Conquering Mt. Quandary

As if packing up my office, packing up my house, driving 750 miles to Kansas, and driving 540 miles to Breckenridge weren’t enough in the past 10 days, I decided to climb a mountain yesterday. And not just a little guy with a nice view. We climbed Mt. Quandary, elevation 14,235.

For a little background, I’m spending the weekend in a 6-bedroom house south of Breckenridge with my two Colorado cousins and their 12 other friends. They’ve been doing this annual girls’ weekend for 7 years, and this is my fourth outing with them. In the past we’ve enjoyed 1-2 hour hikes out our back door, mainly through wooded areas and not very steep. And in fact I’ve come to like hiking quite a bit through these outings.

But let’s face it. Those were sissy walks in comparison to what we did yesterday.

Fortunately Mr. Farmer and I have been accumulating gear for the 4-day Milford Track hike in New Zealand, so I was dressed appropriately for the climb. It was in the 30s when we commenced, and we knew it was going to be in the 20s and windy at the summit. So thanks to Mr. Farmer’s keen hiking experience and superb outfitting skills, I had my Keen hiking boots, wool socks, a windbreaker with a fleece zip-in liner and hood, and a backpack with a load of water. And a lot of layers under that.

Our party of four (my two cousins and a friend of theirs) arrived at the trailhead at 10:45 (less than a 10-minute drive from our abode), put ourselves together, and hit the trail at 10:55.

(I don’t have a way to post pics yet, so check out another person’s photo account of the hike in a much warmer time of year by CLICKING HERE.)

Two guys in their 30s were starting out at the same time, and upon looking at the entry into the trail going up into the trees, one said, “I thought this was supposed to be a beginner one [14’er]”. Ha! Boy was he in for a surprise, as was I. Quite honestly, my heart was racing after the first 10 minutes, and though I was aware that the ascent was probably going to take four hours, it didn’t quite register. In retrospect, that part was a piece of cake.

After about an hour and a half we were above the tree line, and the misery was just about to begin. Steep loose rock, ice, wind. I didn’t freeze to death, by any means. But at times I couldn’t feel my fingers. I had to sit down about every 100 feet.

After two and a half hours we reached a flatter ridge that led us to the final ascent. The ridge was OK. But about 100 yards up the final leg, I said aloud, “This is freaking bananas.” And I repeated that phrase every 20 feet for the next 200 yards. Then my tune changed to “I don’t have to do this. I can just sit down.”

Just as I opened my mouth to say, “Uncle!” I heard voices from above yell, “COUSIN!” and I got off my bum and started up again. I somehow convinced myself that it would be a shame to come this far and not see the summit. (Meanwhile my cousins — aka mountain goats — seemed to be taking the whole thing in stride.)

At 3:15 we got to the icy, windy, tippy top of Mt. Quandary. The two guys we saw at the trailhead had passed us (but not by much), and they were up there to take pictures of us as we looked around at the AMAZING view. Truly stunning. Completely unobstructed views for 50-100 miles at the mountains all around, even out to the plains. We were on top of the world.

We only stayed about 5 minutes; the wind was brutal. I was the first to head out, and for me, the most enjoyable part of the hike was the first 30 minutes down. Finally I wasn’t panting, and though it was pretty treacherous negotiating the rocks and ice, it wasn’t the nightmare of the previous hour and a half.

I only had to stop a few times on the way down. We sat down for about 10 minutes for a snack, then I paused a few times to recover a little. What a relief to finally hit the tree line!

We arrived at the trailhead at 6:00 on the nose. 7 hours, 5 minutes after we set out. The sun was starting to slip behind the mountains, so we were glad we it didn’t take us longer. Our two vehicles were the last ones left in the lot.

When we arrived back at the house, the group was merrily cooking dinner and having cocktails. I said hello then headed down to my cave and flopped on the bed, unable to move. That hike kicked my butt. Finally around 8:30 I started to feel better.

Today I feel great! I’m sure the soreness will hit me in full force tomorrow, but for now I’m sitting in my cushy swivel rocker, drinking a cup of coffee and staring out the window at the peak I conquered yesterday. It’s truly a great sense of accomplishment. It’s the most physically demanding thing I’ve ever one. (And I will NEVER do it again.)

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1 Response so far »

  1. 1

    Ann said,

    So, how are your new shoes??? I would have loved to be with you. Maybe you and Mr. Farmer can take me some time.


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