Peak(s):  Quandary Peak  -  14,265 feet
Date Posted:  01/16/2011
Date Climbed:   01/15/2011
Author:  JA_son27
 Miles to go before I sleep  

This being my first winter attempt I was a bit anxious, I didn't know what to expect. All I kept thinking about was frostbite, frozen camelbak hoses, and snow blindness. What I actually experienced was a great day in the woods with good people all around.

With my wife in Steamboat I had the perfect opportunity to celebrate my 31st birthday in the place I enjoy the most, plus with the Quandary gathering coinciding on that same weekend I would feel much more at ease with this hike. I rented snow shoes the night before, set up a meeting at the trailhead with a buddy from work and went to bed albeit anxious, but ready. I arrived at the Quandary trailhead around 6am the next morning and met MountainMike, he gave me some good advice along with some confidence, thanks again Mike. Shortly afterwards, my buddy Joe pulled into the trailhead and we hit the trail at 630

Hiking in this forest was ethereal. It was so quiet, and so full of snow I felt like the trees were watching me, like large sentinels forbidding me to go further. But the trail was so hard packed and inviting that I had to continue. I could almost see Robert Frost standing in the middle of the trail with an old leather notebook in hand, writing "Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening".

After about an hour of sneaking under the watchful eye of the silent guardians, the air became much too thin for their survival and they relented. I was now at the mercy of the wind, but thankfully the wind wasn't too much of a factor. My wife had given me a new softshell jacket for my b-day and I didn't know for sure if it would hold up to the frigid air, it turns out my fears were unwarranted. I stayed warm and mostly dry for the remainder of the hike.

Just breaking treeline

Winter wonderland

I was amazed at how easy it was to hike in snowshoes, I was equally as happy with how the snow smoothed out the trail! At times It sounded like- and felt like- I was walking on a bamboo floor. I was amazed at the floatation afforded me by the snowshoes. The snowshoes coupled with flat terrain also kept my ankle from rolling, I like hiking in the winter!

The miasma that surrounded Quandary the last time I summited looked like it had returned, I was destined not to witness the view from the summit

Disappointed view

I was resigned to another confused Quandary summit shot. It was difficult to differentiate the ground from the sky until I broke through the clouds around 12,500. This was the most pervasive cloud ceiling I have ever seen! It seemed to cover all of Colorado, it was so beautiful I was speechless.

Stunning low cloud ceiling, fellow members can be seen lower right

My buddy Joe who was skinning up, decided this was where he would finish. He was up here a few days ago so I can totally understand. It was a pleasure hiking with you Joe! After he left I was tempted to take off my rented snowshoes, but truthfully I thought that the crampons would make the ascent a little easier. It did.

Summit is still quite far!

The wind wasn't too bad on the ridge, there was a gust or two that nearly knocked me on my butt. I thought it was pretty cool.

Another cool low cloud picture

While I was on the ridge I thought I spotted a chair lift, can you see it?

Possible chair lift

After being passed my numerous members on the ridge, I finally realized my goal of summiting my first winter 14er! It was cool meeting all of you up there, it was nice to see some familiar faces as well.

Lone hiker on summit ridge



Summit success!

It was cool being apart of Quandary 4, this was the first "official" gathering I've attended. It reminded me why I started using this site, because everyone of you I met was totally cool. I know this isn't a very comprehensive trip report, or very thoroughly documented but my hands were too cold to take my gloves off! I definitely need some mittens if I am going to continue winter hiking.

Summiting a 14er on my birthday was sweeter than chocolate cake!

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions
Ridge runner

02/01/2011 00:24
on your first winter 14er! You picked a great way to spend your birthday. I love image 2 and 7.


01/16/2011 23:50
Great way to spend a birthday, huh? I doubt I ever pull off a birthday hike since mine is in February and I really am not geared up for winter ascents. Loved those pics though, it is a neat feeling to be walking above the clouds!

Brian C

01/16/2011 23:52
Congrats on your first winter 14er. It was nice meeting you up there and glad you made it up on your BDay.


Congratulations and HAPPY BIRTHDAY
01/17/2011 01:30
It was really nice to meet you and glad you made it!
Great trip report, thanks!


Way to go!
01/17/2011 02:45
Congrats on your first winter summit! Expect you'll be doing a few more of these, eh?
Happy Birthday!! I spent my birthday on Mt Elbert last weekend, had an awesome time! It's a great feeling to be able to do what you love on your day.
It'll be memorable for you, for sure.
Love the pics and TR, Jason. Glad to see you out there!
I love Quandary in winter. Sorry I missed the outing


Well done.
06/02/2011 14:57
Happy birthday and well done. Good to see you in winter garb for a change! May hit a local 13er on Friday if you want to join. BTW, check out the Black Diamond Mercury mittens!


Nice job Jason
01/17/2011 15:27
I wish I would have recognized you, but I do recall crossing paths as you were coming down. Speaking of ethereal, I was the last on the mtn., and hit treeline right at sunset, making for a very surreal finish to the day, as I hiked all the way out under moonlight without headlamp. Pretty cool.


Nice Summit Photo...
01/17/2011 16:45
in that brand new Arcteryx Gamma MX hoody (I think)

There is definitely something about the peacefulness and quiet of winter snow as long as it's not interrupted with hurricane force winds!


01/17/2011 18:37
Nice job, and happy birthday!

Love the photos - you got some good ones here!


Good job!
01/17/2011 19:08
Yeah, the cloud shots were fabulous! Nice report!


Impervious to wind
01/17/2011 20:35
I like that. ”The wind wasn't too bad on the ridge, there was a gust or two that nearly knocked me on my butt. I thought it was pretty cool.” Right next to reports showing 50 mph gusts in the same range on the same day.


01/18/2011 02:06
Us short guys are pretty hard to blow over!


Congrats & Happy B-Day!
01/18/2011 04:08
Glad to hear you enjoyed your first winter summit, and that you didn't detest the snowshoes... there's definitely a love/hate relationship with those things, but when they work like they're supposed to, they are worth their weight in gold.

Great report... love the Frost reference. And that summit photo needs to be displayed poster-size somewhere in your place of residence.


01/18/2011 04:44
There's something to this winter climbing, huh? It's hard to beat. Unless it's your birthday! Way to celebrate. I was with sunny1 on Elbert on her b-day. It seems to add a whole new level of experience to the day. Congrats all around.


01/20/2011 04:43
Congrats on your first winter summit!


Thank you!
01/22/2011 00:59
Thanks for all the nice comments, it was a pleasure meeting everyone up there! It was a great B-Day!

Bob Kocher

Happy Birthday
01/15/2014 18:27
Nice trip report and Happy Birthday today (we share the same birthday and I wish I was on a mountain instead of sitting in my cube right now!). Are you planning on Quandary VII this Sat? I'm reading a few TRs on Q and hoping to make it on Sat.

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