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Climbing Quandry Peak in spectacular Colorado

After scrolling through my Instagram account a couple of months ago, seeing spectacular photo after photo of the magnificence that is the state of Colorado, I decided that I had to witness it with my own eyes. I booked a ticket in a hurry and 2 months later, I was sitting on a flight from Perth to Los Angeles (actually Perth-Sydney-Auckland-LA), with gleeful anticipation of what was to come. Not only was I going to immerse myself in the beautiful Colorado scenery, a bucket list destination for years, but I was going to meet an amazing girl I couldn’t stop thinking about. Yes, it was a long flight.

After spending a couple of days in Los Angeles with a partner from previous Cambodian getaways, I returned to LAX, bound for Colorado. On the flight to Denver, I couldn’t take my eyes off the window overlooking the spectacular terrain we were flying over. In fact, you may have been drooling quite a bit, a combination of lust for nature and sleep-deprived delusions. I ran into the beautiful girl mentioned above and we rented a car at the airport, crashing in Denver at night. We were ready to head west in the morning.

Sailing into Breckenridge in the morning, we were greeted at the first ridge by large timber estates perched high up in the rolling landscape. These were mixed between beautiful pine trees and large oaks. Top real estate on anyone’s book. Then it started snowing … Neither of us had ever driven through snow before, so a bit of excitement appeared, as is often the case with new experiences.

The first ‘Breck’ ride was to the beautiful Hanging Lakes, which only took a couple of hours back and was quite crowded the whole way. The highlight for me was taking a ‘shower’ under a freezing waterfall at the top. Cold is a pretty decent understatement, that shit was creepy.

The next day, I passed up an incredible whitewater rafting opportunity to scale one of Colorado’s infamous’ 14ers’ – mountains topping 14,000 ‘(4,240m for those of us using the correct form of measurement). Even though the weather was uncertain at best, it was what I came to Colorado to do, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. I chose the eastern route at Quandry Peak as my goal due to the relatively easy trail and lack of technical challenges.

Calling a local outdoor recreation store the morning of the climb, I picked up a pair of snowshoes, which I was informed was a necessary piece of gear with the condition they were in (as you can see, it was well prepared ..) It was mid-May but the snow had lasted and hung, falling well past the traditional ski season. Unusual weather patterns seemed to be a common trend on this trip, Hollywood Boulevard was flooded, and Texas also had a combination of deadly floods and a tornado upon my arrival.

They dropped me off at Quandry base mid-morning and left (this is really not recommended as an early start tends to avoid storms that develop later in the day). There were a couple of people in the parking lot strolling, but otherwise I was completely alone on the mountain the entire time. I guess that’s not a good sign for what is considered a fairly popular hike. Fortunately, there was a fairly snowy road leading into the first half and I was able to follow at least some sort of tracks all the way to the top.

At 30 odd minutes into the hike, it started snowing and didn’t really stop until well into the descent. It wasn’t too heavy, but combined with the wind blowing past the treeline, it made for a cold ride. When I got to the tree line, I was faced with a rather sinister looking scene. The neighboring peaks to the south were veiled by a dark cloud and it wouldn’t be long before Quandry was engulfed as well.

Moving on, I managed to get to the top around 2 1/2 hours after starting. By this time, the cloud had entered well and truly and the top of the mountain was in the middle of a pretty decent whitening. I had heard a lot about this phenomenon before (mainly tips to avoid them at all costs) and was a bit queasy from having another new experience under the belt. That lasted until I realized that I could barely see my feet.

It was difficult to follow any of the clues I left on the ascent, so they let me stumble blindly, hoping to go in the right direction. Fortunately the eastern route at Quandry is a fairly gentle incline with no cliffs or unevenness so I was pretty safe that way. However, I still wanted to avoid getting completely lost as I had no idea where I was or where other roads or trails around the mountain led. Not much luck in that sense.

I managed to get off the ridge and again had a view of the world around me. Realizing I was out of the way, but thinking I might trip over it at some point, I hit the treeline again and found some ski runs that I thought would get me where I wanted to go. Incorrect. They took off in another direction entirely, at which point I was so lost that I kept following them anyway, hoping they would eventually lead to a different highway or route.

The problem was, no one had ever walked this way, so there was no accumulated snow. It was also early afternoon, which means the snow was getting soft and muddy. Excellent hiking conditions. The snow is really terrible. You get excited and glad when you first see it, but it doesn’t take long for reality to set in and remind you of just how bastard of substance it really is.

It was a constant battle going back down the mountain. He was caving at every turn, often falling to his waist in the muddy white goodness. Several times I had to reach down and reach for my snowshoe by hand, as it was lodged a meter or more below the surface. Yes, I was wearing snowshoes, that’s how soft it was. Fortunately, there were a few small trees that I could use to get outside, I have no idea how I would have managed otherwise.

The ski slopes finally brought me back to the beginning of the route I came across and I wearily walked out onto the road to greet a passing car. The descent had taken me as long as it originally had to get up. A nice old lady picked me up and, after a very enthusiastic spiel about the Amish, dropped me directly at a local watering hole. That proceeded to be a very messy night.

* Be sure to check out this article with pictures at

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