Quandary Peak is 10 kilometres south of Breckenridge in Colorado, and it’s the Tenmile Range’s unquestionable monarch. I was planning to do a technical route on this peak, but ended up doing the crowded and straightforward normal route.
I woke up at 06:30 in my car in Breckenridge. Due to very expensive lodging in the world-renowned skiing resort and a campground that I simply could not find the evening before, I decided to sleep in my big SUV (Jeep Grand Cherokee). Not a perfect sleep, but sufficiently for one night.
I had heard the standard route on Quandary Peak is a very busy and boring one (class 1), and thus I decided to aim for the Inwood Arete instead. The latter one is a demanding rock route both in terms of length and difficulties (class 5.4). But the weather forecast said thunderstorms, the same conditions that really scared me on Mt.Evans the day before. I was not very keen on the prospect of being trapped on the complex ridge during an electric storm. My final decision was taken during the breakfast when I saw all the threatening clouds that easily could turn into nasty weather already before noon. Thus I changed my plans, and aimed for the standard route instead. That would put me on the summit before 10:00 and off the mountain well before noon.
From the centre of Breckenridge I drove approx 13 kilometres (8 miles) south on Colorado 9. Then I turned west (right) onto Summit County 850 and continued for less than one kilometre (0,4 miles) to reach Monte Cristo Trailhead. But a sign told me that the trailhead unfortunately was closed, and there was a description to drive back some few hundreds metres and turn north onto Summit County 851. After some few hundred metres on this road I arrived at the parking lot and the new trailhead for Quandary Peak. The elevation here was 3330 metres.
The parking lot contained more than 10 vehicles when I started to walk at 07:50, and I expected to bypass a lot of parties up there. It was a pleasant hike on a good trail through the forest, and I reached the tree line at approx 3600 metres. From there I had perfect view of the lower slopes, and I continued on the well-trodden trail. I passed a lot people, and they were moving terrible slow. Further up I came to a levelled area on the ridge, where I could see the remaining route on the ridge and other slow moving people. My pace was twice as fast as the other ones, so I moved quickly in front of them.
I reached the summit in 1 hour and 45 minutes, not bad for an almost non-acclimatized person. I surely felt the altitude on Mt.Evans the day before (short of breath), but here on Quandary I hardly recognized that I was more than 4000 metres above sealevel.
I met some very nice people on the summit, among them some Minnesota hikers who had summited several 14’ers during the last week. Their favourite peak was Mount of the Holy Cross. We took pictures of each others before I started to descend.
On my way down I had company with a 50-year old man originally from Colorado, but now living far away from the mountains somewhere on the east coast. He had climbed several 14’ers and most recently Capitol Peak, which is regarded as one of the most difficult 14’ers. He had also recently climbed Bross, and told me that the company that owns the land had officially closed all public access to the Bross, Lincoln, and Democrat mountains, the main reason being a hiker that sued the company for millions of dollars because of a hiking accident up in those mountains. This silly hiker is obviously making the situation worse for other hikers, and he/she should be banned from entering the mountains in the future, or until he/she starts to take responsibility for his/hers own actions.
When we returned to the parking lot he also told me that he was planning to go to Aconcagua in the autumn, the highest peak in the Andes. The time will show if he gets to the summit, but I’m sure that his fitness will not be a problem. His climbing partner had severe problems though. He was waiting in the car because of altitude sickness, a situation that prevented him from getting to the easy summit of Quandary Peak. He seemed to be a young and fit guy, so I was rather surprised to know.
Well, it was certainly true that the normal route to Quandary Peak was crowded and somewhat boring, but at least it proved to be socially interesting for a lonely hiker/climber from Norway. And the weather forecast was totally wrong. No thunderstorms at all, not even in the afternoon.