Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Quandary West Ridge

We drove from Amarillo, TX and made it up the Blue Lakes road all the way to the dam Thursday night. We cooked dinner and called it a night. We started hiking Friday morning at about 7. We followed what seemed like the path of less resistance across patches of knee deep snow. The trail was very difficult to follow but there were patches which were discernible. 

We continued up to the saddle of Quandary and Fletcher tending toward the North side of the basin trying to stay on rock patches which protruded from the deep snow. We left our snow shoes in the car and never regretted it. (we were able to stay on rock about 80% of the time though with some difficulty) 

We started climbing the West Ridge and made it past the first 2nd/3rd class section with little trouble. We did run into some sections a bit harder than this since we forgot all our West Ridge beta in the car and only had a general map of Quandary. Though this scramble was difficult we never felt the need to put on crampons since it wasn't that hard and any snow was too soft anyway. 

We continued past the easy 1st class bit to the false summit. This was quite disheartening because we thought we were done with the scrambling sections. (Neither of us had fully read the route description before the climb, rookie mistake #2) From the false summit we could see the long 3rd class sections to the actual summit.

We started climbing, downclimbing, and traversing up, down, and around the various spires on the route. We both felt like there were a few 4th class sections through we may have gone slightly of route since we were lacking beta. We each climbed with one BD Venom and left the matching axe in the pack the entire route. There were many sketchy mixed sections which were very exposed. After a particularly difficult section I whipped out my iPhone and found enough reception to pull up 14ers and the route description. 

We stayed on route the rest of the way, and climbed through the "crux" sections which weren't bad at all compared to some of the other stuff we did. After the last crux wall we continued to the summit.  

We reached the top at about 4:45. After a few summit shots we discussed our descent route. We didn't know exactly where Cristo Coulior was so we opted to just descend the East Ridge and hike the road back to the car. 

After a lot of hiking down, we made it the jeep at about 8. After eating we went to sleep. We woke the next morning at 7 as cars stared rolling in with about 12 climbers heading up the Cristo Coulior. We drove back to Amarillo after a great trip climbing an exciting ridge in the snow. 

Gray October

Dad and I decided to drive up to Boulder to try on new boots at Neptune Mountaineering. So that's exactly what we did. After spending a few hours trying on boots, we called it a day once our fingers were bleeding from pulling tight the laces of many different boots. We ate dinner at Half Fast Subs (the best Philly cheesesteak in the world, including in Philly). We drove into the mountains on I-70 and spent the night at a hotel in Georgetown just a few miles from the road to Grays peak.

We woke early the next morning and headed up the snow covered road. Once we got to the trailhead, the wind was blowing quite hard and the temperature was still lacking the warmth of the sun. Nevertheless, we packed our gear and started walking. Only a few minutes later we took a break to whip out the crampons.

The wind really started blowing, and the temperature stayed constantly freezing. Visibility was also quite low. I even had to place my water bottle in my jacket to keep it from freezing in my pack. We battled the cold wind and fought on through some pretty deep snow drifts. We climbed and climbed. After many hours of climbing we realized that we wouldn't have enough time to reach the summit, descend to the car, and make the long 9hr drive home before 12'oclock. Even though we were at about 13,800ft the deep snow and gale force (probably 70mph gusts) were making progress quite slow. So we called it a good trip and turned around.

On the way down we met many groups of climbers and several of them turned around shortly after we did. Though we were not able to make it to the summit we had a great time fighting the wind and exploring a beautiful piece of God's earth which was made even more beautiful by the presence of snow.

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I love life and aspire to be all I can be in everything that I do.