Saturday, July 6, 2013

Mount Quandary or is it Mount Quandry?

Mount Quandary,  Mount Quandry.  I've seen it both ways and I'm still not sure which is correct!

Originally  we had planned on hiking the shorter Mount Quandary route on July 3, and then tackling the longer Mount Massive route on Independence Day.  After checking the weather,  the fourth had more chance of rain and Rob's priority was Mount Massive so we hiked that first and rescheduled Mount Q for the following day.
After surviving the 11 hours on Mount Massive and all of the excitement of getting caught in a storm, we managed to get dinner and the negotiations about hiking Quandary in the morning began. Rob didn't think we'd get enough sleep because it was already late and we'd be getting up early. I argued that we wouldn't need to start as early because it was a shorter hike,  and that we could always set the alarm and make a game time decision in the morning.  Rob agreed and reiterated that he was pleased with finishing Massive and Quandary would be a nice-to-have but not mandatory.

Rob takes a bit more time to get ready in the morning so he arranged for another wake up call from the hotel. I admit, I silently groaned a bit when the phone rang.  20 minutes later my phone alarm went off and it was time to get up and make a decision.  We discussed forgoing the Quandary hike and going to Garden of the Gods instead but soon realized that we'd be spending most of the day in the car getting to and from Garden of the Gods and we'd rather spend that time hiking.  I repacked my pack-- a little less water and less weight this time, but still heavy with the camera and the water I did carry.  Off we went to summit our second 14er in as many days.

Mount Massive had been rated a "2" on the difficulty scale,  and Mount Quandary was rated a "1" despite achieving the same elevation change in about half the distance.  If you look up the difficulty ratings,  a "1" is supposed to be walk up trail on level ground.  Obviously when you're climbing 4,000 feet in 3.5 miles, it's not level in the sense that you're on flat ground, but I'd assume the trail was well groomed with a lot of switchbacks.   Indeed, the beginning of the trail looked like this:

I had estimated it would take us 4 hours to reach the top and two hours to get down.  More time to get up because of how hard it gets to breathe climbing that fast in a short time and needing to take breaks, but must faster coming down because the extra oxygen would feel great and those groomed trails would be easy to navigate without worrying about falling. 

So far, so good!  I actually felt pretty good given the previous day's hike and ready to tackle this mountain!

The terrain soon changed and started to get more rocky. 

You can see from this picture all of the people on top of the ridge. No, that's not the top of the mountain. It's not even close

Once we reached the ridge, it became very clear that there was *nowhere* a girl could answer the call of nature without flashing everyone on the mountain.  And this was a popular hike with full vantage both up and down trail.  :(

The trail kept getting rockier and rockier.  In fact, there was no trail to speak of,  at least not by any definition I know.  Occasionally there were large man made piles of rocks sticking out of all the other jumbles of rocks, and these let you know you were mostly heading in the right direction.  On either side of you, if you went too far there were steep slides into oblivion that were definitely not where you wanted to go. 

We joked with another hiker who was descending that this climb is like one of those "Choose your own Adventure" books where you pick a path and go to page 92 to continue on with your hike.   We were also starting to see a lot of the same people… a group of three couples in their early 20s who would leap frog us,  then rest for 10 minutes and then leapfrog us again,  and "old navy sweatshirt" guy  who actually wasn't there alone but sure seemed to be.

Somewhere between 13,000 and 13,400 feet I suddenly started having a really really difficult time.  I threatened to drop my pack and come back for it,  surely without all the weight I'd be as nimble as a mountain goat bounding up these rocks.  Rob talked me out of it and convinced me that mountain rodents would eat holes in my pack if I left it. He offered to take two water bottles from me,  so that helped.   Maybe another 200 feet up,  he took the camera as well.  It was maybe five minutes before he told me that wow, the camera is heavy.   I'm not sure if it was the steeper climb today or just the cumulative effect of the week's activities and the hike the day before, but I continued to struggle up the slope and rested a lot.  I should have taken another Diamox,  as I had only been taking 125mg once per day after Leadville,  but I didn't.  Rob stopped and brought out his pulse-oximeter which somehow measures the oxygenization percentage of your blood. His measurement was 99%.  Mine was 70%!  This is not a good number. 

The closer we got to the top,  the less sure I was about wanting to get to the top.  I felt much worse than at Mount Massive,  this was supposed to be fun,  and I was getting extremely concerned about coming down without slipping or twisting an ankle. However, no one in our group ever quits so pressing on!  

Right before the summit, hikers have to cross an area of snow which is quite slick.  Mostly we tried to stay in the footprints of previous hikers but I watched a couple of people descending who were sliding on the slush.  

Finally we were at the top!!! Including the extra quarter mile from the parking lot to the trailhead, we were under 3 hours and 50 minutes so my estimates had finally been right.   What a great view. 

Proof: It's Quandary.  But the tshirts say Quandry! 

We spent 17 minutes at the top and I felt normal again. Time to descend over all that rock: 

On the way down I used only one hiking pole, as I find with two poles I'm always trying to figure out where to put them and then losing my balance over the rocks.  We had to be careful because the poles could get stuck between the rocks which might cause them to break.  I descended much faster, hopping from rock to rock along the ridge the best I could given I was in hiking boots and carrying a pack.  Rob took a more conservative approach and used both poles and descended at a safer speed.  

We had seen some goats from afar during the trip up, but on the way down we got up and close and personal with them.   They're BIG.   You don't want one of them pushing you or you will definitely go flying off the mountain!

Unlike Mount Massive,  there were no storms today.  Instead, the lack of shade became an issue as the sun beat down on us. I reapplied sunscreen twice on the way down.   Remember how a girl shouldn't flash the entire mountain?  Part of my hurry to get down was to find a nice tree.  Unfortunately, the first concealed tree group I found, the group of 20-somethings decided to stop RIGHT THERE on the trail and have a snack.  I've been holding for 3 or 4 hours now, but on we go. I lose sight of Rob for a bit behind me but I'm on a mission. I'm stopping to check every once in a while.  Old Navy sweatshirt guy passes me.  then the 20somethings catch back up. And the boys pick the next tree grove (only the second one available since the summit) for their own business and I wait impatiently for them to go on down the trail.  That group of trees was very well watered and popular from what I saw. 

Rob caught up at this point and also thought it was a very nice set of trees and then it was onward down the trail.  Finally made it back under the shade which felt amazing!!!!  It had taken us just over 3 hours coming down,  not nearly the time difference I expected between up (against elevation changes and going up) versus down (easier breathing,  but still having to pick my way through uneven terrain and slippery rocks).  

Total time:  7 hours 12 min  from parking lot to top,  taking pictures at top,  back to parking lot. 
Calories Burned:  My garmin thinks only 1800, but it also thinks I was only moving for 3 hours and 11 minutes! I guess when you move so slow and you're moving up rather than forward, it has a hard time figuring out that you're not just sitting on your butt.   I think I burned about 2500.  
Calories Consumed:  475  (one payday ,  half of a Pro Bar, 20oz Gatorade G2,  and some water). 

This time my legs were screaming from the abuse,  so we found a nice stream for an ice bath! Rob declined to participate in sitting in snow runoff temperature waters.   

That's it!  two 14ers in two days,  all in the same week as Leadville Heavy Half trail run.  I've learned that while I don't get sick, and I don't necessarily get a bad headache,  I am definitely affected by altitude but I'm okay if I get to level out.   Staying on top of the diamox meds in Kili is mandatory for me. 

1 comment:

  1. Mountain goats and rocks...lots and lots of rocks and big scary mountain goats. About sums up my Mt. Quandry experience last year!