First Solo 14er

The summer is quickly coming to an end in Denver. In the mountains, it’s actually almost winter and some peaks have already received a dusting of fresh snow, including Quandary Peak. I’ve had “Hiking A 14er Solo” on my bucket list for a bit and I figured I better go for it now before the big snows arrive. Quandary Peak is a Class 1 hike totaling 5.6 miles roundtrip and an elevation gain of 3,325 feet. The route up the East Slopes is pretty straight forward and I decided it would make a great first solo 14er. It would also be my 8th 14er and my first time up Quandary.

I’ve carefully assembled all of my “10 essentials” (please check out my previous post titled “Mt. Bierstadt, Close But No Cigar” for a detailed list of my 10 Essentials”). I’ve thrown in some long johns, winter hat, even warmer wool socks than “my usuals”, Yak Trax, and a Snickers bar for this particular hike because of the forecasted cold temps and possible snow/ice. Snickers is proven (by me) to warm you up on a chilly and windy summit. (Not pictured, because I keep them in my car, are hiking poles and hiking boots).

I left my house at 4am and had a traffic-less, NPR filled drive west on the 70 to the town of Breckenridge where the trailhead is located near. (4am is pretty much the only time of day that the 70 can actually be described as “pleasant”). When I pulled into the trailhead parking lot at 5:30am there was only one other car parked. (Early birds get the worms and the best parking spots at popular trailheads). It was also pitch dark outside! Yes, I planned to hike the first hour of the hike in the dark with my headlamp, but the reality of just how dark it actually was freaked me out for minute! A couple of other cars showed up as I was getting my gear on and that seemed to calm my nerves. Sweet! There will be other humans out there sharing the darkness with me! Even better, if I let them go up the trail first, maybe the bears will get them first? Wait, are there even bears up here? 🐻I’m not sharing my Snickers.

With my big girl pants on, I began the climb through the forest and up the hillside. I actually did just fine navigating with my headlamp and had no issues staying on trail. There were a few helpful trail markers along the way. No issues with bears either 😉.

I love being on a trail as the sun begins to rise up over the distant mountains. I’m feeling pretty confident at this point, “out of the woods” you might say. Haha

Dusting of fresh snow. 

Beautiful blue sky over the trail along the ridge. 

So close. Just a little bit further. At this point, I felt like I was about ten minutes from the summit. 40 minutes later…..damn false summits!

3 1/2 hours after I began in the dark, finally, the summit!! 14,265 feet above sea level, it’s a proud feeling! (And a cold feeling because it’s freezing on the summit!)

Summit Views from the highest mountain in the Tenmile Range.

The view from my PB&J lunch rock. Hiking on a Monday has its advantages on popular 14ers like Quandary. I only had to share the summit with about three other early bird hikers.

After only 10 minutes on the bone chilling summit enjoying my sammy and snapping some pics, it’s time to get moving down and get warmed up.

Loving the fall colors way down below. The trail down was much more busy with hikers huffing and puffing their way up the rocky mountain.

Quandary Peak in the far right of this pic. The water: The Blue Lakes and Monte Cristo Creek.

The snow that I had encountered on the trail up, especially in the last 1000 feet of climb, had melted on the way back down. No Yak Trax needed this trip, but still glad I had them “just in case”.  I think that should be my nickname, “Just In Case”. I better bring an extra Snickers, just in case. 

Looking back up the trail from where I had hiked.

Heading back into the pine trees in the daylight. 

Winter at the Summit. Fall near the trailhead. 

Pro tip: Tree stumps make excellent tripods with self timer mode.

Success!! Six hours after I stepped onto the dirt trail, I completed my first solo 14er! 

I recently read the book “Under The Frog” by Tibor Fischer for my book club (yup, I’m not just a hiker, but I’m also a bookworm!)  If you are interested in the Hungarian Revolution in 1956, this is the book for you! Anyway, one passage in this complex book talks about bravery. Fischer writes, “Could doing brave things make you brave, as push-ups made you stronger? Was courage bone or muscle? Something that was meted out at birth or something that was up to you?”

I can attest that after this hike I’m definitely feeling a little more brave, a little more courageous, and a little more empowered. I’m also feeling pretty hungry and I’m also feeling like an under the covers, sleep until tomorrow nap.

Night Night.



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