So today was our wedding anniversary, and in true Colorado fashion, we celebrated by doing something athletic and outdoorsy. I wrote earlier about how hiking “Fourteeners” is something of a Colorado pastime, so today, we decided to tackle one we hadn’t done before. Hiking Fourteeners in September is quite common because it is much drier, and afternoon thunderstorms are much fewer. So last night, we packed the dogs, and our packs, and headed down to Frisco, Colorado to get an early Sunday start on heading up Quandary Peak. Many people consider some Fourteeners, like Quandary, Bierstadt, Grays Peak to be “easy” because they are shorter in total mileage. But as the sign said at the trailhead today, there are no easy Fourteeners. True to form, Quandary was short, but definitely not easy.
It is however, one of the more accessible Fourteeners for the Denver metro crowd, as it is just south of Breckenridge, Colorado, about 20 minutes off I-70. Because of this, the parking lot was full by the time we got there, and we encountered a fair amount of people as we worked our way up the trail. The first mile or so wasn’t too bad, mainly walking up through the forest, until we broke out on the tundra. Then we were walking on talus, sort of chunks of rock about 4-6 inches in size, that clink as you walk on them, and are just large enough to make you unsteady walking on it. Simon and Shawnee, our two dogs, using quadraped power, didn’t seem to have the balance issues I was having, and powered up the slope.
Still and all, we made relatively good time, keeping up a steady pace until we reached a ridge before the final ascent. The hike was pretty straightforward in that it didn’t have a bunch of false summits, which is the curse of Fourteener hikers everywhere. False summits appear from below to be the top of the mountain, and you only find out it is not the summit after you have reached it, and look up to see there is much more climbing to go. From the ridge, you could clearly see Quandary’s summit, and a trail of what appeared to be small ants slowly working their way up the spine of the mountain. That spine is an 1100 foot climb from 13,100 to 14,200 feet over a mere 0.8 miles. After we began that final climb, it was easy to understand why everyone seemed to be moving so slowly. It was super steep with nary a switchback in sight, and being above 13,000 feet, I really noticed the lack of oxygen along the way. Feeling a bit wimpy, I stopped several times to catch my breath, but persevered, and eventually gained the summit, where there were about twenty other people gathered. It was cold and windy, so we spent just a few minutes getting our “family” photos taken on the summit and headed back down. As we were happily heading down with smiles on our faces, we encountered many others struggling up, huffing and puffing, and I felt a bit better about my own ascent. A couple of hours later, we were in the parking area, tired, yet fulfilled from another great day of hiking, and adding yet another Fourteener to our accomplishments. What a great way to celebrate my anniversary with my outdoor partner for life, my husband, Bryon!