Skydiving, a half-marathon run 8 days later — how do I match my past 2 weekend activities?  How ‘bout climb a 14er?  Wait, I’ve done that.  How ‘bout climb a 14er in winter?  Yeah, that’ll work.

Joined a new hiking team called HardKore Hiking & set my alarm at 3:45am Saturday morning for a trailhead meet-up at Quandary Peak, just south of Breckinridge (2 ¼ hours way).

Because of xtreme high altitude conditions, Ro spent Friday nite & Saturday day at Camp Bow Wow.  Xtreme?  Heavy mountain snow, moderate to high avalanche warning & summit wind chills at or below zero.  Just your average Saturday in Colorado 🙂

Missed the camaraderie of my friends John & Annmarie, but realize they also have other lives, so today was about forging new friendships – AND climbing a 14er in winter!

Crampons, poles, snowshoes, extra layers (shirt & socks), goggles, food supplies, sunblock & bottled water (Camelbak lines freeze in these conditions – yeah, even with insulator coverings).  Check, done, ready to go.  2 ladies dropped off pace fast, said our goodbyes – now we were 7 (one ‘no show’ – originally supposed to summit with 10).

After tree line, found ourselves hiking as two separate groups of 4 & 3.  Maintained position most of our climb to the false summit at 13,200ft.  New Hampshire marathoner Alex summited first – kicked Brandon, (Minnesota) Matt & my butts.  Quick pace, super efficient stride.

15-minute water & rest break at the false summit – studied the peak ahead.  No visible trails today, so our choice was GPS or ski mark remnants of backcountry skiers past.

Alex started to chill so once again, she took the lead.  Not that this was a competition, but as one of 2 older guys and newbie to the group – didn’t want to lag behind.  Lucky for me, hills are my friend.  Don’t get me wrong, I think the same way everyone else does, but I dig in mentally & can maintain a strong steady pace uphill.

Found myself out front for much of the climb but jeez my lungs were burning.  Brandon caught & passed me with a ¼ mile to go. ARGH!  5 minutes back I summit 2nd.  Last summer, Quandary was my least favourite of six 14ers Ro & I completed.  This day however Quandary soared #1; the Rockies in winter are AMAAAZZZING!

SUCCESS!  Wisconsin pharm researcher Brandon dug a summit snow shelter as protection from the bitter wind.  Matt & Ed joined 10 minutes later; our final 3 hikers (Krista, Alex & Stephen) summited another 10 minutes back.

What else makes this Team ‘HardKore’?  We summit parked for 30+ minutes & ate lunch.  Windchill below zero.  Crazy!

A majority of folks packed sleds to enjoy a quick ride down.  I took the opportunity to trail run down the mountain, using poles as rudders to steady my pace & balance.

An hour half back to treeline, found myself all alone so caught a 20 minute nap on the snowpack.

High altitude, snow & sunshine – BEST combination, FAAANNNNTASTIC day!

 

WATCH my YouTube video ‘Quandary Peak 14,265ft’

 

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