Quandary Peak

West Ridge
Difficulty Class 3 
Risk FactorsExposure: High
Rockfall Potential: Considerable  
Route-Finding: Considerable  
Commitment: High  
TrailheadBlue Lakes
Start11,700 feet
Summit14,272 feet
Total Gain2,650 feet
RT Length4 miles if you descend Cristo Couloir
6 miles if you descend the ascent route
Last UpdatedOct 2022
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The summer parking permit/shuttle system that is in place for the main Quandary Peak trailhead does NOT include the road to Blue Lakes. Hopefully we will continue to have free, unreserved access to this area. Also, it appears Colorado Springs Utilities, who owns the dam, has recently gated the road 3/4 mile below the dam. If it is closed, there's still parking near the gate.
From Breckenridge, drive 8 miles south on Colorado 9. On a sharp corner of Colorado 9, turn west onto the 850 road (Blue Lakes road). Continue on Blue Lakes road as it climbs west. Near 1.4 miles, if the gate is closed, you'll have to park in this area because Colorado Springs Utilities has closed the remaining road to the dam. Follow the road another 3/4 mile to reach the dam.


Taken from 13er North Star Mountain, 1 shows some of the route. Climb to the right end of the dam and drop to the other side - 2. Parallel the lake for a bit and once you're around the first corner, look for a trail that climbs west, away from the lake. There are several social trails along the lake so take your time to find the trail - 3. Near 12,100', the trail angles northwest and enters a basin at 12,300' - 4. Continue north through the basin and locate a gully to the northwest - 5. Climb the left side of the gully, turn right and continue north on talus toward the end of the upper basin - 6. Quandary's west ridge is up to your right but avoid the temptation to climb directly to the ridge. Stay on the left side of the basin and when you reach ~13,100', turn left to exit the basin by ascending rock slabs and possibly snow fields - 7.

Turn right and traverse across a bump to gain the west ridge, just below 13,400' - 8 and 9. Begin hiking east along the ridge and pass some initial difficulties on the right - 10, 11 and 12. Near 13,500', turn left and follow a trail left of the ridge that eventually regains the ridge, near 14,000' - 13 and 14. Once back on the ridge, scramble over or around some bumps ( 15 and 16) and continue along the ridge to a prominent point which has a steep, dirt gully - 17. Drop into a notch and climb the dirt gully to regain the ridge crest.

Continue scrambling along the ridge to reach a small wall with a vertical crack - 18. Drop a bit and climb Class 3 rock near the crack. Once back on the ridge crest, the crux of the route soon comes into view - a wall which blocks easy passage to the summit - 19. First, downclimb to the left or right and continue along the left side of ridge to reach the base of the wall. The easiest way up is to climb the center of the wall, as seen in 19. The lower portion is fairly straightforward but you're soon faced with steep rock. Pick your line and regain the ridge. Taken from the top of the crux, 20 looks back along the ridge. The show is over; Continue 0.1 mile to the summit - 21. Instead of descending via the west ridge, many climbers choose to descend the Cristo Couloir (South Gully) route. Even if the snow is gone in Cristo, you can carefully descend along the west side of the couloir.


The west ridge route requires plenty of time, good weather, supplies and solid Class 3 climbing skills. Once you get on the Class 3 section, retreat is difficult and people have gotten lost or put themselves in serious danger trying to exit before the summit.
#1 #2 #3 #4 #5 #6 #7 #8 #9 #10 #11 #12 #13 #14 #15 #16 #17 #18 #19 #20 #21

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