photo- A view of the sunrise from the east ridge of Quandary peak at sunrise. photo by Grant Lewis, 2009.
members of trip: Zach Taylor and Grant Lewis
ascent route: East Ridge
descent route: East Bowls
trailhead: Monte Cristo trailhead 10,900'
Over a foot of snow had fallen over the last twenty four hours in Avon. The 28th was forecasted to be clear and relatively warm all day. I talked to my friend Grant about skinning up Quandary Peak and snowboarding down at work the night before. He was down and plans were made. My alarm went off at 3:00 am at my house on Wildridge above Avon. I got up quickly got in my car and drove down to Grants house in Avon. We left quickly and began the drive to the Quandary Peak trail.
Quandary Peak is one of the easiest 14ers to play on in the winter. During the winter most of Colorado's 14ers summer trailheads are closed off by miles of snow covered dirt roads. During the winter most of these warrant a multi-day climb because of this extra distance. Quandary's trailhead is right off Hoosier pass and is plowed and maintained year round. So it is still only seven miles round trip and 3,365' of vertical elevation gain. This is paltry by mid winter standards. Quandary also has a route going up its east ridge that completely avoids all avalanche terrain and makes a relatively avalanche safe route year round. The east bowls just to lookers right of the ridge offer a nice summit descent. These bowls are usually comprised of wind hardened sastrugi during the winter. So while the snow conditions arn't usually great here it is often set up and safe to ride. If the snow is in a strong melt freeze cycle there are classic steep couloir descents dropping off the south and north faces of the peak as well.
With recent snowfall and windloading patterns we planned on ascending the east ridge and descending the powder filled eastern bowls.
We hit the trail a little before sunrise and were cresting treeline at sunrise. The going was slow as the old skin track was mostly covered with recent snow and we were stuck with breaking a trail through fresh snow all the way to the summit. It got a bit easier above treeline but there was still much postholing the entire way. We met up with another snowshoer that dropped into line and helped us break trail.
photo-Zach Taylor skinning up the upper east ridge of Quandry Peak. photo by Grant Lewis, 2009.
photo-A view of the upper eastern ridge and bowl of Quandry Peak. photo by Grant Lewis, 2009.
photo-Zach Taylor looking out at the snow covered Rockies from the summit of Quandry peak. photo by Grant Lewis, 2009.
We summited under clear, somewhat windy skies. I have climbed and ridden this peak close to ten times and this was the most powder I had ever seen on this mountain. The famous tenmile range winds usually scour pow off this mountain quickly. We geared up excited to get first tracks down the powder filled east bowl of Quandary. I did a little poking around and digging at the top of the east bowl. From everything I could tell soft, light powder sitting on a bedsurface of convoluted, satrugi. The bowl was a go. We dropped in one at a time cautiously enjoying pow turns close to safe zones on the sides of the bowl.
As we were descending the bowl I noticed a line of skiers ascending up the ridge. We were the first on the summit and the first down this bowl today. Life is good!
photo- A view of Grant's and my tracks dropping off the asummit of Quandry peak descending the upper east bowl. Grant is pictured in the foreground. photo by Zach Taylor, 2009.
When we hit the bottom of the bowl, we hiked back up to the east ridge and dropped off the south face of Quandary from about 12,000'. With the aspect and elevation change the snow changed dramatically to corn at first and then turned into slush close to the bottom.
We hit the Montezuma road that parallels the east ridge of Quandary in the bottom of the valley to the south of Quandary. We skated/hiked/rode this snow covered road back to my car at the trailhead.
We got back down quite happy about the turns and the day. Quandary is always a nice peak to go out for a midwinter peak descent.