|Page Type:||Trip Report|
|Lat/Lon:||39.39673°N / 106.10652°W|
|Date Climbed/Hiked:||Apr 13, 2015|
After spending the night at the winter closure of the road leading up to the Blue Lakes dam, we started hiking from the TH next to CO-9 around 6:15. The weather was fairly warm (25-30 degrees F) with no wind and perfectly clear skies. We were playing with mounting skis and splitboards on ULA packs (it doesn't work well, don't try it), so we were pretty slow. Nevertheless, the hike was easy.
The snow classic springtime snow: when we left the TH, the snow was icy, firm and crunchy underfoot, but it moved well with skins. Less than a quarter mile from the TH, the snow was completely melted from the trail, just as it enters the trees. We continued to boot pack for several hundred yards but were soon able to skin again. The snow stayed firm and icy until well after sun-hit (7:15 or so). We were crunching on ice until we climbed above treelike. The sun softened the top layer into slush pretty quickly, but it only melted to 1 or 2 inches deep at most at any point on the climb.
The climb itself is definitely the simplest I've experienced on any 14er. It maintains a moderate grade for the whole hike with little variation and is essentially an alpine sidewalk in snowy conditions. We summited in about an hour an a half despite our questionable pack choices and played around a bit at the summit. We hiked west from the summit of Quandary in the direction of Fletcher for several hundred yards and chilled for a bit on one of the snowy points of the ridge line in order to get a little peace. The easy nature of Quandary means there are always other people at the summit and it's nice to get a little alone time at altitude.
We descended from the summit via Cristo couloir on the south face of Quandary. The couloir, the most prominent and well known snow line on the south face of the peak, was filled in nearly from the summer Blue Lakes TH to the peak. We had to bootpack for a total of maybe 100 yards, but we were able to arc huge turns for most of the couloir on firm but not icy snow near the top that warmed up as we descended until it was 6-8 inch deep slush down bottom. By the time we had descended to ~12,200 ft, the snow was heavy, wet and slushy. It was very much like low-altitude skiing at Mt. Hood or Whistler late in the day in the summer. We had a short walk of about 20 feet over some rocks before the last 100-200 vertical feet of snow before we reached the road, to which we were able to ski right to the edge. The parking area by the dam was completely dry, and after a 100 yard walk down the road, we reached snow once again. A trail lead along the snow nearly to the winter road closure that allows for a traverse out to the winter TH.
We dropped our gear at the winter closure and walked back to the TH at CO-9 in shoes to pick up the truck. Our total moving time was 2:38, including the walk back to the truck. Keeping in mind, we spent a lot of time dawdling once we hit 13,800 or so on the way up, then at the summit and along the ridgeline, so by the time we got back to the truck, it was nearly 1:00.
Quandary has a relatively short isolation (only 3.16 miles), but its location and prominence (1,125 feet) give it an excellent vantage. As easy climbs go, this is the most rewarding I've done in years.