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Catching up

Started: 2008-10-31 19:30:35

Submitted: 2008-10-31 20:17:01

Visibility: World-readable

On Saturday, 20 September, I climbed my last fourteener of the season: 14,265-foot Quandary Peak. I set out from home early in the morning (for definitions of "early in the morning" that include "shortly after 0800") and headed up I-70, through the Eisenhower Tunnel, and left the Interstate at Frisco and headed through Breckenridge. South of town, I caught my first glimpse of the peak through the surrounding hills.

Quandary Peak
Quandary Peak

I had been concerned by the amount of snow on the mountains in late September; my plan included two backup plans (complete with a complicated decision tree) if I decided there was too much snow to make my originally-scheduled ascent. I kept a careful eye on the terrain and ultimately decided that I would likely encounter some snow but not enough to threaten my safe ascent.

I reached the trailhead by late morning morning and began my ascent. The trailhead, off a forest road, was packed with cars. The trail climbed through golden aspen before emerging into the scree above timberline for the final ascent of the east ridge. I encountered a few patches of snow on the ascent but nothing that threatened my footing. I reached the crowded summit shortly before 1300, ate lunch, and studied my surroundings. To the south I could see Mount Lincoln covered in snow, still off-limits to climbers despite two years of effort to resolve private property access and liability issues.

Mount Lincoln and Mount Cameron
Mount Lincoln and Mount Cameron

I took another group's photo on the camera they provided and drafted one of them to take my photo on the summit, looking south-west toward Leadville. (If you should happen to notice that I'm not wearing my wedding ring in the photo it's because I took it off so it wouldn't fall off on the mountain. One of the downsides of my successful weight-loss program is that my ring is a bit looser than it used to be, especially in cold and wet environments.)

Jaeger on Quandary Peak
Jaeger on Quandary Peak

I descended the way I ascended without further incident. On my way back home, I stopped by a coffee shop in Breckenridge for a snack and began studying up on other mountains I might be interested in climbing. (I'm especially interested in the Notch Mountain ridge traverse climb of Mount of the Holy Cross, which will have to wait at least until next summer.)

Quandary Peak is the sixth fourteener I climbed this year and my tenth fourteener total. In 2008 I doubled my lifetime total of fourteeners.


A week after my Quandary Peak ascent, on Saturday, 27 September, Kiesa joined me in a hike up Cow Creek in the north-east corner of Rocky Mountain National Park. (I first visited the area on a lengthy snowshoe trek around Lumpy Ridge this February.) The area presented two short hikes to reasonable destinations; I chained the two hikes together to make a more reasonable afternoon expedition. (At least, for definitions of "reasonable afternoon expedition" that allow for seven-mile hikes undertaken on a whim.) We hiked first to Balanced Rock in the middle of the rocky ridge. My GPS receiver behaved badly in the light rain; I feared that it might be dead and I contemplated the merits of driving into Boulder that evening to acquire a shiny new color unit prior to climbing James Peak the following day. After drying off, my receiver started behaving itself, as long as I kept it out of the rain.

Fall colors on Lumpy Ridge, Rocky Mountain National Park
Fall colors on Lumpy Ridge, Rocky Mountain National Park

The trail ended abruptly at Balanced Rock, which proved to be just as advertised: A rock precariously balanced on a pillar of rock. We spent a few minutes admiring the rock before turning to our next destination: Bridal Veil Falls, an attractive waterfall nestled in a remote corner of the park.

Balanced Rock, Rocky Mountain National Park
Balanced Rock, Rocky Mountain National Park

We stopped to eat pizza for supper in Estes Park, which was mobbed by tourists enjoying the late-September fall colors. I couldn't help but continue to study my guidebook for future mountain adventures.

Modern mobile phones make my head hurt, and I speak as the owner of a
sheepskin that proclaims me to hold a degree in computer science.
- Charles Stross, What I want for Christmas