Quandary Peak

elevation: 4,348 m.
height gain: 1,050 m.
area: Breckenridge,Colorado,USA
map:  USGS 1:24,000  Breckenridge, CO

Ref: 14ers.com

our objective in the distance

Our objective in the distance.

A long and difficult stint at home following my ACL surgery in november gave me much time to think... what was I going to do this spring in the snowbound Canadian Rockies if I wasn't able to go ski mountaineering?... Suffering from cabin fever, I envisioned driving south to the States to find a place to go hiking easy stuff. Suddenly I got excited and thought of objectives which led me to look at Bob Spirko's web pages. I mentioned my idea to Fabrice; to my surprise, he said: that's a great idea, it will boost your spirit before you have to return to work. In no time at all, I had a plan and objectives scoped out; I was just waiting for a good weather window to materialize. In the meantime, I sent out invites to friends near and far and got familiarized with the awesome 14ers website. I posted my goal of climbing Mount Elbert in early april on that site and got some responses; that's when I started communicating with people. Although I was at peace with the thought of embarking on this grand adventure solo, I was really hoping to hook up with some scramblers for the ascents planned. Kevin Slechta, a young man from Florida/Kentucky was flying to Denver to climb 14ers the first weekend of april; we started talking and planning but all was weather permitting for me, I wasn't driving 2-3 days to Colorado to be turned around by poor conditions. I kept my eye on several weather models and decided last minute it was a go! I was also communicating with 2 very experienced local climbers: Ian MacDonald and Tim Best, they were both a wealth of information and full of good advice. They both seemed interested in climbing Mount Elbert on that weekend. I packed the truck in one day and was ready to leave the next!


My drive was well planned and I was quite self-sufficient, prepared to sleep in the truck. After crossing the border and reaching Great Falls, Montana in 9 hours, I settled next to a Subway for Wi-Fi access. Ian messaged me to warn about a severe blizzard over the whole state of Wyoming, he suggested I reroute through Idaho and Utah; the rest of the evening was spent downloading Google maps and figuring out my new route. My second day on the road brought good driving conditions on beautiful interstate I-15.  An 11.5 hour drive brought me to Provo just past massive and hectic Salt Lake City. My third day of driving was equally stunning but I had to have an unexpected stop in Grand Junction, Colorado to replace my 2 front tires; one of them had become dangerously worn due to poor alignment. I stopped at a Ford dealership and was back on the road 3 hours later. I reached Breckenridge around supper time and settled in at Starbucks for Wi-Fi. I contacted Kevin and he soon joined me there. It was nice to meet a fellow scrambler, we made plans to climb Quandary Peak despite the cold and somewhat unstable weather; it was a good way to acclimatize. After eating, we caravanned to the trailhead, a short distance south of Breckenridge, where we spent the night.

THE CLIMB  -East ridge  class 1

Hike/snowshoe: RT 7.5; 4.0 up. We woke at the break of dawn and started our vehicles to keep warm as we prepared to head out, it was -15˚C with a variable sky. While we got our stuff together, two skiers pulled into the trailhead and quickly got under way. I was chuffed; although the trail was well-established, it had just snowed over 10 cm of snow. We left at 7 AM and made good progress through the trees. At treeline, the wind picked up; we stopped to have a break and put on extra layers. The trail over the straightforward route was easily discernible despite fresh snow being blown over. Travel was quite good with no plowing through snow or postholing; we had snowshoes mainly for the advantage of the heel lifts. We moved towards the summit without many stops because of the cold nagging wind. This isn't the best strategy when not acclimatized but on this short ascent, we got away with it. A gradual climb got us to a flatter section preceding a steeper pitch where we started to slow down. Being a lowlander, oxygen deprivation was starting to affect Kevin; I continued to the top of the slope gaining a bit of distance. I feared weather was moving in, I moved on to the summit close by and Kevin joined me soon thereafter. To my surprise, it wasn't that windy at the top, only the occasional gusts. We high-fived our first 14er and put on more layers to enjoy a well-deserved break. The visibility was greatly reduced but the sun peeked through the cloud cover at times, offering great comfort. We stayed nearly an hour before heading down. I knew the descent would be the crux for me given that I'm recovering from ACL surgery. I decided to keep my snowshoes for traction and to prevent postholing lower down; now it was Kevin's turn to be in front! Other than some toe-stomping because of the descent on snowshoes, our return was pleasant. We both experienced a mild headache, that was the price of admission for our first climb on higher grounds!!!

kevin at the trailhead

Kevin at the trailhead.

on an old road

Travelling on an old road for a bit.

wintery landscape

Lovely wintery landscape.

good uptrack

Good uptrack in the fresh snow.

north star mountain to the south

View south towards North Star Mountain.

straightforward ascent

Straightforward ascent on the east ridge.

at treeline

At treeline.

discernible uptrack

The uptrack is still discernible despite the wind.

kevin the lowlander

Red Mountain and Hoosier Ridge behind Kevin to the east.

easy plod

Easy plod above treeline.

north star mountain again

Gauging our height gain with North Star Mountain.

last pitch is barely visible

The last steep pitch is barely visible.

final steep slope

A flat section precedes the final steep slope.

looking back

Looking back.

reaching the summit ridge

Gaining a bit of distance as I reach the summit ridge.

obscured view north

Obscured Father Dyer Peak and Mount Helen to the north.

summit ridge

Summit ridge.

gps gone wild

First time my GPS registers this altitude!!!

no western view

No western view... just the west ridge...

kevin reaching the top

Kevin on the summit ridge.

summit cairn

At the summit cairn! Whoohoo, we did it; our first 14er!!!

waving the canadian flag

Patriotic Canadian girl "representing"!!

kevin at the top

Kevin is also thrilled to summit his first 14er.

heading down

After nearly an hour at the top, we head down.
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