The Approach and Ascent
With the weather report calling for mostly cloudy skies and a 40-50% chance of snow, I was a little hesitant to make a go at skiing Quandary's East Ridge with Wes. All the stories I've heard about winter ascents of that route recall high winds, with low visibility, thus is hardly seemed like a place to be during a storm. We decided to make a go anyways, so the night before (Saturday) I drove up to Dillon to stay with a friend. It snowed all the way from Genesee to the Eisenhower tunnel, never a good sign. When I popped out the West side of the tunnel the stars were out and there wasn't a flake falling, ok? The night passed by uneventfully with only a slight dusting of snow on my car.
I awoke to clear skies and cool temps, in the low single digits. In my sleepy daze I accidentally got on I-70 heading the WRONG direction, back to the tunnel. Well with nothing I could do I had to drive all the way through the tunnel, turn around at highway 6, and head back toward Breckenridge and the Quandary trailhead. I made it at 710a, just 10min late, and found Wes waiting for me there. We geared up, donned our skis and skins and headed up the road from the Blue Lake Rd trailhead toward the East Ridge.
The skinning through the trees was easy, as there was a nice packed out trail to follow, and a single set of fresh snowshoe tracks leading the way. When we broke treeline the sun was out in full force and not a hint of wind to be found. It was shaping up to be an amazing day. We made steady progress, skinning up the open part of the East Ridge without incident. When we got to the flat traverse around 13000ft the snow started to thin out, though there was still plenty of coverage to allow us to continue skinning. Wes took a break and I continued up the steeper section of the East Ridge. Around 13500ft the pitch became slightly too steep and my skins were setting well, so I dismounted and boot uphill for 200ft. After that it was smooth skinning all the way to the summit. The weather was absolutely amazing, no wind at all and temps in the mid to low 30s. I summited at 11:15a, 3:45 to the top, not bad.
Quandary Peak Panorma
The Fun Part
I hung out on the summit in the sun for a while, even grabbing a short nap. Finally deciding I should head back to civilization and the work that needed to be done, I left the summit just before 1p. I had opted to not test my luck and just ski right below the East Ridge, following the general ascent route. The snow was ok, 2” of surface hoard and powder on top of a wind crust, but it was very consistent.
When I reached the flat plateau at 13K I opted to boot through the rocks rather than try and ski. The next slope was a mix of windblown powder and wind crust, a little tricky. From here I veered slightly to the left(climber's right) to an open slope that would finally take me down to treeline. By this point in the day the snow was getting fairly heavy due to the warm sun, and was sticking pretty good. I cruised down into the trees and the bowl on the South side of the East Ridge. The tree skiing was fun, but the 3-6” of powder was becoming very heavy and made one work for each turn. I was finally spit out onto Blue Lake Rd about a half mile above my car. What a day; perfect weather, a 14er, and a nice ski back down. The snow is setting up very well, and I probably could have skied the main bowl from the summit down to the flat plateau(North of the East Ridge). For those ski mountaineers it's definitely a nice mellow outing, and worth the trip.
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