Peak(s):  Quandary Peak  -  14,265 feet
Date Posted:  09/21/2010
Modified:  05/12/2012
Date Climbed:   09/17/2010
Author:  bailey

 We saw NOONE on Quandary  

We had intended to do a sunrise summit to avoid the crowds on this peak. We considered the West Slopes, but since my dog is now 8.5 years old and had 15 14ers under her collar so far, we decided to go the standard route in order for her to come. We planned to hike to treeline and camp (even though it would be half the hike) because we wanted to be on the summit by sunrise.

We left Denver around 7:30pm and arrived at the TH at around 9:15pm after stopping for gas in Frisco. There were no cars in the lot. We packed up and got ready and hit the trail at 9:50pm. It was probably in the 60s, clear and warm. The hike through the forest was nice. Despite the trees and it only being a half-moon, the light from the moon was beautiful and helpful. We talked and sang a lot to let any wildlife know we were approaching, and sure enough, in an open area during the last set of trees, I thought I saw a few headlamps off to the left. Turns out there were two "headlamps," and that were actually eyes staring back at us. I kept walking, but my husband behind me saw two more sets. They were about 20 yards up ahead down off the trail, but considering they lingered and stared at us, we were thinking they may have been bears, as deer or elk usually scamper away quickly.

Anyway, this was about the spot we were probably needing to camp if we wanted to, but with the headlamp spotting, our pace increased and soon enough, we were above treeline and heading up the rock stairs on the trail up the side. We reached the top of this section at 11:20 and while looking out amongst the outline of the mountains and the moon reflection in blue lakes below, we made the decision to drop our packs and just go for it. We didn't even need headlamps. The light was incredible from the moon, so on we went. There was no wind on the ridge and not a cloud in the sky. We saw a campfire down below along blue lakes or the reservoir. I wonder if they heard us singing or talking or saw us summit. We assumed they were going to summit the next morning. As the trip route description says, it flattens out along the ridge for ahwile before climbing up again. This was an incredible part of the hike, as we were on top of this mountain at NIGHT with NOONE to be seen or heard for such a long period of time. You are exposed on both sides, but not in a scary way. It was serene.

We were a tad more winded than normal (this was my 20th 14er), but it may have been because we came straight from Denver and are used to camping at a higher elevation the night before summiting. We reached the summit at 12:30am, which means it took a total of 2 hours and 40 minutes. This was a little longer than we thought, but given it was dark, it seemed about right. It was definitely windier and chillier at the top, but nothing unbearable. We stayed up there about 30 minutes until our sweat began to dry and the chills started. It was so peaceful, bright, clear and just AWESOME. I highly recommend this experience to everyone. We still had amazing views with the moonlight. We could see the outlines of the mountains surrounding us, the relections of the lakes, and the perspective of how high up we were for sure.

We decided to head down and see how we were feeling about whether to camp or not, but at this point, we were so psyched on our solo adventure, that we didn't want to pitch camp only to be awakened a few hours later by streams of hikers. We sang and talked the whole way down, especially through the forests, so if anyone was camping nearby, that was us you heard! We saw a few deer on our way down, but no other "headlamps." We got to the car at 3am and back to Denver by 4:45am.

I am definitely going to be trying a night summit again in the future, as well as a sunrise and sunset one. This was a great way to do a crowded route without seeing ANYONE. It was a special one for my 20th, and my pooch's 16th.

(Also, this trail is the best-conditioned "trail" I think I have ever hiked. I mean, there is literally a trail the whole way up...practically with stairs! There is no getting lost or off the trail. I had no issues, and it was dark!)


 Comments or Questions

09/21/2010 22:02
What a beautiful experience! You'll remember that night the rest of your lives.

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