Quandary Peak – 14,265 (winter)

RT Length: 7 miles

Elevation Gain: 3450’

The weather just about everywhere in the state today was forecasted as miserable. Everywhere except for Quandary (even the 13ers and mountains adjacent to Quandary were forecasting snow).  Quandary showed clear weather from 4am-2pm so I decided to make the best of the situation and work on my winter 14er goal for the year.

I slept an extra hour this morning. It’s been a long time since I’ve hiked in the daylight, and now that my youngest has her license and I don’t need to be home quite so early every time I hike. I had the ability and wanted to start out hiking today with light.  The roads were terrible on my drive in for most of the way.  The worst tended to be in the cities (looking at you Woodland Park) but surprisingly the back highways were mostly clear.  In any event, due to ice on the roads I didn’t go above 30mph the entire way so I didn’t arrive until after 6:30am.

The upper trailhead was closed so I parked at the lower trailhead. This adds about 100 feet to the hike so it was no big deal.


I was surprised to find 3 other vehicles in the parking lot when I arrived. I reminded myself this was a popular 14er, even in winter time, and I’d gotten a late start.

The path was easy to follow up the dirt road to the start of the trail. It was just beginning to get light out, so I didn’t need my flashlight (woohoo!).



I’d read from a conditions report yesterday there was no trail, but quickly found the upside to others being here before me: They were trenching the trail!  It feels like it’s been forever since I’ve had someone else trench a trail for me.  In fact, it was only one other time and I can name the date:  Evans, my 2nd 14er, June 2017, and it wasn’t the trail they trenched but the last bit to the summit.

The trail today was quiet and peaceful and I enjoyed just walking through the snow.


Well, all except for my snowshoes. Today I’d decided to see if my microspikes had any effect on the bindings of my snowshoes, and apparently they didn’t:  They come undone whether or not I’m wearing microspikes.  Sigh.  Oh well.  It’s not too big of an inconvenience, but they should really replace these things with ratchet bindings so they don’t come undone.  Or add another way to secure the straps.


I was appreciative of the group before me, trenching lazy ‘S’ curves up the mountainside.


But just after I took this picture I caught up to the group and decided to take over trenching: They’d done such a good job and must have been tired.  They deserved a break and I wanted the exercise.  The difference between their trench and mine was theirs gradually gained the slope:  I just trudged straight up the ridge.


I continued hiking until about 13,100’, crossed a flat ridge and saw the rest of the route before me


It was here with 1000’ left of elevation gain I decided to try out the heel lifts on my new snowshoes. I take back everything negative I’ve ever said about these snowshoes… well, everything except the need for ratchet bindings.  Those heel lifts are amazing!!!  Where have they been all my life?  They made an insane difference, and I was flying up the mountain.

About halfway up I turned and looked around. I knew there were at least 5 people behind me, but they were nowhere in sight.  They must still be below the ridge.


OK, this was all I had left. Time to book it to the summit


OK, maybe a little more


Wait, what?!?! What’s this?  There was a large grouping of snow where the summit should have been.  I was going to need to cross this in order to officially claim I’d summited.  I took one step and sank up to my knees.  Hmmm.  This snow was not stable and I wasn’t sure what was beneath (I found out later it was just a flat summit and I most likely could have walked straight across).  I decided to play it safe and stick to the right.  It was slow going, slippery, and unstable.  Here’s looking back from the true summit.


I set up my camera to take a photo and got one shot before my camera died (well, stopped working until it warmed up again). So here’s my one summit photo…  Good thing this isn’t my first summit of Quandary.


It was snowing on all the mountains all around me, and while the snow was headed towards Quandary it didn’t look like it would make it here. It seemed like I’d chosen the correct peak to summit today!  And: Quandary with no wind?  That’s unheard of!  I started my trek back down.  I made it halfway down the ridge before seeing anyone else.


I’d wanted to hike Hoosier Ridge today, but the weather was forecasted as better on Quandary, and indeed the forecast had been correct as it was now snowing on Hoosier Ridge. I took a good look at it for tomorrow and marked in my mind the features I could see.


I stopped along the flat section to get a few pictures


And noticed some goats!


I was only able to see them due to the trails they were making in the snow, otherwise I’d never have known they were there.


OK, time to get serious about heading down. Check out that trench!


As I descended I kept seeing more and more people working their way up: snowshoers, skiers, and some hikers just wearing microspikes. I wasn’t sure there was enough snow to ski, but there sure were a lot of skiers out today.  I don’t really understand 14er skiing.  It’s not that I don’t like to ski, it just seems like a lot of work for a “you get one” kind of experience. Also, I don’t want to become addicted to another sport, especially something that involves snow, so I’ll leave the 14er skiing to others for now.  There was plenty of skiable snow just at and below treeline, but it seemed these skiers intended on summiting as well.  I saw at least two dozen people, if not more, and was glad I’d gotten an ‘early’ start.  Boy was that trench looking good now!


I saw a group of three men on my way down working their way up. They’d found my bandana and the microspike I wasn’t aware I’d lost.  Thanks guys!

I made it down at 10:30am, making this a 7 mile hike in 4 hours. The parking lot was packed.


This really is a straightforward hike: make it to treeline and follow the ridge. With clear skies (at least over Quandary) and no wind it was a perfect hike for today.  I’d like to summit four 14ers during winter this year.  1 down, 3 to go!


Author: Laura M Clark

Laura has summited over 500 peaks above 13,000' solo, including being the first woman to solo summit all of the Colorado 14ers, as well as the centennials. After each hike, she writes trip reports for each one and publishes them on her blog, which is read by fans all over the world. Author of Wild Wanderer: Summiting Colorado’s 200 Highest Peaks, which is available to purchase on Amazon.

3 thoughts on “Quandary Peak – 14,265 (winter)”

  1. Thank you Laura for the beautiful snow photos and I’m always awed at your activity chart. You mentioned Your weight @105 lbs. in a previous printing and I realize the stamina You have carrying no fat as You make summit after summit and with a smile.


  2. What a beautiful start to Your summit . I also recognize the fact that Your as surefooted as the mountain goats You photograph.Even Your writings are inadequate to what you actually accomplish in such severe weather conditions.I don’t mean any offense in my responses to your to Your postings,but only the highest esteem for what You do for others and Yourself. My regards go to Your daughter as She enjoys the road just as Her Mother.


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