Mountain(s): Quandary Peak (14,272')
Distance: 6.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 3,450'
Roundtrip Time: 5.5 hrs
There is not much to say here. My buddy Chris and I drove up the morning of the hike, leaving Laramie around 5am and arriving at the trailhead by 8:30 or 9. Since it was May, snow coverage was still quite substantial. The forecast called for temperatures in the 40s and the possibility of snow. This would be my first snow hike, and an easy one at that. The standard route up Quandary Peak basically follows the east ridge and remains Class 1 the entire way up, even in snow. In fact, it's probably easier to hike in snow because you don't have to worry about turning your ankle on a rock or something like that. Also, the hike back down can often be quickened by walking straight down the snow fields instead of following the trail. Under really good snow conditions, you might even be able to glissade down some of the "steeper" sections.
We began around 9 or 9:30am under a light snowfall. If I remember correctly, we brought along crampons in case they became necessary later in the day. Looking back, I don't think crampons would ever be necessary on the East Ridge route, even in the worst conditions. It just isn't steep enough. Snowshoes - yes. Microspikes - maybe. After winding through a forested area up to treeline at 11,800', we headed straight up to the start of the ridgeline at about 12,100'. There was a good boot pack in place from previous hikers, making the journey up quite easy.
Given how easy it was the rest of the way, there really isn't a whole more lot to say about the hike. We occasionally caught a few breaks of sunshine before clouds rolled back in and pelted us with light snow. The views at times were quite nice (Photo 1) and we quickly approached the summit (Photo 2).
We eventually summited around 12:15pm and enjoyed a few snacks and some rest, as well as some welcome sunshine, for about half an hour (Photo 3). However, clouds and snow rolled back in and we took off back down the mountain (Photo 4). Once back to the trees, the snow had indeed softened some, although I don't remember us sinking into the snow too much. There were certainly some large post holes (made from your foot sinking deep into the snow) from previous hikers, but nothing too bad. We made it back to the car by 3pm. Due to the high reflective snow and the fact that I wore sunglasses all day, I suffered a nice raccoon-shaped sunburn on around my eyes. I was also burned on some unusual spots, including the front of my neck and under my chin and nose. Oh, the joys of first-time snow hiking!
If I ever hike Quandary again (there's a good chance I will), I'll make sure to snap more photos. Four photos is pretty pathetic and I'm not sure why I didn't take more. I'll also hopefully be skiing it next time, so expect a video as well.