Sunday, January 17, 2010
I had to work late Friday, so I was looking for a good day trip scramble for Saturday. The North Ridge of Quandary seemed to fit the bill. This route stays to the left of the 14ers.com Route #4 North Gully aka Quandary Couloir on the ridge and better rock. Roach calls this the Inwood Arete and Cooper calls it the North Ridge.
As we drove up to the standard trailhead it was amazing how many cars lined the road. It seemed like everyone was climbing Quandary.
From our trailhead at McCullough Gulch we could see that there was snow on the upper ridge. This along with the clouds building made us ponder whether we should attempt the climb. We decided to hike to the lake and assess it from there.
At the lake (N39 24.320 W106 05.800) we left all other hikers behind. The clouds had dissepated and the snow above was out of site. We decided to scramble and go up as long as we could safely retreat.
The first pitch allows you to choose how technical you want to climb. We picked a line that was probably lower class 5. The rock is fractured granite with many holds.
As you approach the gendarmes 500 feet above the valley, we stuck to the nice scrambling just to the right of them. You could climb these towers if you enjoy exposure.
Sticking to the ridge crest is recommended. Often it looks as if you could be climbing into trouble, but the ridge always either continues or provides an escape.
At around (N39 23.951 W106 06.051) the snow patches were becoming more prevalent. The snow was fine for making steps, but not deep enough for an ice axe to be useful. I would not have used crampons either as the snow/rock mix heavily favored the rocks.
Here we chose another 5.4 pitch just to get away from the snow/scree slopes that made each step tenuous. We weren't sure where this rock would lead us, but abruptly we were deposited on the gentle East slopes of Quandary.
We cruised to the summit as some more serious clouds were building to the West. We didn't stay on top long and its a good thing. As we descended the standard route the snow started flying and my ice axe started to sing. Dalton's hair was sticking up too so we motored down the trail. We left the trail at (N39 23.597 W106 04.933) which turned out to be a good place to traverse back to the pickup. We bushwacked down grassy slopes mixed with scree fields. Further down the scree turns to talus and the angle increases. We found a couple of abandon mines, but no mushrooms as we made our way back to the road. It was a short walk up the road to the truck at McCullough Gulch trailhead.
If you attempt this route in the next couple of weeks, you should consider how comfortable you feel climbing on snowy rock. Good luck.