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Quandary Peak East Bowls- "Easy" 14er?

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Posted by skistache on 2/26/24 10:51am

Colorado has an obsession with 14ers- no online dating profile is complete without a picture at the summit of one with a cardboard sign to commemorate the occasion, and how many of them you've climbed must be slipped into conversation as a subtle brag about your commitment to an outdoor lifestyle (evidenced by the number of stickers plastered onto your 4Runner). 

Personally, I don't have the drive to summit all of them. Raw numbers are important for the Strava-driven types, but I wear a $30 Timex and like to think I'm a bit more subjective when it comes to the value of adventures. All that said, the allure of tall peaks, epic views, and big descents never gets old, and I get a kick out of the idea of a morning adventure to heights that can't be attained on the West Coast without serious climbing skills and permits. Wanting to at least say I've skiied a 14er pointed me to Quandary Peak, a popular trek just south of Breckenridge, with gentle bowls, an epic springtime couloir, and easy access. Declining avalanche hazard and pleasant weather made the 24th a perfect morning for a climb. 

I started early to beat the hellish i70 traffic, and was leaving the parking lot by 6.40AM. Elevation at the foot of the peak is 10,800, and a well-marked trail climbs gently through glades to the foot of the Ridgeline. Winds steadily picked up on the climb, reaching a sustained (and bitterly cold) 20mph. The climb itself is reminiscent of the volcanoes in the Cascades, a gentle approach with minimal switchbacking, plodding slowly uphill with the ultimate objective in sight the entire time. Wind and thin air present the biggest challenges- your legs don't move the way you want them to with 40% less oxygen than sea level!)

I snapped a quick summit photo at the top before retreating to the start of the upper bowl to transition. Skiing up top wasn't bad per se, but scouring winds left a firm and uneven crust that had my skis wanting to bury the tails on each turn. I made quick work of the upper bowl, and shot across the ridgeline on the ascent trail to connect to the lower glades. Here's where the goods were- below the ridgeline dry powder sat undisturbed, and I made a beeline back to the parking lot, with unchallenging, mild powder skiing. I think this may in fact be the first real car-to-car I've skiied in Colorado (I do love getting back to the parking lot without a transition). 

4 hours even roundtrip, and glimpses over the edge into the long, straight chutes on the South face of Quandary definitely have inspired me to make a return when the snowpack is fatter and more stable!



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2024-02-26 18:51:50