Saturday, February 15, 2014

Quandary Winter Climb

With the goal of completing a winter 14er climb this winter, my buddy Elliot and I set out to summit Quandary Peak. The amount of gear you need for even a relatively modest climb isn't even comparable to what you need for summer (clothes, food and water essentially). Snow shoes, trekking poles, microscpikes, jackets, coats, sweaters...etc. Still it was pretty fun. Used to summer schedules, we arrived at the crack of dawn to find a fresh snow on the trail. First thing I learned is that "fresh pow" isn't to die for (like it is in skiing) when your trying to climb up it.
Peaking out of treeline
It was really hard work breaking trail, but pretty slow too - the final speed average was 0.8mph. We found our way following the route I had plotted on on my watch, so we were never too far from the official trail. Breaking out of treeline, the arduous grind to the summit - which was still shrouded in clouds - began. Going in short intervals, we continued up for a long while, with me still breaking trail the whole way.
What happened to just shoes and socks?
Elliot topping out over a ridge, winds starting to pick up
As time went on, the weather continued to worsen. The light breeze turned to sharp wind with moderate snow. Up and up we went, another group caught up to us before turning around to be somewhere else (why wouldn't you want to be in storm on mountain?).
Compare with previous picture for weather conditions, pictures taken 45 minutes apart
At a certain point visibility was zero, we could see glimpses of the ridge we were following once every 30 seconds or so, but it really wasn't worth the risk to continue. The pictures don't really give justice to how bad it was; especially with no trees around, it was very disorienting. Looking at the GPS track on a topo map says we made it to 13k, but barometer says 12,700 - regardless, it was fun/hard. Hate to turn back before hitting the summit, but we'll be back. We met another fellow in the parking lot who had also turned around before the summit, since we were breaking trail, not sure if anyone made it up that day.
Elliot heading back down in the white-out
Luckily some fine gent packed out a full trail for us on the way down - much easier this way. Would have been life changing to have skied the glades back down with about a foot and a half of untouched powder.
Descending the path we forged. Photo: Elliot

Breaking on the way down

Definitely a good option for a winter climb, had it not been so "Siberian" up top, I have no doubt we would have made it - highly recommend to anyone.
Notice the complete disregard for any switchbacks. Direct lines look mighty fine...

1 comment:

  1. Great pics, that snow looks amazing.