A few weeks ago, Jesse and I climbed Quandary Peak, one of the 14ers closer to Boulder. I never put the pictures up as Quandary was a break from all the increasingly frantic getting together of my collection. But as of yesterday Rumbullion is off to my editor, and that means my brain can rest a little, and blogging can happen! Yay!
Quandary is one of those 14ers Colorado people tell visiting sea-level friends is totally easy. We ran into a few of those on the trail—they all made it! But were swearing a lot by the end. By contrast, a seasoned Colorado badass parked it at a false summit and waited for his family to finish up. So, no yeah, no predicting. Anyways, because of Quandary’s reputation, this was at trailhead:
It’s true! Both the “easy” part and the “there are no shortcuts.”
Anyways, before we even got to trailhead, the adventure began. It was a glorious morning, and by morning I mean middle of the night practically. 14ers are a popular passtime in the summer, so we met up at 4 AM on a Tuesday to make tracks for the mountain. Woof. (And we weren’t the first cars there.) It was almost worth it, though, as there was a beautiful full moon up. Once the sky got a bit lighter, it was even prettier:
Quandary, unlike some 14ers, starts below treeline. Thus you get a nice, cool, shady ascent at first. Then comes some serious ascending, made less arduous by awesome views into some old mines (Quandary is “close” to Bross), dams, and wildernesses.
Soon enough, however, you get into… the talus.
Quandary is like… all talus, all the time. Frankly, it kind of sucks. My feet were more sore after this 7ish mile hike than they’ve been, in friggin Vibrams, after a 15 miler. Woof, with knobs on. Let’s say woof with double knobs on actually–see that incline? Yeah, that’s not the summit above me. Not even close. Quandary has nearly as many false summits as it does talus.
Quandary is also infested with goats:
We kept seeing big chunks of shed hair everywhere, and wondering if someone had brought up a pack of huskies or something. Nope, goats. Lots of them. Mean ones, too. This fellow in particular was a prime jerk, literally (in the pre-Google sense) running up on us to stand smack dab in the middle of the trail and eat grass for 20 minutes. They tell dudes—and ladies, I guess—not to pee on the side of trails for exactly this reason: pee is full of salt, goats like salt, turning the sides of trails into a big salt lick attracts ornery old fuckers like this dude. He was still feasting when one foolish hiker who had bottlenecked behind us tried to scare him, waving his arms and shouting, “Go on, goat, git!” The goat promptly became angry, lowered his head, and began to paw the earth. Bad news! People have died from mountain goat gorings, you know. Anyways, Jesse redirected the goat with the use of his magic staff, carved for him by our friend David Ardanuy. All were impressed. There was applause! Jesse got to be King of the Goats for the day.
He had me take probably 15 pictures until he was satisfied by this one.
All hardships aside, if you keep your spirits up, Quandary’s summit is actually really awesome. You reach almost-the-top after some brutal talus-strewn switchbacking, and then you traverse along to the spike. I may have gotten a bit of “summit fever” and left Jesse behind at that point, making a break for the summit at full tilt, hooting gleefully, as Jesse hung back, “playing it safe” and scolding me like a chicken about altitude sickness and whatever and blah blah blah.
But eventually, he caught up!
My absolute favorite thing about 14er culture is the taking—and leaving—of signs proclaiming You Made It!! There were maybe ten under a rock for us to choose from. More people came up behind us, carrying their own and leaving them for others. People are thrilled to take your picture with the signs. It’s such a great feeling of “we’re all in this together!” as you all sit and rest at the summit. You see people who passed you on the way up, and they wave and smile; you cheer on all the people you passed. When we saw the aforementioned cheerful-but-skeptical out of towners who had been convinced Quandary was “easy” we huzzahed them and took their pictures. It’s awesome.
And then… it’s time go down.
Double woof with double knobs on. See that road at the bottom? Yeah. Even so… man, I love 14ering!
Next time: pictures from my recent trip to San Francisco!