Some of us honest folk even shout it while we curse the never-ending scramble and shale of this delightful 14er.
Quandary Peak, one of the 54 Colorado 14ers, houses 4 defined routes: the East Ridge, classified as a Class 1; the South Gully / Cristo Couloir, a more difficult Class 2; the West Ridge, a Class 3; and the North Gully / Quandary Couloir.
The beginners that we are, we chose the least strenuous of the four – East Ridge. Starting off at the trailhead at about 4 am, we hiked through the forest using hiking poles, headlamps, and every light-yet-warm piece of clothing imaginable. After all, layers are key, friends.
Although cold, starting in the dark gives you an incredible moonlit pathway of the trail and provides the gift of watching the sun come up over the beautiful landscape of White River Forest. I highly recommend it, if you have the opportunity and the time.
How long does it take? The greater your ability to lolly-gag (photos, lunch, second lunch…), the greater the time this 7 mile round-trip trail will take you. Friends that have gone before us have taken 6 – 8 hours to complete Quandary whereas we took a stellar 10 – 12 hours.
Gaining 3,450 feet within a few miles can take a toll on the body, providing lots of stomach cramps, dizziness, and other non-favorable ailments while you crawl up the mountain.
So, if Quandary is a Class 1, what’s so hard about it? Why are we calling it a hard B? The slippery, dirty shale, my friends. On the way up, and on the way down. Also, I usually enjoy the scrambling (ascending steeply, sometimes using your hands) portion of 14ers, but Quandary’s scrambling seemed to be never-ending. Definitely a bummer.
SIDE NOTE (RANT) ON 14ER DIFFICULTIES: when your friends (or that obnoxious, outdoorsy guy or gal at work) describe any 14er as “easy”, don’t buy in. There’s no such thing as an “easy” 14er – that’s not a thing. Sure, the classifications help point you in the right direction of appropriate 14er to conquer, but calling any of them “easy” is a stretch.
So with all of this whining and complaining about 14er’s – why do them? Well, for a few compelling reasons:
Reason #1: The views.
There are very few places in the US of A that can get you this close to the clouds sans airplane. To summit and sit at the top truly feels like sitting on top of the world. Gazing as far as the eye can see through neighboring states and other ranges is hard to articulate with words – you’ve got to see it.
Reason #2: Personal Accomplishment Feels.
A 14er calls for all of the blood, sweat, and (possibly) tears you’ve got. Sitting on top of the world sets the bar pretty high for the rest of your adventures, personally and professionally. If you can climb a mountain, what else can you do?
I’m definitely happy to cross Quandary Peak off of my list. It was physically and mentally challenging, yet incredibly rewarding. If you get the chance, I suggest you cross it off of your list as well. And, never do it again.