Quest for Quandary

…by Elaine

Date climbed: 5/13/11 (yes, we did it on Friday the 13th, with massive avalanche warnings…Quandary is apparently a really safe peak though)

Time to Summit: 3 hours

Elevation Gained: 3,448’

Our quest for Quandary Peak had a rough start. My alarm went off…and I promptly rolled over and fell back asleep. Twenty minutes later, I dragged myself out of bed and gasped at how much time we’d lost. Frantically getting ready, I remembered that I’m prone to doing that bullshit when I have to wake up early, and cursed myself for rolling back over. That’s why I developed my habit and bouncing out of bed as soon as the alarm went off – or else I never get up on time. Well, we got out of the caboose, not too bad on time, and headed off.

 Greeted by a beautiful sunrise, and the fog literally “rolling in”. I’ve heard that term before, but I’ve never really understood it. I’d never seen fog do that, but this fog was, most definitely. In Nederland, we have a slight tendency for wind (read: it’s always fucking howling here), so fog is a weather that we don’t get much of, and therefore, I cherish.


Golden morning sunlight and fog.

We stopped for a very expensive breakfast that turned out to be super fatty and I’m pretty sure made me feel blechy. Next time, we are sticking to oatmeal. At the trailhead, there were already two cars, and another one pulled up behind us. (Suckas! We got the last parking spot!) Dan and I hurried to get out of the trailhead, not wanting to be with this new group.

 Starting off was heinous. It hurt. I feel like I keep saying this lately: “It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.” A combination of a super fatty breakfast sitting like a lump in my stomach and just a plain and simple “off day”, left me suffering. I struggled up, and started sweating profusely, which was odd, as it was only about 35 degrees, and we weren’t really even going uphill, and it was through tight trees, so we weren’t even moving fast. I finally stripped down to my base layer on top, switched my winter cap for my summer cap, and unzipped the vents on my skipants. Feeling cooler, but still suffering, I plugged away at the mountain, Dan offering words of encouragement from behind me. Off days suck. I like being on my game. Selfish, I know, but I do.

 The snow was already heavy and wet, even this early. I scraped off the top of my skis several times, just to lighten them up, the snow was so heavy. We came to our first steep pitch, and realized that whoever was breaking trail in front of us (thank the Goddess for them, I sure as hell didn’t feel like breaking trail today) apparently held a deep hatred for switchbacks in their heart – his skin track went straight up the damn thing. (This turned out to just be his way of skinning – straight up. The whole way, we didn’t make a single switchback.) I did my best to motor my way up, and stopped at the top of the pitch, where Dan suggested I eat some of my Sharkies. I was up for anything that might help me not hurt so damn much, so I shoveled half the package in my mouth, and determinedly set off again.

 I would be damned if I didn’t get to the top of this peak. Dan was feeling off as well (thankfully we were both having a difficult day, so we could cheer each other on, and one of us didn’t want to go speeding up the mountain and the other one didn’t), and we’re both a little competitive with ourselves, and I think the idea of giving up just because we felt off was eating at us. (Don’t worry, we’re both capable of making good decisions, we won’t get ourselves killed because of a dumb decision.)

 So we started off again, dragging a little, but beginning to feel better and better. Finally, I reached my groove. It was still slower and more painful than I think it should have been, but it wasn’t nearly as grueling as the bottom section had been (even though the bottom section had been much easier).

Up and along the ridge, I was really feeling it. The day was amazing. The sky was clear as could be, and we could see mountain ranges all around us. It was stunning, and I couldn’t resist staring around as I methodically skinned up the massive mountain in front of me, marveling at the beauty that Mother Earth has bestowed upon us. She is a great being, and has offered me many beautiful moments that I hold close to my heart.

Up, up, up!


Not the peak we were climbing, but an awe inspiring one for sure!

At the top of the first “false summit”, we met a split-boarder on his way down. He was a little miffed at the antics of the other skiers who had been up with him – and for good reason, too. He’d had to convince them to stay out of obvious avalanche terrain, and they were skiing like they were at a resort (bad idea in the backcountry). He shook his head as they hurtled on past the three of us, and gave us some tips on the snow: a little icy going up the ridge, but the summit face had some really nice snow, patches of wetter, but patches of really nice. Then he was off down the mountain and we were off up it. We traversed along the flat part of the ridge (a quite welcome easy bit – some of it was even downhill-ish), and stopped for another quick break at the base of the last pitch.


Along the ridge. Stunning, no?

Break time! The best thing about doing these things? Doing them with the love of my life! I love you so much, Dan. Muah!

Noticed the cool veins of snow in the mountain opposite us during our rest.

I downed the second half of my packet of Sharkies, and loaded up on water. There would be no breaks like this on that last pitch. After psyching ourselves back up, we clicked back into our skis, and began up the last part.


Massively suffering…

It hurt. I began counting my steps. Usually when I do this, I count every step my right foot takes, and count up to 100. I was beat, and could only make it to 35-45 each time before I’d lean forward on my poles, rest for 30 seconds, and then start off again. Although it was a slow, painful process, it was more than rewarding and fulfilling. Cresting the peak, I stared around in wonder. This place was beautiful – absolutely stunning, and I certainly couldn’t have asked for anything more. Looking around, I knew I was in a sacred place. The mountains always are.


Oh goodness. That is beautiful. Takes my breath away.


Saw this cool formation on the bottom side of a rock on the summit.

The day was such a nice day; it ever afforded us to take a nap on the summit, after we lamented the fact that we had no prayer flags to hang. I was a little upset over this, but we’ll just have to stock up and make sure we always do from now on. After lounging around on the summit for a while, we decided to head back down. It’s a strange thing about these peak skis – you do ski down the mountain, but that part is almost secondary. I mean, you still want to keep your wits about you to avoid injury, but the climb up and the summit seems to be the best part.

The split boarder was right – the face was very nice, but the lower down we got, the heavier and wetter the snow got, until I was focusing purely on not twisting a knee.


Very nice snow!


I am a horrible photographer. I couldn't figure out how to zoom in. Dan finishing up the face of Quandary with style.

We emptied out at the car, grinning manically. It’s spring, and both Dan and myself are a bit manic – ‘tis the season, you know.

Just to prove our manic tendencies right now – the next morning we got up for a walk, and started running. I like to run, but haven’t in years. Dan hadn’t run since September. But as we headed up the hill to our favorite trail around here, Dan broke into a run, and I followed suit. Skinning all winter has paid off – I’ve never had such a good first run.


And my birds are amazing! I have a favorite already – my little Nuthatch. He’s a cutie. But they are all really cute. We’ve got little gray ones with rusty wings, chickadees, my nuthatch, really pretty ones with brown spots on them, brown spotted ones with hits of red, a pair of woodpeckers (male and female – I love them too), and some blue jays. I haven’t seen a squirrel eat out of our feeder yet, but I want him to know that he is just as welcome. I also hung up a humming bird feeder, but I suspect that it’s too cold for them right now. (We got quite a bit of snow!) I'll put up pictures of our birds soon! We also planted some wildflower seeds – here's to hoping they grow!

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