It all started in Breckenridge
. I was driving south on Colorado State Highway 9 on my way to Aspen
. It was a very sunny and bright morning. Recent plowed snow at both sides of the road. A spectacular view of the mountains completely covered by last night’s snow fall.
First time in Quandary
Quandary Peak as seen from Hoosier Pass.
I pulled over for a sec and picked a hitch hiker up along the way. She introduced herself as Alexandra
, a ski teacher in Breckenridge Ski Resort. She was on her way to the southern end of town. We had a nice talk during the ride about herself, her job as a ski teacher and also gave me some valuable information about the surrounding mountains. One of them; Quandary Peak
, the fourteener located about 8 miles south of town and the mountain on my to do list. She recommended me a climb starting from Monte Cristo Creek
and then onto the east ridge.
Since it was her day off she was very kind to come with me all the way to the trailhead and up to Hoosier Pass
from where she said we’ll have the best scenic view. We went ahead and took a quick look at it. The trailhead and the road were totally covered by fresh snow. Then we drove up to Hoosier Pass from where indeed we had the best view of Quandary as well of other fourteeners such as Mount Lincoln
, Mount Bross
and part of Democrat
Second time in Quandary and an accident
Approaching to Quandary Quandary Peak from the Eastern ridge.
I returned to Quandary
a week later and tried to climb it from the same place Alexandra and I were before, but this time on my own. The road from the trailhead and up to half a mile was fully covered with much more snow than the one we found the prior week. I kept driving forward, without even noticing that my SUV was sinking deeper and deeper into the snow. It was too late when I finally decided to turn back. I was stranded in the middle of nowhere. I didn’t even bring a shovel with me not even chains. Getting my truck out of the snow took priority over climbing Quandary.
I walked back to the trailhead and asked for help at a couple houses at Monte Cristo Creek. Somebody lent me a plastic shovel, those we use to clean the snow up from the driveways. I went back to my truck and started digging out right away. It took me at least one hour to take my truck out of the snow.
As soon as I finished I went back to the neighborhood and returned the shovel. Parked the truck at the edge of the road and kept hiking towards the trailhead.
A group of six people were on their way up to Quandary. They all have snowshoes. I never used snowshoes before and by that time I considered them useless (till I found out how useful they could be). I joined the group and we all entered into the first snow field. They all put their snowshoes on. I kept climbing on sinking above my waist (without snowshoes). Suddenly I saw them passing me and going ahead of me without effort. I couldn’t believe it!. And this was just the beginning of the climb. It took me 20 minutes to climb what it took them 5 minutes. By the time I reached timberline it was too late for me to think about climbing.
I went down to the trailhead, sinking even more because of the melting soft snow. When I reached the first steep snow field where I had troubles before, the snow was way too soft. This time chest deep snow made me feel like swimming in a pool of ice.
Suddenly the whole upper part of the little hill collapsed and I found myself in just seconds partially buried in the snow with my arms giving a tight good bye hug to a pine tree and with my face against it. The tree trunk and the snow turned into red for a while. I was bleeding.
Finally I reached the road, when I saw a helicopter flying over Quandary. A couple minutes later two guys on snowmobiles approached to me and asked me about the injured climbers. I didn’t know anything about it. I thought they were talking about me since I had a bit of blood on my face. I told them I was all right. They informed me the team I was climbing with triggered and avalanche up high, no fatalities but one of the girls had a broken leg.
Third time in Quandary
Approaching to the Summit (4,348 m / 14,265 ft). Kelly on her way up.
I got a call from Kelly
from Philadelphia the following week. I told her the story about Quandary and about how bad I wanted to climb it. She told me she’ll come over to Denver and climb it with me. So we set everything up for the weekend.
Kelly flew from Newark to Denver on Saturday. We organized everything and got ready for our long early drive to Quandary’s trailhead. It hadn’t snowed the whole week so I knew all that snow will be gone because of the warm last days, or at least compacted for the last cold night. We arrived to the trailhead and kept hiking up through the forest. The snow was hard and consolidated there. We couldn’t find a trail but we made our way up with no problem. Once we got to timberline we could see the summit far away up in the distance.
We continued climbing up, sinking a bit on some soft snowfields. Gained the east ridge and climbed on. Kelly slowed down a lot on the way up. Finally she told me she couldn’t do it anymore. I knew we’d had to go down. She wasn’t feeling well but tried to don’t make me notice it. I also knew this was my third time there and that I was going back home again. I saw the summit not too far away. Kelly told me she wanted to stop for a few minutes and that I can go ahead. She sat down, waited and started heading down slowly. I thought maybe fifteen minutes will be enough for me to get to the summit and back to her. So I did it. I ran like followed by the devil and reached the summit in about ten minutes. I thought I’d feel happy of finally getting over with Quandary and for the fact of being just up there. Well, in some way I was, but it wasn’t what I expected. I hung out at the summit for a couple minutes, took a few pics and started running down back to Kelly. It took me five long minutes which were longer than those ten minutes it took me to go up. I really felt like I reached the summit when I met with Kelly again. I felt so happy and she did it too. I guess those shared moments while climbing a mountain can also be enjoyed in the same way as reaching the summit.
Kelly’s Last Climb
Kelly and I went back to trailhead. It was late afternoon by then. We drove up to Hoosier Pass and enjoyed of the sunset views for a while. Then drove back to Denver where we had a yummy dinner at home. Kelly felt totally exhausted and swore not to climb mountains anymore. At that time I thought it was the consequence of the last bad climbing experience in Quandary. Years passed by until I realized she was right.
Kelly and I had climbed and hiked together in Ecuador in the past, as well as in some of the lower 48 States and Hawaii. An avid backpacker and hiker with lots of experience in outdoor and camping stuff.
Unfortunately this was the last time we climbed together, but we kept doing some easy enjoyable hikes for a while in the Appalachians, Tetons and Colorado Rockies.
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