Peak(s):  Quandary Peak  -  14,265 feet
Date Posted:  06/01/2011
Date Climbed:   06/01/2011
Author:  Nelson
 Quandary, Cristo Couloir in spring   

First of all, I left my camera in the room so there are no pictures. Sorry.

As for Quandary, things went remarkably well. Cindy, my wife, Max, the Wonder Dog and I drove down from Utah on the 31st of May. I was concerned about the warming and the huge amount of snow we still have. I decided to try Quandary's Cristo Couloir in spite of these concerns for the following reasons:

1) The most recent avy report cited signs of stabilizing in the snow pack.

2) I would ski a south face. I generally feel these heal faster than other aspects and I am more comfortable on them when I'm worried about avy danger.

3) A lot of wind from the southwest was forecast. While this is unpleasant. It keeps the snow from softening.

4) I was determined to get an early start and bail out if I saw signs of instability.

We stayed in Breckenridge. I drove to the trailhead and was pleased to find I could get .4 of a mile from the intersection towards the Blue Lake TH. I started walking at 4:25 am. There were 2 guys about 10 minutes ahead of me but I never saw them again. I made the mistake of putting on skis and skins right away and I lost a lot of time taking the skis off and putting them back on. Right now I would say you don't need skins until you get to within a half mile of the Blue Lake TH.

I transitioned there to crampons, had a bite to eat and through the skis on my pack. I left Blue Lake at 5:40 and headed up. From the very beginning I found the snow rock solid. It was very firm, the equivalent of a good overnight freeze, even though the ambient temperature was not that cold. I would guess it was maybe 30-32 degrees. The only time I punched through was when I got too close to a bush. The wind was blowing about 20 mph with occasional 30 mph gusts. There were one or two old slides but a huge amount of smooth snow for skiing.

I summited at 7:45, had a bite to eat, sent the obligatory Spot message and transitioned. I started skiing at 8:15 and was back at Blue Lake at 8:40. The top 1000 ft. was frozen and did not ski well. I presume this would have softened up if I had waited half an hour or so but then the bottom might have been too soft and the avy danger higher. From 13,300 to the Blue Lake TH it skied very well, real corn.

When I was back on the road the snow was very soft. I was back at the car at 9:15. At no point in the entire ascent and descent did I see anything the slightest bit worrying with regard to Avalanches and believe me, I was looking hard. All in all it was a beautiful spring day and a classic Colorado 14er experience. At can't guarantee it will be like that tomorrow. There could be less wind and it could be warmer but today, June 1st, was the day!

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