AT Training: Quandary Peak

Fourteener Season

Quandary Peak sits in the Tenmile Range just south of Breckenridge, Colorado. It is the only 14er in its group, and it sits at 14,265 feet. Due to this peak’s close proximity to Denver and fairly easy hike, it is a very popular mountain to climb. Quandary’s eastern ridge is the standard route. The trail is around seven miles long, gains 3,450 feet of elevation, and is very well-maintained. This route is meant to be done as an out-and-back hike. It took John and me around four hours to complete our journey.

West Ridge: Three Failed Attempts

This was our third time coming to the Blue Lakes Basin that sits just below Quandary Peak. We have had every intention of climbing this mountain via a class 3 scramble along the west ridge, but we have had poor weather every single time we’ve managed to make it into the upper basin.

This time around, all of our hopes for completing this scramble route were abandoned when it started raining and sleeting at the trailhead before we went to bed last night. We made the conscious decision to bail on the west ridge when the temperature dropped below freezing just after the precipitation stopped. Climbing on wet or frozen rock is very dangerous, especially when you don’t have the proper gear.

Although the climb is only around four miles long, Quandary’s west ridge gains 2,650 feet of elevation in a short amount of time. If you attempt this route, be prepared to have experience climbing up exposed walls and ridges. You may also need Microspikes and/or an ice axe if the climbing conditions call for it.


I awoke to being a little irritated this morning due to our route plans failing… again. Don’t get me wrong. I love to hike, but this climb would have been the perfect training session for our scrambling days in the northern states on the Appalachian Trail. This will probably be our final fourteener summit for a while because we leave Colorado next week. Maybe we can bag another peak on our way to Maine in the spring as one final AT/14er training session.

Since we were unable to climb the route intended, I set a goal for us to complete the entire Quandary Peak east ridge hike in three hours. I felt that this was a reasonable goal for us because we have been crushing the uphill miles this summer. I became frustrated again when I realized that we weren’t going to finish in the allotted time planned.

I am a person who is always in competition with no one other than myself. I tend to feel down when I know that my physical limits have not been met, and I am constantly striving to hike or climb harder and faster miles than ever before.


As always, getting to the summit allowed for a release of any negative thoughts or emotions that I had going into the hike.  I realized that I needed to be more gentle on myself because I knew that I was doing the best that I could at that current moment. I have a pretty gnarly sinus infection and it’s been hard enough to breathe living at 9,000 feet. I don’t know why I expected to feel better in the thin air at 14k.

This is a very popular mountain, and I estimate that just today, at least 150 people will have made it to Quandary’s summit.  Some people tend to get frustrated by the popularity that hiking 14ers has brought, but I find it rather beautiful. How freaking awesome is it that so many people from so many different places and walks of life can use their feet and physical fitness to walk up above 14,000 feet. It’s always a unique experience to share the trail with strangers.

I cannot wait to share the Appalachian Trail with thru-hikers, day hikers, and woodland people along the way. I can already tell that these social experiences will fulfill my soul.

Beauty in the Trees

On the way down, I met a woman from Calgary, Canada. She was sitting on a log just below treeline and was wearing two pretty hefty knee braces. She told me that she was reading a book about people dying on their journeys to mountain summits. How ironic.

This woman was colorful and kind. She heard me griping on our hike up about my frustration on not being able to complete our intended climb, and she mentioned to me that she had to attempt one particular route in Banff National Park not three, but SEVEN times before she met her end goal.

We chatted for a while about getting old and losing certain aspects of our physical integrity. She reminded me that it’s not always important to make it to a summit, and that sometimes doing so makes us miss the small trails along the way while barreling to the top.

Stopping to talk with her reminded me of why I began hiking in the first place. I’ve always enjoyed seeing new and beautiful places as well as meeting new people in nature. She basically reminded me to take it slow, to stop and smell the roses, and to not be so hard on myself. The mountains aren’t going anywhere. Old age comes quicker than we think, and once again, it’s always important to stay present so that we can enjoy the current moment.

Peace, love, and happy hiking!

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Comments 4

  • Maria : Sep 30th

    Thought provoking. Good work

  • marijo : Oct 1st

    well written, good insight, love the adventure

  • Tammi : Oct 1st

    Nice article! Enjoy your youth, cause you still have it. What caught my eye when scrolling thru the FB Post was your ‘Colfax’ knit cap…Can you tell me where you bought this? I’ve googled, and cannot find anything like it…

    • Alicia Pacalo : Oct 1st

      Hi! Thanks for reading. I got my Colfax hat at 303 boards on Colfax Street in Denver.


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