Quandary Peak (14,265 feet) is a popular beginner 14er due to easy access and an established hiking path. Quandary is probably one of the most attempted (and least attained) summits of Colorado’s 54 14ers. Since it attracts many novices, I have seen many hikers turn back after two miles of hiking to treeline, found at about 12,000 feet.
One winter weekend, I began hiking from the trailhead at dawn, surrounded by 20 hikers. By the time I reached the summit, only two hikers were on the mountain. Counter-intuitively, the three hikers who reached the summit were middle-aged, while all of the young hikers in their 20s had quit below 13,000 feet. On 14ers, slow and steady persistence often wins the race.
On this warm fall day, I began my ascent after noon and immediately met two young, disoriented hikers visiting from east of the Continental Divide. I led them north along the U.S. Forest Service access road a short distance and followed the Quandary Trail northwest into the forest. I learned that this was their first attempt to summit a 14er.
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