Friday, February 22, 2013

PEAK OF THE WEEK: Quandary Peak

Quandary Peak
Quandary Peak from Highway 9
Quandary Peak has a reputation as one of Colorado's easiest and most accessible 14ers. It is a relatively short and straightforward ascent, which makes it popular as a first fourteener or as a winter ascent. Its location just a few miles away from Breckenridge off I-70 also increase the amount of traffic this mountain sees. Despite Quandary's reputation as an accessible and simple mountaineering destination, it also offers some hidden challenges for alpinists who desire more than just a easy class 1 trail hike. Several routes on the mountains north and west sides are far more engaging than the pedestrian standard route up the East Slopes (Quandary Peak Trail). The West Ridge offers a class 3 scramble (though on dangerously loose rock), the Cristo Couloir is a short and engaging snow climb on the peak's south slopes, and the Inwood Arete provides a technical rock climb on Quandary's rugged north face. From casual hikers to winter ascentionisits to rockaneers, Quandary has a little something for everyone.

Snow on Quandary Peak at 14,000'
Near 14,000' on Quandary's East Slopes
From downtown Breckenridge take Highway 9 south towards Hoosier Pass. After 8 miles, locate a small dirt road (CR 850) about two miles short of Hoosier Pass's summit. Very quickly you will find McCullough Gulch Road (CR 851) on the right. Take this road. The Quandary Peak trailhead is just a short distance up this road on the right. To reach the snow couloirs on the peak's north side and the West Ridge route, forgo the turn onto McCullough Gulch and continue 2 miles along CR 850 to the Blue Lake trailhead at the base of a dam. To reach the South Face and Inwood Arete, continue on CR 851 for a couple of miles until you reach a locked gate.

East Slopes (standard)
The standard East Slopes route on Quandary Peak is one of the easiest and most popular routes on a Colorado 14er. A good trail takes you all the way to the summit. From the trailhead, follow the well-defined trail as it winds through the forest for a few miles to treeline at 11,500'. Downed lumber can sometimes impede your progress in this section but shouldn't be too much of an issue. From treeline continue up the trail along a rounded ridgeline to a flat section at 13,100'. From here the angle steepens. Switchback up the final 1,000' to Quandary's excellent summit.

Cristo Couloir
This snow couloir is short and straightforward. From the Blue Lake trailhead, locate the couloir. It is the most apparent and leftmost of three climbable couloirs on Quandary's South Face. The couloir is short, just barely over a mile, but ascends 2,500', so be ready for some steep climbing. Avalanches are a strong possibility, so carefully consider the snow conditions before beginning. This route is an unpleasant scree mess when the snow has melted out.

Inwood Arete
Snow on Quandary Peak in Colorado
The final push to the summit of Quandary
This technical alpine route is an interesting way to make more of a challenge out of a mountain that has a reputation for being easy. From the trailhead hike along a climber's trail to a lake near 12,000'. The arete begins here. You can do a direct start at 5.6-5.7 or head east to an easier 5.4 start. Climb mostly 5.easy climbing past some towers (do not climb the towers) until you are deposited on easier terrain (still class 3 and 4) above somewhere around 13,500'. Expect runnouts, loose rock, and some tricky routefinding on this route.

Quandary Peak: Late Spring in the Colorado Mountains
An account of a successful ascent of the East Slopes route of Quandary in June 2010. With heavy snow still on the trail, the route was considerably more difficult than when it is dry in summer.

Inwood Arete on
Inwood Arete on

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