What a beautiful morning!
My wife and I had a week long ski trip to Copper Mountain planned. Of course, I couldn't travel this close to the mountains without climbing something. All week long while we were skiing, the temperatures were brutally cold, and the weather was nasty, constantly cloudy, windy, and dropping a good amount of new snow. On Friday, the last day before we left, I decided I had to give Quandary a go anyway. I had selected Quandary for its easy access, and lack of avalanche danger. I don't solo a lot of peaks, so I wanted something well within my comfort zone, especially if the weather was questionable. I was taking the East Ridge route.
I woke up early that morning, and hopped in the car to head down to the trailhead. I hit the trailhead at 7am, just about sunrise, and while it was still cold, it was a perfectly clear and beautiful day. There was another car at the trailhead, and some tracks, but other than that it was pretty quiet out there. I hiked in from the snow closure of the road to the trailhead, and started up. After about 45 minutes, the snow started to get a little deep, so I strapped on my rented snowshoes and continued on. Around 8am, I emerged from the trees, and onto the start of the East Ridge.
It's farther than it looks
The climb was fairly straightforward, but the summit constantly seems a lot closer than it is. There are a few ridges that look like the summit but aren't, and generally it's all a lot bigger than it looks. The snowshoeing was pretty straightforward. I mostly followed the tracks of the person in front of me, except for a few sections where I just tried to take the most direct route up I could find. There is a saddle between the summit and the false peak, where it got pretty windy. Through this section there's not a lot of snow, it's mostly windswept rock, and I actually took the snowshoes off for this portion, as they were becoming more of a hindrance than a help.
Just below the final ridge, I finally caught up to Jeremiah, the guy whose tracks I had been following most of the morning. We ground it out together that last bit up to the summit (you really notice the altitude over that last bit). We were rewarded for our efforts with one of those perfect summit days you always dream about. We had made good time up, it was only about 10:30, and the weather was absolutely perfect. There was even a little wind break where I sat down and relaxed for a bit and took in the views.
The descent was pretty easy. While they might not have been absolutely necessary, I was happy to have my crampons for the descent of the ridge from the summit. It's not a terribly steep descent, but there are places where the ridge drops off pretty sharply to either side, and some patches are pretty icy. Once you get past that bit, it's really just a snowshoe slog back to the car, though. Jeremiah, who was my new best friend after giving me half of his ham and cheese sandwich, and I hiked out together, chatting and enjoying the views. It was my first Colorado 14er summit, and his 17th or so, but I think we enjoyed it equally. Definitely the highlight of the trip for me. Made it back to the car just around 1pm, 6 hours roundtrip, including a good deal of relaxing on the summit.
This climb was recommended in the Dawson's guide as an excellent intro winter 14er, and I have to agree. It has great views, a good workout, and easy access, but it still feels like a real mountain!
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