My parents have recently retired to Colorado, which makes for a great hiking opportunity each time I visit. My father (Steve) and I climbed Quandary Peak, at 14,265 feet. Hiking guides call Quandary an “easy” fourteener, but as the title implies, and a trail sign implored, “there are no easy fourteeners.”
The trail begins with a moderate climb through sub-alpine spruce forest, with a comfortable dirt trail. At this point, I asked to try my dad’s new trekking poles, but when I adjusted them, a hinge pin fell into the grass, not to be recovered. My dad – MacGuyver – had a paper clip in his backpack, which we used to replace the hinge pin. This has only reinforced his pack-rat tendencies! Once you break above tree-line (roughly 11,700 ft.), the trail immediately gets rocky. On the way up, I didn’t notice how rocky it was… hiking back down was another story.
There is a lengthy shoulder before climbing the peak. As the air thinned, I quickly developed a migraine headache, for which my prescription Imitrex did very little. There was a family of mountain goats hanging out near the trail, very photogenic. They seemed accustomed to humans, which seemed surreal to me… I’ve always been taught to give wild animals a wide berth.
I reached the summit, and spent nearly 45 minutes there… probably way too long. I ate a peanut butter and honey sandwich, which didn’t sit well with the migraine-induced nausea. Until I reached tree-line on the way down, I didn’t feel well, and wasn’t able to eat. Finally, my headache eased up and when I reached the car, where I enjoyed the best Shasta lemon-lime soda that I have ever had.
So why all this headache misery to achieve a peak over 14,000 feet? One hell of a climb. I have never been up so high, and the view was spectacular. Next time I climb up this high, I will have to acclimatize a little more before hand. But this was a great way to see some of the beauty of Colorado’s interior high points.