9/15/2012 Quandary Peak (14,265 feet), Colorado

Quandary Peak is the high point in the Tenmile Range, as well as the only 14er in the range (however, there are a good number of 13ers).  It's also one of the most popular peaks to climb since it is so close to Breckenridge, a popular tourist/ski location.  The "standard" trail is also a Class 1 trail, which while steep, makes it easily accessible for climbers of all levels.  

Ashley and I decided to skip the standard route, and head up the more technically challenging West Ridge approach, which holds (at a minimum) a good number of Class 3 moves and the ability to get some Class 4 and Class 5 moves with Class 4 exposure.  It would also give us some valuable experience in route finding and climbing with exposure. 

Our route would have us starting at the Blue Lakes trail head, hiking into the basin and up to the ridge that connects Quandary's West Ridge and the 13er Fletcher Mountain.  From there we would traverse the West Ridge to the summit of Quandary, and then head down the East Ridge (standard route).  We then would hike back up the road to the Blue Lakes trail head, where our car was parked. 

Click here for the 14ers overview of the area and routes  We would ascend #3 (West Ridge) and would descend via #1 (East Ridge).

Elevation gain: ~3000 feet
Trip length: ~7 miles

Our actual GPS track of the climb.
From the parking lot below the dam, looking west. 
Looking at the other side of the dam, starting the hike into the basin.

Another shot of the dam.

I had kept track of the recent snowfalls in the range during the week.  From the drive in it looked like only the north side of the peaks got hit, but just in case I brought out the snow gators.  They came off rather quickly however.

Starting on the trail.  You can see the sign in the distance a hundred yards up.  After the sign, start looking for ways to climb up to the right away from the lake.
The signage, warning people that this is not the standard route.  In fact, 3 vehicles came to the dam parking and turned around after I informed them of that. 
About here you want to turn right up the slope to find the well defined trail through the basin.  There was a cairn marking it when we came through.  This is only a few hundred yards into the hike.
The defined path heads west, past a few trashed structures.
Lots of wildlife in the basin, and on the whole trip.

Lots of tiny ponds and streams dot the landscape.

Taking a shot of one of the streams.
And taking a shot of Ashley taking the shot of said stream.

Showing our line for reaching the West Ridge.  We would start by shooting for the rust colored talus field just left of center, and then angle to the point marked.

Approaching the rust colored talus field, zoomed out.

And a bit closer. 
Ashley ascending the talus field.  The two hikers above us were heading up the nearby 13er, Fletcher Mountain.  If you read this, hope your trip was awesome. 

A look back on the route from the climb up the field.

Mount Lincoln (where we were last week) had a pile of fresh snow.

A view of the beginning of the West Ridge, as we approach the ridgeline.

You can see the point where we meet the ridge, just before the first bumps.

Taking a quick break at the ridge line.  Looking west to Fletcher Mountain.

Lincoln (left), Cameron (middle) and Democrat (right). 

Looking east (the route we would be taking).  Our first goal was to follow this ridge to the bump at the end, where the well document old mining structure is located.  It's pretty standard class 2/difficult class 2 climbing from here to the bump. 

Getting ready for some fun!

Me too!

Looking back from the route up at Fletcher Mountain and the gnarly ridge to Atlantic Peak.

Looking east-ish from the ridge.

You can see the path up the ridge line - snow was not an issue at this time. 
It was also probably 50 degrees colder on the north side of the ridge with the wind chill.

Looking north into the basin

Another shot of Fletcher Mountain and Atlantic Peak.

14ers Bross, Lincoln, Cameron and Democrat. 
"Difficult" class 2 scrambling on the upper end of the first bump.

At the top of the first bump, you swing around the south side of the ridge past this ledge to the wrecked mining structure.  This is already around 14,100 feet. 

The wrecked structure, marking the start of the technical aspects of the West Ridge.

From the mining structure you swing to the north end of the ridge, where snow on the route started making itself present. 
We quickly reached this outcropped ledge, and then did a Class 3 climb up to the right to the very top of the bump.

The snow made it a bit tricky in the early spots, so we took our time.
The summit of Quandary Peak comes into view, it already looks like a busy area.

The first big objective, a shot of the large dirt gully that needs to be climbed.

Very straight forward class 3 climb, we hugged the left wall for the most part and headed straight up to the gap by the "chimney rock" at the top. 
Looking back from the top of the gully at the first bump we ascended and descended. 
Quick view from the top of the gully. 

Next, we started looking for the well documented "crack in the wall".  However, I was also on the lookout for a sketchy gully on the north side of the ridge that has made it's name known on the forums lately.  I was attempting to avoid it at all costs.

Unsuccessfully I might add.  We descended down this snowy slope on the north side of the ridge and found said gully.  It would have required a (albeit short) jump across, but a jump none the less.  The snow made it extra difficult since no solid footing was to be found on either side of the jump.  Sorry, no picture, but if you follow cairns on the north side after the dirt gully, you will find this one.  Very sketchy.  We ended up backtracking to the point just above Ashley in this picture and climbing directly up (probably a Class 5.5 move) to the direct top of the ridge.  From there we climbed down a bit, crossed the gully at the peak of the ridge, and then directly back up (another class 5 move) back to the direct top of the ridge.  From here we were face to face with the crack wall, avoiding the jump over the snow gully.  I would do this 10 out of 10 times if I had too.  Thanks to the guy descending the West Ridge at the very moment we were here who helped scout it (he also avoided the gully jump). 

A picture of the crack wall.  We started on the right and then crossed directly under the big white boulder on the left to the left side.  The picture below shows the crossing spot from an angle of me on the right side of the crack, and Ashley on the left side already.  Class 3 moves all the way.

Note the white-ish boulder above her to the right.  It's the same builder from the above picture, but from a side angle with me on the right side of the crack.
Looking back the way we came from the white rocks.  It's difficult to make out in the picture, but there are 3 bumps here.  The background (highest bump) shows the top of the dirt slide.  There are then two other bumps that we climbed (class 5+ on each) to avoid the snow covered gully on the north side of the ridge.  
We climbed over the crack, and again made sure to be at the highest point of the ridge line (the famous "white rocks").  From here we had a view of the final crux climb. 
Ashley on the top of the white rocks with the crux behind her.

And myself at the same place.
This is a shot of the white rocks from the top of the crux.  We descended down the right side (white rock side), and then ended up turning left and descending down some rocks to the base of the crux. 
This is dropping down left and leaving the white rocks.  Exposed but very manageable.  You could stay on the white rocks all the way down if you want. 
Same shot of the crux.  Our line on this would be up the "steps" that are visible to the left of the long, tall crack with snow on it.  We would angle up to the upper crack on the left, and basically climb up and around it to the left a little bit.
A shot of the crux from the base.  You can see the snow from the base of the long, tall crack in the above picture and the steps that lead up and away from it.  You can also see the top end where you can climb around to reach the top.  Class 3 all the way. 

Once we descended down the white rock area, it's time to start up the crux.  We found the going up this very easy.

View back on the west ridge from the top of the crux. 
And a few east to the summit.  The route goes again to to the top of the ridge line all the way to the top, but easy class 2. 

Scenic shot from the crux.

And another.

And another.

This is actually a shot that 3 super nice ladies snapped of us as we approached the summit from the crux.  They emailed it over to us after we chatted with them for a few min.

Ashley and I at the summit. 

Summit shots.  Bross in the background left, Lincoln in front off it (left), Cameron to the right, Democrat to the far right.

Summit view.

Summit view, looking back down the West Ridge, with Fletcher Mountain and the ridge to Atlantic Peak. 

Ashley on top.

Directly below the summit, 2500 feet down is the parking lot that our truck was at.  We debated taking the South Gully route off the top, but decided against it today. 

Pacific Peak from the summit. 

As we headed down the East Ridge, we encountered a load of big horn sheep. 

We got close.

We got very close.
And then there was a stand off...luckily she survived. 

We reached the bottom of the trail and started our road walk (2 miles, 850 feet of elevation) back to where we parked.  Luckily, these two guys we met on the top that were scouting the area for ski routes pulled up and gave us a ride back to the dam!  If you read this, hit me up so I can buy a drink and some fish tacos.

 On our way out, we stopped to get some awesome foliage shots.

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