On September 5, 2106 we hiked with our friends up Quandary Peak, which lies at 14,265 ft. It is the 13th highest peak in Colorado. It was our second time hiking Quandary – we hiked it once in winter conditions so the views and hiking experience were very different! A little fun fact about the ever-popular Quandary Peak:
The peak’s name comes from a group of miners who were unable to identify a mineral sample found on its slopes in the 1860s. The group was in a “quandary” over the exact nature of the mineral, and ended up naming the mountain from where it originated.
- Round trip length: 6.75 miles
- Start elevation: 10,850 feet
- End elevation: 14,265 feet
- Total elevation gain: 3,450 feet
- Trail head: Quandary trail head
From Breckenridge, drive 8 miles south on Colorado 9. Turn right (west) on the 850 (Blue Lakes) Road. Drive a few hundred yards and turn right on the 851 (McCullough Gulch) Road. Drive 0.1 mile to the signed trailhead and small parking area. If the trailhead lot is full, cars should park along the 851 road or in the overflow lot, down at the start of the 850 road. PLEASE DO NOT park on the side of the 850 road, in front of homes. The trail starts just above the trailhead, on the 851 road.
So continues our friend week trip. As I mentioned in this post, our Maryland friends were visiting for a week. We hiked Mt. Princeton a few days prior with success, and after a rest day we were ready for 14er #2. That was to come in the form of Huron Peak, also in the Sawatch Range and sitting just above 14,000 (14,003 ft and 6.5 miles round trip).
Well, we started in cloudy skies and were a little worried about the weather.
After emerging from the trees and reaching the basin, we saw a mass exodus of people from the top. I don’t know how many were coming down after summiting vs. turning around short of the top, but we heard a few people say that they saw lightening. Dammit. It was hard to tell – there were low clouds all around and off in the distance it looked dark. But my experience with bad weather in the mountains is limited given that we usually only hike 14ers when the forecast looks good. We ultimately decided to turn back. Of course when we were near the bottom there were blue skies overhead. I think the lesson learned (for us) is that if the weather is not clear cut, wait it out at tree line.
Anyways, so we were disappointed. We decided to try a different 14er for the next day. The weather forecast looked great so we made our way to Aspen with our sights set on Conundrum and Castle peaks. The 4WD road up to the top looked rough so Dan drove it without anything in the car to see if we could make it up in the morning. It included fording a river. The good ole Subaru did it, so we went to bed expecting a successful next day.
Dun dun dun.
Well, the next morning we forded the river, got the car up a really rough section, and thought we were in the clear. Too good to be true. We unexpectedly hit a rougher section and heard a soul-crushing hiss. Eff. We blew a tire.
So we made the responsible decision to not just hike from there (which was my vote…). We put the donut on and crossed our fingers that we could drive on the donut through rough terrain, through a river, and reach a tire store on Labor Day. Slowly but surely we made it to the Big O tire store in Basalt. Funny enough we saw another would-be hiker that had passed us in their car on the way up to Conundrum, that later ALSO popped a tire right after us. Misery loves company.
Big O tire in Basalt was a cluster F, and after an hour we were told that they did not have tires to fit our car. So off we went to the Glenwood Springs Big O, surpassing 50 miles on the donut. Luckily, we were able to get new tires quickly.
It was supposed to be sunny ALL DAY with no chance of storms so we thought – why not try to salvage the day and hike Quandary Peak?
We started at 2:30 PM. Yes, this is late.
It was interesting to be going up while everyone was coming down. We’ve now done 21 14ers and as we’ve started all of them at 6 AM or earlier, this was our first 14er sunset. Wee.
The top was beautiful. We pretty much had it to ourselves.
Down we go in the impending doom/darkness:
We spent the last part of the hike in the dark, but since the trail through the trees is easy to follow it wasn’t too bad. I definitely wouldn’t recommend starting so late and hiking in the dark. DO NOT DO IT. But it worked for us at that time and with the given weather prediction.
We scarfed down beers and brats at camp and promptly fell to sleep.