and love the rush of being on the edge of danger. Hiking alone has become my habit since I am slower than most people who would take on such routes.

 Comments or Questions

07/15/2007 01:11
Larry Gang died on his next expedition.
Everyone be careful out there.

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