Mt Quandary

Fabulous hike up Mt Quandary, my second fourteener of the trip. After a false start when I parked in the wrong place, I was on the way up this strenuous trail. It started in fir forest, quite steep and right from the beginning I had problems with my breathing. The start was above 12,000 feet. Soon this settled down and I felt good again. After not that much climbing the trail came out into a meadow before returning briefly into the forest. I took advantage of the trees to make a pit stop and I was later very glad of that! 

Emerging from the forest at the tree line I had my first real view of the peak. It didn't look that distant, or steep either, but I realised that appearances could be deceptive. There were mild switchbacks and then the more serious ascent began. This was steep and a lot of loose dirt and small rocks. I realised pretty soon that it was a long way to the top. I could only see one section of the trail at a time but with every new section that came into view there appeared to be a lot of climbing. 

About half way up, in terms of time but not distance (I was well over half way in distance), I came onto a saddle. This was a welcome respite after the climbing, but for the first time I could properly see what lay ahead. I also noticed some mountain goats well away from the trail. There were increasing patches of snow as I climbed on; I had to walk on the snow a bit but not much. I was passing a lot of people, which was very satisfying and also indicated good things about my altitude acclimatisation.

From the saddle onward there were nice mountain views, some lakes in one direction and distant mountains in the other. But I had to concentrate on the climbing as there was a lot of scree and sharp rocks. The summit looked very distant but I persevered.

Close to the top was a large remnant of snow which was tricky, and then almost suddenly I found myself on the summit. The view to my right into a huge bowl was just stupendous. I've never seen anything like it. There were two tiny lakes and steep mountainsides striped with snow. Beyond the bowl was tier after tier of mountains. To my left and ahead were endless mountain ranges with plenty of snow. Looking back in the direction I had come the mountains were misty and lacking snow. It had taken me two hours to the summit (3 1/2 miles) which I reckoned was pretty good going. It was cold on top.

Coming down was so much easier despite the scree and snow. Soon I was back approaching the saddle and there were a lot more mountain goats. They were close to the trail. They had sharp looking horns but didn't seem aggressive. At one point a goat was on the trail and I needed to pass it but I was a bit nervous as another hiker had just told me he read about someone being gored to death by the horns of a mountain goat. Luckily the goat just blinked at me as I passed. There were marmots too and chipmunks lower down.

I was happy to get back into the forest as the weather was warming up. However the forest didn't offer much shade. It was hot work. I was surprised how many people were just starting on the hike. For me a four hour round trip in total.


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