May 13, 1994
My climbing partner, Tom (who I met via rec.backcountry) and I chose Friday, the 13th to climb the 13th highest mountain in Colorado… Quandary Peak. These facts did not sit well with at least a few co- workers and one wife (mine). Even my nine year son, Ben said, “Dad, why are you doing it on Friday the 13th?” Good question Ben…
The real reason was that we both wanted to take a day off work to do some more “winter” climbs before summer. Trust me; it still seems like winter at 14,000 feet in Colorado! We wanted to get an early start as it is thunderstorm season now in the mountains and with the death of the climber (and father of 5) on Capital Peak 4 weeks ago fresh in our minds; we hoped to avoid afternoon climbing. We left Colorado Springs at 5:00am and after the customary stops at the Donut Mill in Woodland Park, we arrived at Hoosier Pass at 7:30. Being from Ft Wayne, Indiana originally, I felt right at home!
At the trailhead we met a couple of guys intending on climbing up and skiing the east face on alpine skis and snowboards. We zigged zagged up the steep slope walking on top of the frozen snow until it got too deep where we put on our snowshoes just shy of gaining the ridge. Once above treeline, we found steep, but firm snow that made our progress seem easy at first. It was partly cloudy at the start and overcast with intermittent snow by the time we reached the 13,000 foot level. Above us, the summit was obscured by clouds and as we ascended into the clouds, visibility dropped to 10-15 feet. By this time I had taken my snowshoes off and relied on kick stepping up the slope while Tom snowshoed to within 700 feet of the summit. I decided to take a compass bearing just in case the visibility further declined.
I have never decided if it is easier or harder when you can’t see the summit and how far you have to go… Tom thought it was harder. 3.5 hours into the climb, I came upon a narrow snow ridge that led to a level platform. Visibility was down to 4-5 feet. I took another step and started to go down… oh, I must be on the summit… it all looked white to me! After a 10 minute pleasant stay on the summit sitting behind a small snow bank, we headed down, practicing our plunge stepping. Once down to about 12,500 I gave Tom some quick instruction on glissading and we were off to the races. Tom was not quite up to the famous 5 min glissade off the south side, so we went down the ridge we had climbed.
When we got to the east face, Tom was happily showing me his glissade skills as he picked up speed down the bowl. I applauded his skills and speed but his sense of direction was a bit off has he went to the wrong side of the ridge. I went to the right and we met each other at the bottom where he was stuck in chest deep snow from postholeing after twisting an ankle in the snow. He shook it off, and we snowshoed/rockshoed down the slope to the cars… probably the toughest part of the climb was that last 3/4 of a mile!
We were off the mountain, the 13th highest on Friday the 13th with no major problems! This climb is one of the easiest 14ers here in Colorado, but truthfully, even the easy ones take a little out of you! I would recommend this as a nice summer climb if you are in the area!
Quandary Peak, 14,265′, June 10, 95 – a second climb of this peak
Unusual snow conditions to saw the least… NOW some Colorado officials are saying that the snow pack is 300% of the normal currently. It made for some “winter” climbing in June under a warm and sunny sky.
Denise Snow asked me to co-lead a Colorado Mountain Club trip with her to Grays and Torries Peaks, but a check with the forest service determined the road to the trailhead was sitting under 3 feet of snow making the approach more difficult than usual. She still had two new members who were eager to go so she opted for Quandary Peak and I opted along. Between Friday afternoon and our departure on Saturday morning we lost two members, one to a sprain ankle and one to the flu. We were whittled down to three, Denise, Paul (who I had instructed in the Basic Mountaineering Course just two weeks ago) and 1. So we made it unofficial and took off for points west, arriving at the trailhead at 7:00am. We started up the bushwhack through the trees aiming for the start of the ridge. I had suggested crampons based upon my climb of Pikes Peak last Wednesday, but Denise said snowshoes were more important. I argued that she needed crampon practice prior to Mt Rainer on July 4th, but I lost… but I got to laugh later.
Here is the unusual part — there was snow from the time we left our car until we returned. The snow pack showed no sign of melting, but was frozen rock solid early in the morning. Our snowshoes stayed strapped on our packs as we simply walked on top of 5-10′ of snow If you have ever spent the entire winter struggling through waist deep snow even on snowshoes or skis you understand our joy as the hard snow made it an easy shuffle. Reaching treeline, we approached a sharp rise marking the beginning of the ridge. As we ascended the slope we found icy hard conditions, but kept enough friction to keep our boots in forward progress. This is when I started to give Denise a hard time about our lack of crampons. She blew me off until we met another party on the ridge who were making great time walking up the hard snow — WITH THEIR CRAMPONS. We continued up in the sun watching puffy white clouds form in the west. As we got to about 13,000’where the clouds parted each way around Quandary, I thought our chances on reaching the top were 50-50 1 was waiting for some of the darker clouds to our north to go boom and see everyone scurry down, but instead as we reached the final 500’of little bit of steep snow, snow showers moved in providing welcome relief from the hot sun. I was feeling good so I was up ahead a bit as we approached the short narrow level ridge that lands you on the summit. There was a guy ahead of me who I had been watching coming up – he did not seem to be enjoying himself. I opinion was further solidified when he bent over on the narrow ridge and promptly vomited on the snow. Hmmm; that certainly added to my mountain experience I asked him if he was alright; he mumbled yes, so I told him to sit down and drink some water. As I walked by him, he ignored my advice and followed behind me on the ridge. On the summit it was warm and snowing with the views blocked by clouds. The ill hiker came up, stayed for 5 seconds and departed back down the ridge. Denise and Paul arrived within a few minutes and we congratulated Paul on his second peak over 14,000′. I departed back down the ridge to eat a snack and Denise and Paul lingered on the summit in time for the clouds to break and open a magnificent view for 360 degrees. I was exploring the possibilities of a glissade down the couloir directly to the lake dropping 2500′. Unfortunately the conditions were rock hard, and the possibility of self-arrest if we got going too fast was slim. Instead I glissaded down to the first step on the ridge with two guys from Denver. One had brought his camp rest chair to slide on and it worked great. I waited for Denise and Paul to get down as they were not excited about glissading without putting their shell pants on! We then headed down the ridge where we had another couple of 300′ glissades to get us down in the trees and lunch. Some of the folks who were also going up with our group skied the east face even in the icy conditions in good style. After lunch, we headed down through the trees. I was now trying my hardest to make a point about snowshoes with Denise and she and I opted not to put them on and had no problem. We reached the car around noon, five hours after we started changing to shorts in a snow shower. The mountains in Colorado are beautiful right now with snow covered vistas wherever you look. And if you climb early in the day, snow conditions are perfect for walking on top of the drifts, We have some hot weather forecasted for this coming week, it will be interesting to see if conditions change
Quandary Peak, 14,265′, Near Alma, Colorado, Nov 12th, 2005
URGENT – WINTER WEATHER MESSAGE
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE DENVER CO
307 PM MST SAT NOV 12 2005
SNOW SHOWERS AND GUSTY WINDS WILL CONTINUE ACROSS THE MOUNTAINS THROUGH 5 PM. SNOWFALL RATES WILL BE AROUND ONE HALF INCH PER HOUR IN MOST AREAS…WITH ISOLATED AREAS ABOVE TIMBERLINE RECEIVING UP TO ONE INCH PER HOUR. NORTHWEST WINDS OF 20 TO 35 MPH WITH GUSTS AS HIGH AS 60 MPH ABOVE TIMBERLINE WILL PRODUCE AREAS OF BLOWING SNOW…ESPECIALLY ABOVE TIMBERLINE. MOUNTAIN PASSES AND NORTHWEST FACING MOUNTAIN SLOPES SHOULD SEE THE GREATEST SNOW ACCUMULATIONS WITH TOTALS UP TO A FOOT POSSIBLE. STRONG WINDS MAY ALSO PRODUCE QUITE A BIT OF BLOWING AND DRIFTING SNOW.
When you see a forecast like this, why drive five hours to try and climb this peak for a third time? Because I had not been in the mountains except for a couple of quick trips since my return to Colorado and I was ready. And so was Don with his new Tubbs Snowshoes. The day turned out to be a challenge, and the mountain allowed us to get to about 12,500′ feet before we around in a complete white out and strong gusty winds as indicated in the Weather Service Forecast.
There was plenty of snow to try out the snowshoes as well as every other piece of gear we owned and carried with us! Here is a sampling of the pictures although during the worst conditions, I was unable to get any pictures. Going out on a day like this is something I would have done every weekend ten years ago. No More! I am going to heed the weather forecast and shoot for days when it is stable from now on! Older and wiser…something like that…
Quandary Peak, 14,265′, Near Alma, Colorado, Feb 26th, 2006 – also climbed it on this date to the summit…