After sleeping in a little bit, I woke with some fresh new energy and decided to tackle another climb. I left for Breckenridge and Quandary Peak after a big breakfast. With a cloudless, blue sky and relatively warm temperatures in the low 60s on my drive to the peak, the parking lot was full of cars when I arrived. I packed up and headed to the trail map on the only route up this commonly climbed trail. The trail is a simple one that goes almost directly up the mountain with only a few switchbacks. This meant that there would be no ridges or flat areas to rest on or to recover while still gaining ground. Instead, I had to hike straight up.
As to be expected from the crowded parking lot, it was apparent that I would be seeing a lot of people on the trail. The muddy path through the snow with dozens of footprints going up and only a handful coming down was my second indicator. I jogged through
the wooded area hoping to make it to the tree line in good time. Fortunately for my legs, this trail is only 6.5 miles round trip. Even without completing the 6.5 miles, it was clearly a place that locals go to enjoy a hillside picnic or a short time outdoors. I encountered several people that just came to hike right past the tree line for a nice view while slowly conditioning to reach the goal of reaching the summit in the future. I admired their commitment and patience.
Past the tree line and up the extremely steep climb, I was able to enjoy the picturesque view of the residual snow sitting atop the surrounding mountains. The ski and snowboard season is undoubtedly right around the corner. I continued to climb what felt like a ladder going up the face of this peak. As the dirt became pebbles, pebbles to rocks, and rocks to boulders, I learned that Quandary Peak was going to be more challenging than I initially gave it credit for. I continued to climb upwards, passing groups of people struggling to complete the climb and being passed by groups descending the slope trying to encourage my efforts as they empathized with my pain. I continued to climb, gritting my teeth to deal with the fatigue in my body when I glanced over to see three different pairs of mountain goats just snacking on the sparse vegetation at this altitude. They quietly strolled along at 13,600 feet looking for any tuft of grass or leftover snacks that hikers had dropped accidentally. What a pleasant surprise to see these guys on the mountain! Living creatures calling this place home caused me to feel a little more sane for attempting to ascend mountains like this. After taking a few moments to watch my new friends, grab a snack, and put down as much water as I could, I pressed on to the summit.
The general rule for climbing 14’ers is to summit by noon and get back to the tree line as soon as you can. On the cloudless sky the day was providing, I was able to track the weather and safely have a late afternoon summit. After climbing over a couple false peaks, Quandary Peak was complete. I successfully completed four peaks in three days.
I was able to enjoy another weekend that continued to add wonderful life lessons, beautiful views, and physical accomplishment. I am writing this blog several days later due to work constraints and I can still remember the details of Quandary Peak. For that matter, I am able to recall each peak I have completed, its route, its wildlife, and their views. I have cherished every person I have met and every view I have been able to enjoy. I have been humbled by the number and depth of physical and mental barriers that I have been able to push through.
Thank you everyone who has been following and sending comments of encouragement as I have completed 30 of 53 peaks thus far. Perhaps I can squeeze 1 or 2 more climbs in before the snow really hits!