The centennial of the ten mile range, Quandary Peak sits quietly watching over Summit County and the surrounding wilderness. The east face of Quandary is a popular first 14er ski decent for many, so much so that no matter what time of the year you decide to go for the summit you will not be alone. Although, if you’re an advanced skier you can find some solitude.
6:00 am: I wake up excited for the day. The avalanche danger level is low and the weather will be warm with a moderate 8-15 mph wind from the W-SW. I make oatmeal and coffee and hit the road. The trailhead is only 15 min from my home in French Gulch and the drive gives me a chance to see a couple of different aspects throughout the southernmost sections of the ten-mile range. I get to the trailhead and begin my skin at 7:30 am, it is not too cold and the skin track is well developed. As I close in on the tree-line the sun begins to shine and the warmness is welcomed. I shed a layer, eat a Four Points bar and keep moving. I get above tree-line and the wind starts to howl. I wait for the rest of my group at the saddle before summiting the peak. When the sun goes behind the clouds and the wind rips, it’s cold…like freezing. We meet up and tackle the summit. My skins are garbage by this point in the season so I option to boot pack. I’ll be investing in ski crampons asap. At the summit we only sit for a moment because the wind is freezing and howling incessantly. We ski down about 500ft from the summit on the edge of the east face and find the entrance to the couloir.
After a quick ski cut across the top we are all confident in the stability until we see the remains of a wind slab released the day before. No matter how confident you may be in the stability, shit happens…so we proceed with caution down the rest of the upper section of the couloir, making sure that the person in front is in a safe spot before another drops in from above.
The snow is consistent and untracked on both sides of the couloir. The rollovers are somewhat wind affected and the “crux” sections of the run are a little icy. In those situations you just have to ski them fast and keep your edge. The middle section has some avalanche debris to the right side and we took precedent to avoid them as best we could. After going though the steep section we get to the lower part of the run. We head to the far left side of the apron and find some delightfully soft powder. Fist bumps, smiles, and hooting and hollering the rest of the way down. Great skiing.
We get the opportunity on the trek back to check out the rest of the north - northeast zones off Quandary. If you’re willing to make the effort there is a lot to explore.
All smiles at the bottom and you can see the rocks i took advantage of hitting on the right and the powder spin drift.
I feel very lucky to be so close to such great terrain. Stay tuned for next weeks post! More colorado 14er skiing adventures.