Stats/WeatherMountains: Quandary Peak (14,265’)
Route: Started at 10,800’, climbed the E. Ridge, skied the upper E. Slope/Ridge
Elevation Gain - 3500’ (approx)
Roundtrip Mileage - 7 miles (approx)
Crew: Solo Ascent, Skied down with Diane, Robby, Clayton
Thursday’s snowstorm put paid to safe attempts on any of the Front Range couloirs I was considering earlier in the week. Quandary sounded pretty harmless for my first attempt at a 14er ski descent though. There were promises of some great weather on Sunday.
I got to the trailhead at 6:15AM, ate breakfast, geared up and hit the trail shortly before 7AM. The trail is skinnable beginning at the trailhead and all the way to the summit except for a couple patches of rock/tundra on the E. Ridge above timberline. There was a trench the whole way but there are several skin/snowshoe tracks heading off in random directions below timberline. One of these trenches led me off trail for a short while; I realized that I’d need to bushwhack quite a bit to get up to the ridge from where I was and decided to retrace my steps.
Approaching timberline on the E. Ridge
I approached timberline at 7:40AM where the trench ended and I followed the shortest path up to the ridge. The snow was still a little icy from the night’s refreeze and the skinning was a little extra work. I broke timberline and saw the head of the conga line on the ridge above me. The East slopes looked like a fun run and I was confident of summitting in time for some soft snow on the way down.
The E. Ridge
Snow was continuous on the ridge…
Higher on the E. Ridge
At about 8:45AM I turned around and saw a few more skiers and a snow-shoer making their way up behind me. The weather was picture perfect.
Scenery on the way up
Vapour trails on a blue backdrop
I closed in on a few of the groups, some skinning, some bootpacking and others who’d ascended Cristo.
The Upper E. Ridge
I’ve only climbed the West Ridge route on Quandary before and was surprised at how long the standard route seemed and how mind-numbing it must be in summer. I stopped for a snack and some water at about 9:50AM a couple hundred feet below the summit. The sun was bright and the snow was melting nicely. Here’s a look at the ridge below me.
Looking back down the ridge
The last hundred yards or so were a little icy and barely steep enough to allow the skins to slip back from time to time. I opted to keep skins on for practice though and alternated between zig-zagging and heading straight up this last part. I summitted at about 10:15AM and was party to some fantastic weather and visibility.
Summit Scenery 1
Summit Scenery 2
Looking down the Summit Ridge
Summit Scenery 3
I hung out for a couple hours on summit and met Diane, Robby and Clayton. They were kind enough to let me ride down with them and not be gape-tastic all by myself on my first attempt at a ski descent. I signed the summit register and prepared to ski.
Planks Pointed Downhill
We left the summit at a little after noon and began sampling the East slopes… The snow was a mixture of sun and wind crust.
Upper East Slopes
There were a ton of people still making their way up, the majority of them carried skis. I probably counted two-three snowshoers. The snow lower down on the E. slope and on the ridge had melted better and made for some great skiing. We continued on down the ridge for a short while. Robby…
I unfortunately couldn’t get any of Diane because the timing was never quite right. Someone on the ridge told us that the skiing might be good on the South side of the ridge from where we were and we decided to check it out and ended up doing this…
I was standing at the head of a talus field below this patch of snow. The rest of my pictures languish at home while I enjoy my plane ride to beautiful Hazelwood, MO. I can put them up when I get back later this week. The gist though is that the snow wasn’t continuous down this side and we ended up having to hop down a talus field in ski boots and posthole through some thick trees on our way down to the road. Despite all this and a long break at the bottom of the talus field, we were down and out at 1:30PM. It had taken about 1:20 to get down. The virtues of skiing are now blatantly obvious to me after several months of plodding up and down 14ers in snowshoes and I’m pretty happy I took it up last year. Overall it was a fun first ski descent. Diane, Robby, Clayton, it was great to meet you guys out there.
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