Hiking a Colorado 14er: Quandary Peak

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My husband and his friend from New York have started a tradition of hiking 14ers, or mountains that exceed 14,000 feet in elevation, and this past weekend they took on the task of hiking Quandry Peak. Colorado has a lot of 14ers, and there are usually multiple ways you can get to the top, including hiking, mountain biking and, sometimes, even driving. (We did this for my birthday back in April when we visited Pikes Peak.) Needless to say, hiking a 14er isn’t on my Colorado Bucket List, so I’m glad that Chris has found a companion in Gavin to tackle these adventures.

I asked Chris to do a little write-up about the trip. Here’s what he had to say:

My buddy and I have started a tradition of hiking 14ers every year. This was the 4th 14er we have tackled, and it was a blast! Although we were originally going to hike Mt. Elbert, we changed our mind at the last minute. To be honest, we (I) just didn’t feel prepared, since Mt. Elbert would have been a longer hike, which meant starting earlier, and it was farther from home. So we decided to hit up Quandary Peak, which is right outside Breckinridge, instead. 

Quandary stands at 14,265’, and the trailhead is pretty accessible as far as 14ers go. For example, for the Grays and Torreys trailhead, you drive up a steep dirt road that would be pretty difficult without a four-wheel drive. The Quandry trailhead was paved all the way to the parking lot. We arrived around 5:55 am and the top parking lot was full and the second lot filled up while we were getting ready to hike. In other words, if this sounds like something you’d like to try … get there early!

The hike is incredible — it was the shortest but most difficult that I’ve done so far. It is pretty much a 3.5-mile, consistently steep climb, with the majority of the hike taking place on rocky terrain above the treeline. It was pretty challenging, but that’s part of the fun of hiking a 14er.

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We started our hike at 6:00 am and got into a pretty good groove. It was definitely intense with the altitude shifts, but by taking short, regular breaks, we made it to the top in about two hours. As an aside, our previous 14ers were done on Fridays and were fairly chill. Saturday was extremely busy by comparison -— get there EARLY if you are going to hike on the weekend.

All the work to reach the summit of the mountain is worth it, because the top of the peak is breathtaking — it feels like the top of the world. It was freezing through. My buddy and I had three layers, gloves and winter hats on, but the cold got to us pretty quickly. We enjoyed a well-earned sandwich and shared a beer (Dry Dock Abomination IPA). We took the obligatory photos, and then headed home.

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The elevation gain is the most we have experienced, so coming down was almost harder than going up. It was super steep with loose rock all the way down, which meant sketchy footing … but slow and steady wins the race. We actually met two members of the military at the top. They took our photo and we took theirs. They started heading down around the time we started making our way and we chatted all the way, which made the descent quite fun.

After a quick photo at the trailhead sign, we popped back into the car and headed to Idaho Springs to get a little closer to home before stopping for lunch. We went to Tommyknocker for lunch and a beer – which was quite delicious and a perfect end to the day.

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