After a tune up on Mt. Shavano earlier this week, Jeremiah Meizis and I headed for Mt. Quandary yesterday. Mt. Quandary is one of the most popular and straightforward 14ers located just south of Breckenridge on the north side of the Continental Divide.
Unlike Shavano, where we were the only people for miles, when we arrived at the Quandary trailhead at 6:45am we were already the 5th party to arrive. By 7:00am we were on the trail . The route up Quandary was about as simple as it gets, just gain the ridge and then follow it to the top.
By 7:50 we had reached treeline and passed 2 parties of snowshoers. The sun was shining bright and the temperature was quickly rising as we pressed on to the top.
We made good time up the east ridge and continued to pass the 2 remaining parties on our way to the final climb. We reached the summit at 9:25am where we stopped for a snack and some obligatory photos while we discussed our descent route.
Our primary objective for Quandary was to descend via the south facing Cristo Couloir, but after observing a large amount of activity on similar aspects we opted to play it safe and descend via the east bowls instead. The wind on the summit was fierce so our time spent on top was brief.
We were able to ski directly from the summit and to our surprise the turns were outstanding. With good snow and the temperature staying cold up high we opted to take another lap, so after skiing down to 13,100ft we hiked back to the top and skied it again.
After our second lap of the upper bowl we continued descending the east side. On our way down we came across a pair of Mountain Goats. This was the first time I had ever seen a Mountain Goat in the wild, so I was pretty excited as fumbled with my camera. Unfortunately, they weren't nearly as excited to see me.
As we descended the snow just got better and better with the rising temperature. We skied perfect corn all the way to treeline . Once we made the trees our perfect corn turned into a miserable slush making the last turns to the car less than memorable.
We arrived back at the car at 11:45am and were on our way back to the springs by 12. After skiing Shavano on Monday, Quandary felt like a walk in the park. Great weather and good conditions made for an outstanding day all around. All told we did 7.95 miles and 4,565ft of elevation in 4 hours and 45 minutes car to car.
- John McDonough
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Mt. Shavano - 4/7/14
On Monday, Jeremiah Meizis , Chris Lawrence, and I took advantage of some great weather and promising avalanche conditions to ski Mt. Shavano in the Sawatch Range. Mt. Shavano lies just south of the collegiate peaks and is home to the famous "Angel of Shavano," a popular snow climb/descent in the late spring.
Our day started off by foolishly trying to reach summer trailhead by car. Unfortunately the road is not plowed in the winter and the snow was blocking the road just over 3 miles from the trailhead. We turned around and eventually opted for the winter trailhead and after our morning detour we were officially on the trail at 9:30am.
After hiking the first half-mile or so we were able to start skinning our way to the summer trailhead. None of us knew the area well so we took our time and stopped frequently for the first few miles to check our maps. After reaching the summer trailhead we headed east and quickly starting gaining elevation.
We opted to follow the popular summer route, the east slopes, to avoid climbing through what we assumed was rapidly warming avalanche terrain. As soon as we gained the ridge we realized that the slopes we were avoiding were nothing more than wind scoured scree fields.
Navigating the rocks was, without a doubt, the most memorable part of the day and for all the wrong reasons. There is just something about post holing between rocks at 13,000ft that makes you never want to do it again. Our route through the rocks slowed our progress immensely but did allow for some impressive views while we stopped for a snack.
We eventually made it to the saddle below the summit and climbed to 13,600ft which was the highest point we could ski down from . We discussed dropping our skis and tagging the summit before heading down, but due to our late start and the ferocious winds we opted to change over and descend.
On the descent the saying "earning your turns" took on another meaning as we fought a 2-3 inch breakable crust from top to bottom. Due to the wind chill being well below zero we didn't linger to take too many photos.
It took us about an hour and a half to reach the summer trailhead where we switched back over and skinned the rest of the way back to the car. After a mandatory stop for dinner in Salida we were on our way back to the springs. All told our day consisted of 11 miles, 4,600 ft of elevation and took us just over 9.5 hours car to car.
It wasn't one of the best days of skiing I've ever had, but it was definitely one of the most memorable. Tomorrow we are headed to Mt. Quandary and hopefully we'll find some better turns up there!
A collection of stories and adventures from the FAMS director and instructors.