Friday, September 20, 2013

Fletcher Mountain and Quandary Peak.

The recent rains and resultant floods have left our local stomping grounds off limits for the time being, though RMNP has reopened on the west side only.  After a week of being stuck inside and viewing absolute destruction all around us, we both needed some time in the great outdoors.  A few suggestions were made, and in the end we decided to go for Fletcher Mountain, which at 13951 feet is one of the centennials of Colorado, and then take the third class west ridge to Quandary Peak.
We met up in Boulder at 4, and started on the trail just after six as the sun started to rise.  We parked up at the dam to access Fletcher Mountain.
We lost the trail early on, but made our way and were able to get back to it fairly quickly. 
And up we went.  Since the trail starts so high, you barely spend any time at all in trees. 
The trail was relatively easy to follow over talus and tundra, but as we gained altitude, we encountered a problem that had not occurred to us: frost on the talus.
Things were a little bit slippery and stayed that way until the top.  But we got there!
Looking south to North Star Mountain and Mount Lincoln.
West to Drift Peak.
Obtaining nirvana?  Not today.
Cairn on the top.  At 13951 feet, Fletcher Mountain is the 60th highest peak in Colorado, sharing this distinction with Gemini Peak.
To the north.  We decided to take some time and wait for the sun to rise over Quandary and zap some of the frost, but of course sitting there was a just a bit cold and windy.  Down we went, hoping to find a better wind block and some warmth at slightly lower elevation. 
We found a bit of a warmer place, and sat again.  We could tell the frost conditions had improved greatly as we descended.  As the sun started hitting the west ridge of Quandary, we moved on to check things out, with the option of turning back if too icy. 
As we agreed later, though cold, sitting and waiting for a bit was the right call.  In the end we experienced very little frost on Quandary, and only in shaded areas and in the upper 13's of elevation.
Looking west along Quandary's west ridge.  It was somewhere around here while on some very exposed third class that I opined my love of this sort of route. 
Dan on some fun third class.  We did take our time and access the best way forward when we reached some of the harder looking sections.
This area looked a little sketchy, but proved to not be bad at all.  The soil was completely frozen, which turned loose scree into pretty stable terrain. 
More of the third class.  At times, it looked like there were a few different possibilities existed, plus the option of harder fourth class terrain if a little more excitement was wanted.
A neat little window to look south again.
And then we were there.  At 14265 feet, Quandary Peak is the thirteenth highest peak in the state. 
We noted two others making their way along the west ridge.  Eventually they joined us on the summit. 
There were about ten different summit cairns.  While I signed the register on Fletcher Mountain, I left this one untouched. 
We took a snack break on the top, enjoying the sights.  After some time, we decided to head down, taking the standard route.  This was (of course) much easier than the west ridge. 
Some good sights up into the bowl holding blue lakes. 
And a little traffic along the trail!  They are pretty cute, and obviously well used to people, but still wild animals that need to be given their space. 
The aspen in the Breckenridge area as starting to change.  There are still plenty that are bright green.
In starting up at the dam, we now faced a two mile/nine hundred foot gain walk back to the car.  It went by, but we were quite warm.  Along the way we continued to pick up trash, which we started on the summit of the mountain.  The day ended with a good collection.  And when I looked in my bag for a final snack I found the cookie my wife got me but I had forgotten about!  Yes!
This was a fun hike for sure, though I remain unaccustomed to seeing tons of people on my normal outings.  Quandary would be a good easy 14er for those less experienced by the standard route, and a good intro to third class when done by the west ridge for those of you looking to move up to more difficult terrain and route finding.  Doing the combo is the way to go for something a little bit longer and more difficult.  Drift Peak can be added in for a bit more length and more third class terrain if desired.
Fletcher Mountain and Quandary Peak via Blue Lakes dam:
Fletcher Mountain, 13951 feet: se ridge- 2.13 miles each way, 2250 foot gain.  Second class.  Moderate+.
Quandary Peak, 14265 feet: west ridge- 2 miles each way, 2650 foot gain.  Third class.  Strenuous-.
Quandary Peak: east ridge- 3.4 miles each way, 3450 foot gain.  Moderate+.
Hike total: 8.7 miles, 4015 foot gain.  Strenuous-.

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