Quandary Peak

snow North Gully aka Quandary Couloir
Difficulty Class 3 
Snow Steepness: Steep 
Ski/Board: Advanced, D11 / R3 / II  
Risk FactorsExposure: Considerable
Rockfall Potential: Considerable  
Route-Finding: Moderate  
Commitment: Considerable  
Start11,100 feet
Summit14,272 feet
Total Gain3,250 feet
RT Length5.25 miles
Last UpdatedOct 2022
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This route should only be climbed with consolidated snow, in spring or early summer. Climbing this route in mid-winter could put you in deadly avalanche conditions.


Between June 17th and September 17th, a reservation is required to park at the Quandary Peak trailhead to then access the McCullough Gulch trailhead via the shuttle. There are a small number of spots and the cost is $30 - $55. Instead of driving to the area, your other option is to use the Quandary shuttle service from Breckenridge. It's $7, runs 5:00am - 4:30pm, and your reservation allows you to board the shuttles any time throughout the day. Shuttle parking/pickup is at the South Gondola lot parking structure in Breckenridge. To purchase trailhead parking or a shuttle ride, visit The site should be open for reservations on June 1st. For questions or comments about the Quandary parking situation, we encourage you to contact Summit County Open Space & Trails at Email or 970-668-4060. You can also contact the U.S. Forest Service Dillon Ranger District at Email or 970-468-5400.
From Breckenridge, drive 8 miles south on Colorado 9. Turn right on the Blue Lakes 850 Road. Drive a short distance and turn right on the McCullough Gulch 851 Road. Drive approx. 1.4 miles to a small parking area on the left where the Breckenridge-Quandary shuttle turns around during summer months. Just beyond the parking area, walk 0.3 miles further down the road and past a gate. Follow signs for the McCullough Gulch trail.


This couloir should be done with adequate snow cover and is not recommended as a summer climb - 1. It's located on the north side of Quandary and can only be seen in its entirety from McCullough Gulch. Taken from Mt. Helen (13,164'), 2 and 3 show the upper portion of the route.

Walk past the gate and follow the old road up to the left. Pass a building after about 1/4 mile and, after almost 1/2 mile, take the marked trail that leaves the left side of the road - 4. Follow the good trail through forest, over a few small log bridges and across a small boulder field - 5. Near 11,600', the trail approaches some waterfalls that can be heard beyond the trees. There are social trails that lead to the falls - stay right and continue onto a rocky hill just north of the waterfalls. Hike up through ledges to reach a point where you get a great view of the "Quandary Couloir" - 6. Gain the top of the rocks to reach a small, unnamed lake at 11,900' - 7.

From the lake, you can see all of the couloir ( 8) and it's a good location to carefully assess conditions before committing to the climb. Drop left (east), cross the stream below the lake ( 9), and hike over to the large rock/snow apron below the couloir. If you're lucky, the entire base will be snow-covered, making it easier to reach the base of the couloir - 10.

Once on the apron, strap on crampons and hike 200' to reach steeper terrain - 11. Near 12,400', the walls of the couloir begin to close in as you approach the crux of the climb - a 100-foot section of that forms a "choke" in the couloir - 12. Depending on the snow-depth in the choke, the snow may be less than 10 feet wide and the angle of this pitch can range from 40 to 45+ degrees. Carefully climb through the choke to reach easier terrain, above 12,800'. 13 and 14 look down on the crux.

The next 800'+ of climbing is straightforward (although not straight) and has a fairly consistent angle - 15, 16 and 17. Near 13,500', the couloir turns right and you can finally see the terrain near the top - 18. Follow the middle of the couloir to 13,700' where you will likely encounter some rock outcroppings in the center - 19. Turn slightly left and continue up steeper terrain ( 20) to reach the top of the couloir - 21, 22, 23 and 24. Turn right ( 25) and hike 350' to reach the summit - 26.


This couloir is a great ski line and is slightly steeper than the South (Cristo) Couloir.
Entering the couloir: 27
Upper half: 28, 29
Lower: 30
Steeper section before the exit: 31


Near the waterfalls (11,800'), the route can be a bit confusing due to social trails. If you go left to reach the falls, you have left the main trail - stay right and look for a small trail that climbs up through rocky terrain in the forest.
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Caution: The information contained in this route description may not be accurate and should not be the only resource used in preparation for your climb. Failure to have the necessary experience, physical conditioning, supplies or equipment can result in injury or death. and the author(s) of this route description provide no warranties, either express or implied, that the information provided is accurate or reliable. By using the information provided, you agree to indemnify and hold harmless and the route description author(s) with respect to any claims and demands against them, including any attorney fees and expenses. Please read the Safety and Disclaimer pages for more information.

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