Monday, July 21, 2014

Quandary Peak 2014

Route Name: East Ridge
Trailhead Elevation: 10,850 ft.
Summit Elevation: 14,265 ft.
Distance: 6.49 mi.
Elevation Gain: 3,450 ft.
Start Time: 4:45am
Summit Time: 6:25am (5 minutes on top)
End Time: 7:35am
RT Time: 2 hrs 50 mins

Trip Report:

Quandary Peak will always hold a special place in my Colorado 14er memories as it has been the location of now several firsts for me.  In 1991 it was my very first 14er summit.  In a way I'm proud to share that we began our climb many years before 14er climbing began to hit the mainstream and websites and other guides made them so much more accessible.  We began in the days of carrying the Roach or the Lampert book along on the hike to make sure you knew what you were doing.  Back to the topic at hand, in 2010 Quandary became my first winter 14er ascent.  And now in 2014 it was my first solo ascent on a 14er.  Of course, in this day and age when everyone is climbing Quandary I'm not really going to make any big deal about that last one.

This day was our last day in Colorado for our 2014 excursion from the Midwest and I was itching to get one more climb in.  I didn't have my brother to join as he had already flown home, and my father was still nursing foot injuries from our Snowmass-Wetterhorn-El Diente trifecta from last Thursday to Saturday.  I have always been a little put off by all of the other reports and the people we've met who regularly solo on the 14ers, particularly the more difficult and committing class 3 peaks.  For my taste, it doesn't begin to make much sense to go out on a limb in those cases.  Nevertheless, I wanted to hike, and I chose a peak whose route I'd done three times now and on whose trail I could anticipate running into dozens of other hikers.  In the end, its hardly a solo hike.

I also had the challenge I wanted to put to myself of how quickly I could make a 14er ascent.  In recent months I've been putting in more than 100 miles a month of running and in October I am preparing for the Chicago Marathon.  I feel as though I've progressed leaps and bounds in my 23 years of 14er climbing and really wished to see just what I could do.  Would I be able to jog all the way to the summit?  Could this be a full trail run?  I wanted to find out where the limit was to be found.

I hit the trail at 4:45am with headlamp going and some light music to let the local wildlife know that I was coming.  I'll grant, I really wasn't interested in meeting any 4-legged carnivores on my own in the dark, slight possibility though that may be.  Right from the start I had the heart rate going and breathing pretty heavy.  Even after 8 days in the mountains I was suspect that I was 100% acclimatized.  I kept the pace however moving at a brisk walk and slowly wound my ways up the trail through treeline.  As I began to near the crest of the east ridge coming up from the south side I popped my first GU gel of the day to keep the energy flowing.  

The further I went the better my breathing and heart rate got and I wasn't really forced to stop at any point.  Up on the ridge I passed by two hikers just as sunrise was starting to hit.  As I moved further up the east ridge to the saddle just below 13,200 things were really looking good.  I popped my second GU gel as I began to work the last 800 feet and kept pushing through.  It was 6:25am with beautiful skies when I summitted and I was greeted by 4 younger 20-somethings on top.  I was curious how early they must have left to be on the summit already.  I never saw them ahead of me on the ascent.

I wanted a quick turn-around on top but the views were pretty impressive with the post-sunrise sun.  I couldn't help myself but to take in a handful of pictures and even spent time to take in a Photosphere with my Google Camera app. Before departing the summit I also took off the pant leggings to help ensure I wouldn't accidentally trip on the way down.  It was fairly chilly on top with a slight breeze so I kept gloves on.

Photosphere from the summit of Quandary Peak

While I didn't break into any jog or trail run pace on the ascent I kept the pace moving pretty quick on the descent.  The rocky terrain up high prohibited any real quick movement up high.  Over the years I have learned to hop from rock to rock to gain a quicker than walking pace but its not quite a jog.  When the trail began to turn more to dirt I was able to really move it along.  I was probably in a 5-6mph pace through the easier terrains on the descent.  I kept entertained on the way down by growing a count of the number of hikers I encountered.  On the ascent and the summit it was 6 people.  By the time I returned to the trailhead the count had reached 97 people.  I knew Quandary to be populated, but I was impressed in hiking past so many before 7:30am on a Monday.  Thankfully most of them looked fairly prepared for the day's hiking.  Several I could tell were a bit surprised to see someone jogging down trail so early.  A few even asked how far to the summit.  

In the end, I put in 2 hours 50 minutes roundtrip and it felt really good.  By the time I had reached the car I felt as though I could do another one it was so rewarding.  Ironically, our family did go on to ride the Cog Railway up to Pikes Peak in the afternoon.  How about that, two different, unconnected 14er summits in a day.  Too bad we cheated on the second one.

Enjoy the early morning photos I took along the way.  Definitely the best time of day for photography on a 14er:


I have a track and waypoints from the hike all contained in a KML file that you are welcome to download and use (at your own risk).

My Track

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