Trailhead Elevation: 10,850 ft.
Summit Elevation: 14,265 ft.
Distance: 7.13 mi.
Elevation Gain: 3,396 ft.
Start Time: 8:57am
Summit Time: 10:36am (5 minutes on top)
End Time: 11:51am
My wife and I were fortunate to have an 8pm flight out of Denver to head home which meant that on our last day out in Colorado we actually had time to go out and do something. Of course, for me, this meant hiking and climbing. I had initially been looking at a large hike if the time would allow it. One of my leading thoughts was to attempt Torreys Peak from Loveland Pass. I didn't have 4WD and the prospect of getting into the trailhead mess in Stevens Gulch just wasn't enticing so the standard routes weren't good. From Loveland Pass though I could be dropped off, hike the ridge to Torreys, possibly on to Grays, and then down to the standard route trailhead. I would like then trail run the road out and then be picked up. It was ambitious, but, it would need an early start. Today didn't quite work out that way. Thus Quandary rose to the front as an option. I had done this in 2014 where I went all in for a speed ascent and it went well. Today's plan was to help pack up the family camp in the Buena Vista area by 8am, drive over to the Quandary trailhead, get dropped off, and then hike til noon.
Our morning in Buena Vista started with clouds and rain. I wasn't sure if the weather near Quandary would be a go. We did get out of camp a little early and our arrival at the trailhead was just before 9am. Thankfully the weather was holding enough to make a start. I was carrying very light today knowing that my rapid pace would keep me warm and if any other needs arose I would simply bail and hike out. I only carried food, water, emergency blanket, trekking pole, first aid kit, and sunglasses. I left the rain jacket, water filter, headlamp, and gloves in the car.
I went out with a very brisk power hiking pace which quickly got the heart racing and the body sweating. I sustained this for awhile and popped a Gu as I could begin to feel the burn in the legs. Despite the thick clouds at the start it never rained nor did it show signs of building into thunderstorms. I got my first 1000 feet of elevation gain done in just 30 minutes and I did the second 1000 feet in only 24 minutes. I was pushing a blistering pace for myself going uphill and was definitely feeling it in my calves. For liquid I had a liter of water and a Gatorade and I was pushing the Gatorade heavy on the ascent to replace all the sweat I was losing. The temps were in the low 50s and this was helpful in keeping me cool. It was around 12,000 that I finally started catching up with people on the ascent. It seems the bulk of today's crowd had done well in getting an early start. My legs were longing for a flat area where I could get a break from the uphill for awhile. On Quandary this comes at just over 13,000 when you hit the main saddle on the East Ridge. I didn't stop here but the flatter walking pace (even while moving faster) really helped change things up for the legs.
There were plenty of people on the upper portion of the mountain. I was constantly either passing people ascending or meeting people descending. There were a handful of people with dogs up here much to my dismay. None of the dogs were leashed and on more than one occasion they were running off trail among rocks chasing down picas and marmots.
In the upper mountain I was stopping every so often for about 20 seconds or so to let my legs catch up. I believe this to be an after effect of the torrent pace I pushed at the start and evidence my legs were running out of gas. I broke out my peanut butter M&M's a little early to help get more calories and I polished off my 3rd and final Gu. I was pleased to see some blue sky poking through in several areas up high. The weather had held well for me. The temps were dropping below 50 and my fingers almost got cold, but this also helped to cool the rest of my body down. I finally summited at 10:36am making for a 1:39 ascent. There were perhaps 20 people on top, not as bad a crowd as it could be. I took a few moments to converse with Sarah on the phone and briefly checked out the west ridge which is all sorts of gnarly.
On the summit I took about 5 minutes, just as I had done in 2014, then began the procession down. I jogged along the flat portion of the summit area until the steeper, rockier descent began and then just tried to move briskly through the rocks. In 2014 I was one of the first on top which mention during my descent I was only passing people ascending who would see me coming. On the descent today a number of people were already going down and so I spent some time waiting to pass folks who didn't see me at first.
At the saddle I began another light run pace for awhile until it steepened again. My legs were feeling pretty good on the descent. They didn't have any feelings of fatigue but I could sense my calves coming close to cramps. They had cramped on me overnight for some reason and the strain of today's ascent probably added to it. I took Hammer endurolytes twice today and polished off the Gatorade to get electrolytes.
The weather held fantastically and in fact I had a fair amount of sun during the descent. As I was around 11,500 I encountered an older teenager (so he looked) who was trail-running upwards. He looked really a lot like another young man who was jogging a descent up around 13,500. If these two runners were indeed the same person this would mean they were running a double on Quandary today. If so, my hats off to them. Either way, they were running well, better than me.
I made the trailhead and then on to the lower parking lot by 11:51am for an 1:09 descent. As a whole this went just slightly faster than 2014 and I added a few minutes by having to run the road to the lower parking lot. This was my fifth ascent of Quandary which is in the lead for me. Enjoying such an ascent like this is a reminder to me that it really was never about the "list" but just the enjoyment of being in the mountains. As well as the physical challenge of pushing my body to new challenges and new limits.