Quandary Peak

On 7 July 2019, Zosia Zgolak and I hiked up Quandary Peak in the Tenmile Range of Colorado's Rocky Mountains.  We used the standard east ridge route as described in Chris Meehan's guidebook, Climbing Colorado's Fourteeners.

Turn west onto County Road 850 from Highway 9 about 13 kilometres north of Alma or about 12 kilometres south of Breckenridge.  The overflow parking lot (with 2 portable toilets that are also near "overflowing") is immediately on the right, but to get to the actual trailhead, take the next right onto County Road 851 and drive for another 350 metres to the official Quandary Peak parking area which is likely to be full (room for only 3 or 4 vehicles).  The signed trail starts a short distance further up the road.  Cars parked along the side of the road here may be at risk of being ticketed.  Overnight parking is forbidden at both parking lots, but there are plenty of dispersed campsites available further along County Road 851 beyond the last "No Parking" sign.

After camping the night before not far up County Road 851, Zosia and I were up well before dawn thinking that we might get a coveted spot at the official parking area and be first up the trail.  Much to our surprise, the official parking area was full, and there were already numerous hikers making their way from the overflow parking lot to the trailhead.  As such, we parked at the overflow lot and walked the extra distance up the road to the signed trailhead.

The trail up the east ridge of Quandary Peak is well-defined and easy to follow.  After an initial steady climb through the forest, the trail breaks out of the trees and continues to rise up the broad and open ridge.  At mid-mountain, the trail flattens out for a bit before climbing more steeply up a narrower section of the ridge.  The trail then flattens out again just before the summit.

When snow-free, it is virtually impossible to get lost on this trail, and there is probably no shortage of other people going the same way.  From top to bottom, this was probably the most congested trail that Zosia and I hiked during our entire road trip, and given the wide variety of people to be found here, a circus-like atmosphere is inevitable.  One patriarch that was leading a large group of women and children up the mountain was particularly obnoxious as he tried to motivate some of the lagging members by barking at them like a drill sergeant.  Even normally mild-mannered Zosia felt like punching him!

Other than fighting through the hordes of people on the trail, we had no other issues reaching the summit of Quandary Peak.  The views from the top did not disappoint, and the only reason we did not stay longer was to allow room for the steady stream of people arriving there.  On our descent, we took advantage of lingering snow patches to boot-ski or glissade the upper mountain.  Although we saw a few goats earlier in the day on our way up, we saw quite a few more on our way down.  One goat in particular gained the trail in front of us and appeared to lead us all the way down to tree line.  With the crowds of people on Quandary Peak, it is perhaps not surprising that goats frequent this trail.  Here is an interesting article that may explain why many mountain goats are so attracted to people.  Once Zosia and I had our fill of goats for the day, we briskly hiked the rest of the way back to the overflow parking lot without further interruptions.
I don't know where this girl finds so much energy this early in the day! Zosia sets a brisk pace up the trail.
Zzzzzzzzzzzzzz... Sonny seems less than excited about the standard route up Quandary Peak.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

Looks innocuous enough, but there's a lot of elevation gain still to come! A break in the trees grants this view of the upcoming climb.
I think I'm still sleep-walking here! The well-defined trail eliminates the need for route-finding on this mountain.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

You're not likely to be alone on this trail! Beyond the last trees, the trail climbs up through tundra-like terrain.  Zosia is visible here on the skyline at far left.
Keep on plodding! The east ridge of Quandary Peak looks gentle enough, but the summit is still a lengthy climb from here.
With this many people, there are bound to be one or two prima donnas among the crowd! A steady stream of hikers head up the final stretch before the summit.
America, f**k yeah! Zosia and Sonny stand near the summit of Quandary Peak (4346 metres).  Note that the peak's name is misspelled on the placard, but the elevation corresponds precisely with Sonny's GPS reading.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

"$250 FINE OR IMPRISONMENT FOR DISTURBING THIS MARK" Here is Quandary Peak's summit survey marker.
There are quite a few tarns in this photo, but they're hard to discern because of the snow. The mountains surrounding the basin just north of Quandary Peak include Atlantic Peak (left) and Pacific Peak (centre).  Both peaks are over 13,000 feet in elevation.
I'm surprised nobody brought skis or snowboards! Although the footing is a bit uneven on the sun-kissed snow, it is nevertheless easier to descend here than on the rocks to the left of the photo.
Don't need no stinkin' ice axe! Despite not bringing an ice axe, Sonny just cannot resist a good glissade.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

Rip it, Zosia! Zosia cautiously gets her bum wet.
To each their own, I say! Zosia decides to dry her bum off and plunge-step the rest of the way down the snow slope.

Too many speed bumps!

Sonny takes one last slide down the ridge.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak


That would be an awesome ski down the slope at the right of the photo!

This is the view of Upper Blue Lake which sits below the north slopes of North Star Mountain (far left).  Some parties ascend Quandary Peak from the dam beside the lake.


They like to lick the spots that people pee on for the salt! This is one of several goats seen along the trail on this day.
We're now being guided by the goat! The goat leads Zosia and a couple of other hikers down the trail.
Please come baaaaaack!! The goat looks a little forlorn after being left behind by Zosia and the other hikers.

Looks quite nice when you can't see the hordes of people on it!

Here is a last look at Quandary Peak from the highway just north of Hoosier Pass.


Someone really needs to empty those porta-potties at the "overflow" parking area! Total Distance:  11.5 kilometres
Round-Trip Time:  6 hours
Net Elevation Gain:  1089 metres

GPX Data