Now that I’m in Colorado I (of course, right?) have to climb 14ers. I have done a handful during the summer, but wanted to conquer one in the ‘winter’. I was very fortunate to see a post last fall from a group I follow (either 14ers.com or Always Choose Adventures) that there was going to be a Winter 14ers Kickoff (or something to that effect) in early November. It also happened to be on on my birthday, so what a great way to kick things off.
A friend of mine also happened to see the information and we decided to go conquer this thing together; it was Quandary. I had summitted Quandary before (sort of bummed because I wanted to check another off my list) but he hadn’t so it was all good. Neither of us had hiked up a 14er in the snow.
A sort of good thing about winter hiking is that you don’t have to leave as early in the morning, maybe we only left about 3:30 or 4am, vs 2 or 2:30am?
We had been in touch about what to pack, what to wear, and all else. Our bags were more than ready. When we arrived at the parking lot, we were some of the only ones there (we were heading out a little ahead of the group because we wanted to get a bit of a head start), it was still pitch black and 7 degrees. And yes, Fahrenheit. Yikes! We put on layers, then another layer, some gators, and microspikes and why not another layer. Oh, headlamp, too!
Off we went. Within 15 minutes the sun came up and I peeled off two layers (we were barely into this hike, and not above tree line). How? It’s now maybe double digits, at the lowest possible end. Well we just kept going. We were really lucky with light wind at the start.
As we continued to climb, about mid-way the wind slowly started picking up but with the sun out, it was good. It wasn’t until about 2/3 of the way up, on this really flat part of the mountain that I needed to put my jacket on, my tuque (yes, I’m a Canuck, that’s what I call it) and my gloves, in various stops. We would stop occasionally to snap pics and determine if we were good.
It was only at about 3/4 of the way up that we needed to make a decision on if we really wanted to continue. The wind start to really pick up and we had to sit for a couple minutes. Hey, snack time! Since it wasn’t insanely bad wind like we’d had before and we were both pretty comfortable, we decided to keep pushing. We were so close. And, Quandary is a pretty easy climb. And all things considered, the snow was fun! No snowshoes required. The microspikes were perfect. We could find paths from where people had been the past few days.
As with most climbs it’s the last part that’s the hardest. At towards the steep summit the wind was worse and I got down on my hands and knees at the peek to crawl toward a place we could sit for literally a minute or two to take in what we’d just done. Summitted our first winter 14er! Clear blue sky in November in Colorado, views for miles. That’s why we live here. We barely snapped pictures because of the wind and decided to get food further down. Wish we could have stayed there for hours.
As usual, the descent is easier. I totally wish I had my skis with me on this one! Once we got out of the windy area, it was great! Layers were coming off. The snow was also getting slushy. We had started before the big group did because we were afraid we’d be slow. We bumped into them, said hi and had a great social day. There was a BBQ in the parking lot at the end for celebration, too.
Would like to do some more of these, my one issue is that I also like using the snow for skiing.