The last week of September we decided to attempt two of the easier 14ers (a 14er is a peak over 14,000ft) in Colorado — Quandary Peak and Mt. Elbert. I felt like since we hiked all summer without trying a 14er, we should try hiking one before we took off for most of October. At least then I can claim I’ve done the Colorado thing of hiking a 14er (instead of just driving up Mt. Evans). There is also something about being on top of a mountain that is kind of cool, tho I still think valleys make for prettier hikes.
Quandary Peak (~6.75 miles, 3,450ft elevation gain) is one of the closest 14ers to where we live. I found this peak on multiple lists as one of the easier 14ers in CO, and so we went.
After hiking Quandary on a really mild day in late September. I’d agree this isn’t a “hard” hike for people who hike a bit (and are acclimatized to altitude). Slightly hard stuff: We did it after a bit of snow, so there was a bit of snow and ice (I did put on microspikes on the way down but you didn’t really need it). The trail was a bit rocky with steep steps at parts which required some cautiousness. Besides that the trail was super easy to follow, there was nothing sketchy about it, just elevation gain, mileage, and exposure to the elements (check the weather!!).
Making my way towards the top of Quandary
View from the top
Mt. Elbert (~9.5miles 4,700ft elevation gain) was a bit harder… in the conditions we did it in. I picked it because I heard the views were pretty, it was supposedly on the easy side, and it’s the tallest in Colorado! It probably snowed about a foot in the last few days before we attempted it. If I saw what Elbert looked like before we started (it was dark and foggy), I most likely would have told K that there was no f-ing way I was going up there. After the hike, as we were driving away, I finally saw the peak. Like this.
WTF way too much snow
Anyways… since we started the hike in fog, I didn’t see what the peak looked like. Hiking it wasn’t actually that bad. It was windy (it blew me off balance a few times, and I definitely got snow blasted in the face, that was not cool), snow line was ~11,000 ft, there was a bit of post-holing involved, route finding was a bit difficult (thank you GPS), and the wind was blowing away any tracks we had any hope of following.
Loved the blown frozen snow on this sign
The best part was the views, the recent snow made it pretty. It was also fun trampling in the snow… when it wasn’t blowing in my face! We hiked much slower uphill than I expected given all the snow.
Where is the trail? -_-
I did see people doing sketchy things on Mt Elbert that was a bit disturbing. I saw a dude stumbling around (a group ahead warned us he had bad altitude sickness and didn’t want to turn around). I saw him, asked how he was doing since he was stumbling into a rock and he went “I’m totally fine, just altitude sick”… yet he kept on going up. (ugh, it was late in the day too!). Then I saw a girl in ripped jeans and Converse Chuck Taylor sneakers sitting on a rock above tree line, I asked her if she was OK, and she said “yes, I’m just waiting for my friend who wanted to summit”… Uhh…. My inner voice thought: “OK, I saw your friend maybe an hour away from you, the summit is probably 2-3 hours away… you are just sitting on a rock with not enough clothing (wtf).” I don’t remember what I actually said to her. Also, what kind of friend does that???
Top of Mt Elbert
Nearing the top of Mt. Elbert
I enjoyed hiking Mt. Elbert a bit more than Quandary. The mileage and elevation gain was harder, and the snow going uphill was challenging. (I don’t recommend this as a first “snow” hike.) Descending was a lot easier since you could just take really big steps and use the snow to slow you down, and it’s super fun. The trail was less rocky than Quandary which made it nicer hiking back to the car when you are tired.
Now I want to hike more peaks… too bad it is already really snowing and that is scary.