STANDARD ROUTE / EAST RIDGE
ACCORDING TO 14'ERS:
Difficulty: Class 1
Trailhead Elevation: 10,850'
Total Miles: 6.75
Reptar, Red Moon, Snap, C#, and I all camped out at Hoosier Pass the night before we decided our time would be best spent climbing Quandry Peak via the Standard Route the following morning. Snap had driven 8 hours that day and the previous night to get to Colorado for Reptar's last 'hoorah'. A mere 4 hours earlier I was gardening at a multi-million dollar house in Downtown. Different change of pace, ya? Reptar was at his 9-5. We were all doing our daily routines before we headed to the mountains.
I had gotten to Reptar's and we patiently waited for Red Moon as we double checked our camera gear and tested out the drone. Red Moon arrived about half past 5 and we hopped in our cars and headed out. I made my way onto the highway and settled in for the two and a half hour drive down near Breck. A beautiful drive; the highway twists and turns around and through the mountains as the grade increases. We stopped at the liquor store to grab some beers before we got up to the pass. Apparently, Snap had some dinner waiting for us; he called and asked if we had any dietary restrictions. Reptar and I were both a bit confused, but happily obliged.
We had all pulled up to the camp spot and parked in a scattered manner, each taking a corner of the small dirt parking lot. Reptar and I exited the Versa and embraced Snap and C#. It's been nearly a year since I've seen Snap, and nearly 2 since I've seen C#. Friends from the Appalachian Trail will be friends for life, so it was as easy as "Holy shit dude, whats up?!". It's always such a pleasant time hanging out with friends from the AT, or any long trail for that matter. Anyone who's ever hiked a long trail knows that thru hiking friends are friends for life.
Snap had an oil lantern burning on a stump of wood with a platter of food laid out near his Coleman camp stove. He had made some delicious rice and vegetable combo and I was absolutely in heaven. We devoured the food as the beers were cracked and our first 'Cheers!' of the night was upon us. We spent the next few hours telling stories of our experiences on trail, our trips out west, and just catching up. It's so easy to get wrapped up in the past and future that sometimes we forget about the present; so we took photos, and talked about the plans for the following morning. Eventually, the oil lantern burned into nothing as I lay my head down on my pillow just outside of the car.
We all slept in and eventually broke camp and drove to the trailhead at around 6:45 or so, resulting in a relatively late start at 8:00 or so once we finally started walking.
The trail is relatively easy going for the first mile or so. It twists and turns it's way through the forest and stays below tree line as the once smooth, dirt path turns into a rocky ascent. Reptar, C# and I were definitely in a bit better shape than Snap and Red Moon, but we all stuck together for the first couple of miles. We would stop every ten minutes or so to chat, catch our breath, and drink some water. The trail is fairly nice and forgiving, so we didn't mind taking a quick break every once in awhile. Not to mention, all the photos that were being snapped. Eventually, the trail turned steeper than what everyone was expecting. Although the Standard Route up Quandary isn't technically difficult, it is nearly a four mile climb with a good bit of elevation gain. The altitude was affecting Snap and Red Moon more than the rest of us, so we continued our pace and we would stop at the plateaus and wait a bit for them. People passed by as we waited, chatting along the way, and sometimes even breaking together to meet some other people. Out here in Colorado, it seems that every hiker is as friendly as the last. I've yet to encounter anyone that's really had a bad attitude or anything.
Eventually, C# and I began to pull away as the terrain got harder. We both pushed to the Summit Ridge and waited 15 or so minutes before we decided to head up to the Summit without the boys. We knew they would be there, it was just a matter of when. The last half mile or so was a grueling, steep climb, but I made haste of it and reached the Summit, picked out a spot to sit, and did just that. C # was right behind me and came over to enjoy the view as well. We sat there for about a half hour, and what do ya know, one by one the boys started flowing over the summit. Snap first, then Reptar. We were still waiting on Red Moon, and according to Reptar, he was struggling pretty bad. Nonetheless; with not a moments notice, we all looked at the summit together from the next bump down, and we saw him clip the summit with his hands thrown in the air! What a rejoicing moment for everyone. We all high fived, cracked our summit beers, and enjoyed it together for a bit. We took photos, laughed, and embraced the moment. For Red Moon, it was his first Colorado 14'er. It was triumphant to say the least.
It was getting late in the afternoon already, almost 2:00 PM to be exact. We still had to descend the mountain, and a lot of times, the descent is the hardest part. Whether it be on the knees, the loose rock that makes your feet slide out from under you, or just the pure exhaustion from the climb, the descent is always tricky. For me, I thrive on the descent, so after I made a phone call to Ducky, I bombed the descent and caught up to C # and Reptar. Snap and Red Moon were absolutely sloshed from the climb, so they took their sweet time getting down.
We all met back up at the parking lot a couple of hours later. We decided to go grab some grub together and ended up at a Vietnamese place right in Breckenridge. After our summit victory meals were devoured, we said our goodbyes for the time being and went our separate ways.
It was incredibly rewarding getting to summit Quandary with a few good friends; some I haven't seen in quite some time. I tend to lean towards thinking that the best part about hiking is consistently the people. Sometimes I feel otherwise, but most of the time, these experiences are so much better when shared with friends.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON THE ROUTE:
For me personally, this was the easiest 14'er I've done thus far. It's a steep climb up, just about 1,000' per mile, but the terrain is quite nice. No technical rock hopping, scrambling, or climbing. Just a nice, hard, breathtaking hike up the mountain. It's a fairly popular 14'er to attempt, so the parking lot, the trail, and the summit were all pretty busy. The scenery is absolutely gorgeous the entire way up, and luckily enough, plenty of mountain goats were roaming around on the Summit and on the plateaus.
The trail is in good shape, and it seems that most people hiking this route are practicing LNT, which is always a major concern of mine. I would love to summit Quandary again, but this time most definitely on the West Ridge. Overall, this was a BLAST of a weekend with some really incredible friends. I was stoked to share the summit with them and watch everyone meet their goals for the day. We had a blast shooting, hiking, and just hanging out. The weather for us was unreal; not cold, not too hot, and plenty of overcast to go with the sun peaking out once in awhile. Realistically, I would hike this route again, but not alone, probably if I was taking friends on a 14'er hike or something. I'm more into the difficult, scrambling, navigating-type routes.