Quandary Peak, at 14,265 feet, is the 13th highest 14er in Colorado. It is considered a good first
time, family peak. The name supposedly was given by some miners who had difficulty in
identifying mineral specimens on the mountain. Ironically, when Wayne, Jane and I climbed
Quandary in 1998, Wayne, who is a geologist, found some fields of feldspar on its eastern flanks
that seemed out of place, geologically speaking, and left him in somewhat of a quandary.
The standard route, following the large east ridge all the way to the summit, is easily accessed
by: taking Colorado Hwy 9 eight miles south from Breckenridge, turning onto a forest service
road just as the first big switchback starts up to Hoosier Pass, and taking the forest service road
back north and west approximately 1 mile to the trailhead sign on the west side of the road. Cars
park along both sides of road - lots of cars; it's hard to miss. The trail up to the east ridge is clear
and the several forks are all marked with signs on trees. Once on the east ridge, continue
following the trail, all the way to the top. And, do not get discouraged by the false summits.
Since Quandary is a somewhat `rolling' peak, the true summit is not visible for most of
the climb. The climb totals between 5.6 and 6 miles round trip, gaining (and losing) 3,345-3,365
feet in the process. Quandary is rated a Class 2, Novice hike/climb. For detailed route
descriptions and maps, we recommend you use one of the three guidebooks that are now available
for climbing Colorado's Fourteeners. We confer with all three before hiking, as each offers a
slighhtly different perspective. (Check out our
Favorite Links section.)
Although I have climbed Quandary 3 times, Brian and I have never climbed it together. He
climbed Quandary in 1976, the same year he `dragged' me up the Mount of the Holy Cross and
gave me my first taste of mountain (and 14ers) climbing in Colorado.
Interestingly, all 3 times I have climbed Quandary, it has been a `first-14er' for my climbing
partners. I first climbed it in early October 1979, on a beautiful late fall day. (October can be a
good month to climb big mountains in Colorado, in dry years, because there is little or
no threat of afternoon thunderstorms.) 1979 was such a year. Back then the lower section of
Quandary's east ridge route was undefined. The route began sooner, further south than now, and
consisted of bushwacking up to the east ridge, where the trail to the top was found.
In 1997, Kevin, a friend and business associate who lives in Cheyenne, Wyoming and has a
condo in Keystone, Colorado, asked me if I would go up Quandary with him and his son, Mike -
as their first 14er. Twist my arm! It was a real kick to go back, after 18 years, to re-capture my
memories and see how things had changed. Kevin and Mike did fine, and found out several basic
truisms of climbing 14ers - even if one is climbing a relatively `easy' 14er, the air is thin
up there, climbing uphill at that altitude is always work and losing 3,000+ feet in altitude
coming down does tend to beat up the knees, legs and feet.