Quandary Peak was the final Colorado climb of my week in the US Rockies targeting a few of the 53 14’ers, the 53 peaks that are higher than 14,000ft in height. This climb followed ascents of Mount Massive, La Plata Peak and Huron Peak.
So by the time I was looking to do Quandary Peak I was well acclimitized and feeling fit. Because I was going on to tackle a more difficult objective within the week, I wanted an “easy” 14’er. Quandary Peak fitted the bill. Although it is quite high at 14,265ft it benefits from one of the higher trailheads (at 10,850ft) so just leaving 3,450ft of ascent. The route I was planning to take is also the easiest (indeed very easy) – the East Ridge route.
The night before this climb I had also managed to sleep at over 11,200ft, but I also woke up with a niggle in my right calf. Rain had battered down most of the night but I woke up to blue skies and fluffy white clouds. I had intended to start the climb at around 7am (to avoid any afternoon thunderstorms), but I did not arrive at the trailhead until about 7.15am. I had assumed that I would be one of the first to start out but there were probably 40 cars there already!!
There was no room to park at the trailhead proper.
It is obviously a popular mountain as an overflow car park is provided about ¼ mile down the road. So I parked there. Quandary Peak is one of the nearer 14’ers to Denver and is not too far off the interstate running west from Denver. It is also close to the cities of Frisco and Breckenridge. So half the population of Colorado (and their dogs) seemed to be on this mountain today! Whereas my earlier TRs had been of climbs in the Sawatch Range, Quandary Peak is in the Ten Mile Range which is further east and a little to the north.
Helpfully the start of the trail is marked.
The trail is broad and not too steep to start with. Because of the higher start point the tree line was reached much sooner than on the previous mountains I had climbed. This next photo was taken after just 30 minutes and shows Quandary Peak against a rather nice blue sky. Like many of the Colorado giants, you can see that Quandary is not a fearsome looking peak. However, the East Ridge route is the only easy one on the mountain. Routes on the south, west and northern aspects are either scrambles on loose, shattered rock or graded rock climbs.
Quandary does also provide good ski mountaineering terrain and is often a first winter ascent for many.
The route up the east ridge used to go up the centre of it. Now, to minimise erosion, a new trail has been constructed that takes you up the rocky flank.
The crest of the ridge is met where the ridge narrows about 1,500ft below the summit.
Paths of sorts zig zag up through the rocks and scree – straightforward, if occasionally loose. Suddenly you pop up on to a 200 yard long summit ridge.
I reached the summit after 2¾hrs including 30 minutes of stops. By now my leg was giving me a bit of gyp.
But the views compensated. Here is one to the south looking at North Star Mountain (the ridge in the foreground) and Mounts Bross, Cameron, Lincoln and Democrat (all 14’ers).
And then the busy summit area.
Now south west towards the Mosquito Range.
And then someone in the way of the view to the north west!
I was in no particular hurry today. It was only 10.20am when I arrived at the summit. I had to be at Denver airport for the evening, but that would only be a 2hr drive. I felt able to take everything in. Whilst the air temperature was a bit chilly, the edge was taken off by the solar radiation. With a fleece on it was really rather pleasant. So I spent 1¼hrs on the top!
Eventually though I had to drag myself away from the fantastic panoramas. There was some cloud build up to the west which indicated possible thunderstorm activity. Here is a view down the upper part of the mountain.
And then a look back up.
You can see how there was no longer a clear blue sky. There were still quite a few folk making the ascent and risking a deluge, if not lightning. The descent was less than comfortable for me. Whereas I had charged up on the ascent overtaking many in front of me. Each step down was painful. So it took me as long to get back to the car as it had taken to reach the summit. I did not know what I had done! – probably too much exercise over the past 5 days! I was back at my rental car around 2pm.
Nonetheless Quandary Peak is a good introduction to anyone wanting to have a crack at the Colorado 14’ers. Just watch the altitude. There were some people popping pills on the summit complaining of headaches. On my drive back to Denver airport I thought how my week in Colorado had been most enjoyable. I was now off to Washington State in the far north west of the US, slightly concerned about my leg. But that is for my next blog.
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