Belated Valentine’s Day on Quandary Peak

Amy and I planned to go climb her first winter 14er on Sunday, but Valentine’s Day spilled over and we never made it. This turned out to be a good thing, as the weather was reportedly cloudy on Saturday (though forecast to be sunny), and it turned out to be sunny on Sunday (despite the forecast calling for clouds and snow).

I crawled out of bed at 4:45 yesterday morning not entirely psyched to be up that early, but not too bothered since bedtime came at 8:45 the night before. I dressed, ate, filled up some cups and a thermos with coffee, threw my stuff in the car, and it was off to Amy’s. There, Amy dressed and got stuff together, I ate more, carried her stuff to the car, and we hit the road around 6:30. Right at 8am, we pulled into the parking area for the trailhead. “Was I supposed to bring my poles?” “…seriously?”

Amy looking like a runway model.

As we were getting ready, the legendary Horton the Quandary Dog ran across the street to greet us. He waited impatiently for us to start going by attacking trees.

8:15 and we’re off, with one pole a piece.

Snowshoeing and skinning up with only one pole turned out to be pretty reasonable, despite my expectations.
This photo was taken at our first of several rest breaks. Horton had stuck with us so far, rarely venturing more than a few feet away. I was astonished. He again got impatient as we rested, so he attacked some more trees. I found the carnage from this incident still covering the entire trail on our way out.
A couple snickers later (as well as Horton demanding some food) and we were back to the races.
Amy and Horton, out for a hike on a beautiful February day.
I was having gear issues here, and Amy took advantage of the opportunity to put some distance between us. This may have been where I strapped my skis to my back and started booting it, but I’m not sure. Skiing back through here was not an option, as the wind stripped all the snow in the foreground of this picture by the time we got back down.
This is the best scenic I took of the day, in my mind. Polarizers are amazing for getting deep blue skies like this. The trail follows the ridgeline all the way up. Here’s Amy, pointing out the rest of the way up. We were both getting pretty tired here, and the sails on our backs certainly weren’t helping us through the strong winds, but we kept moving as best we could.
There were many moments when it looked like we weren’t going to make it. A couple other people who caught up to us dropped out and turned around due to exhaustion. Amy eventually started counting out 25 steps at a time between breaks. I decided to go with her, as I was moving pretty slowly at this point as well. The number moved up to 30 steps before long.

Nearing the top, she asked out many more times she’d have to take 30 steps. “Five” was the answer. “Five” turned out to be roughly half of reality, and roughly 300 steps later, we made it.

The way down was exhausting, and we both just wanted to be out of there. No extreme radgnar skiing photos, as it was bulletproof sastrugi most of the way down. I’m sure Horton wanted to go home ASAP so he could down a huge bowl of food, but he stuck with us the entire time. I’m amazed that he took such a liking to us, and never went off with anyone else who passed us or who we passed.
It was a huge relief to finally see the car again after seven and a half hours on the mountain. When we got back and were unpacking, Horton stopped briefly to say goodbye, and walked back home. As I was packing my stuff into the car, I noticed something that would’ve been great to have up top in the cold: a full thermos of coffee, still warm.

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