My Dad had been hoping to climb at least one fourteener while visiting Colorado. At age 61, he has been staying in good shape hiking in the mountains of Pennsylvania. Having climbed Estes Cone with me last year, he was looking forward to testing his lungs and legs in higher country. Meanwhile, I was looking forward to getting out after a busy summer. Quandary Peak, the highest mountain in the Tenmile Range, would provide the perfect setting for Dad’s first fourteener.
The weather could not have been better. With dominating high pressure, there was not a cloud in the sky, and nary a breath of wind as we started up the mountain. A recently-renovated trail (thanks to Colorado Fourteeners Initiative) made for a pleasant hike. Before long we passed timberline, and the views opened up all around us. Recent snows had mostly melted away already, but north-facing slopes were still striped in white. Having started at 7:30 on a perfect October day, we took our time and took lots of pictures.
The great trail led us up the grassy southeast slopes to the east ridge. This well- maintained path contained numerous rock steps and easy-to-ascend switchbacks. We continually watched the expanding scenery, as well as a variety of local birds and pikas, who were enjoying the sunny day with us.
After making it to the top of the east ridge, we walked a long, flat, easy section of trail, on a sort of plateau. Ahead of us, we could see the final steep section we would have to ascend to the summit.
The final one thousand foot climb was a typical Colorado trail-and-talus hike to the summit plateau. We were both a little surprised at how well Dad handled the elevation. Having just arrived from near sea level two days earlier, he did not have any noticeable adverse affects from the high altitude. In fact, I think I lost my breath more quickly and more often than he did!
Having taken our time, we arrived at the 14,265-foot summit of Quandary Peak at 12:30. We spent an hour and twenty minutes atop the Tenmile Range, enjoying the scenery along with several other people. On the summit, there was just a breeze and a very small amount of snow. Standing there, I was surprised to be able to see peaks in the Gore Range, Sawatch Range, Tenmile Range, Mosquito Range, Front Range, Elk Range and Sangre de Cristo Range. The air was so clear, I could easily identify mountains on every horizon.
The only negative of our summit stay was that we were unable to open the register. It seemed to be sealed tight, and we couldn’t budge the cap from the canister.
We completed our descent in two hours, passing some more squirrels, pikas, and chipmunks along the way. Dad’s trip to his first fourteener had been a huge success, complemented by an incredibly beautiful day. It simply does not get better than this in the Colorado mountains in October.
© 2005, Brad Snider