Quandary- Winter Style
I was getting some early spring fever, so I decided to get a fourteener in early. I chose Quandary because of its easy access, easy winter ascent, and "zero avalanche terrain (on the east slopes)."
I had the privelage of staying in Breckenridge on Saturday night so the drive to the trail head was a grueling 12 minutes of beautiful morning driving. I arrived at the Monte Cristo Trailhead at 7:15 AM and began getting ready. There was one other car in the parking lot when I arrived, and two more showed up as I was getting ready, each preparing to summit. The snow was packed hard so I strapped my snowshoes to my pack and set off into the trees with enough winter clothes to keep everybody on the mountain warm.
After about a thousand feet of hiking on a wide flat path I passed a US Forest Service directory and proceded on a small tracked footpath to the west of the previous trail. It was marked with a small post labeled "Trail." The move through the trees was calm. I immediately started shedding clothes and pinning them in every way possible to the outside of my small pack.
I quickley made it out of the trees and came accross my first route finding error. The trail marker pointed one way and the tracks went another (right up the ridge). I decided to follow the tracks since I didn't know where the trail was because of the snow. The tracks led straight up the east slopes of Quandary.
When I got on the ridge the sun was hot, the wind was calm, and the grade was low. There was one person ahead of me but I had't seen them yet. I knew more were behind. I ascended quickley until I got to a steeper grade leading to a false summit. The other hiker was having trouble coming down so I pit on my snowshoes and proceded. The snow was very hardpacked and the only use of them was the front crampon. Another hiker by the name of Jeff was coming up behind me and eventualy caught up with me. We exchanged pleasentries and I kept his pace for the final summit push.
The summit was breathtaking. Cold and windy, but mild by comparison of 14,000 feet on a winter day. I made it up at exactly 11:00 AM, in 2.5 hours. After some pictures and the registry, I headed down.
The return trip was fast. I glissaded here and there, but mostly walked fast down the ridge. I passed maybe 2 dozen people on the way down, many wih skis and some even using ice axes, crampons, and rope (probably unecessary on the east slopes, but whatever). I made it back to the car at 12:30 PM in time for a few sore runs on the slopes of Breckenridge.
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