Quandary Peak: 14,265 ft, 14er Rank #13/53

One of the most popular 14ers, Quandary Peak - featured on Colorado 14ers Map 4 of 16 - is the sole 14er in the Tenmile Mountain Range of Colorado. Because of its relatively easy Class 1 (trail walking) standard route, its proximity to Breckenridge and many of the ski areas in Summit County and easily accessible trailhead off Hoosier Pass, many 14ers hikers - and especially beginners - are drawn to this peak in both summer and winter.

Quandary, meaning a state of uncertainty or a delimma, was named by a group of miners in the area trying to determine a strange type of mineral that was found on its slopes in the mid-1800s. As with the nearby Mosquito Range, mining was a common activity in the Tenmile Range with nearby Breckenridge coming into prominence as a center for placer mining (mining of stream beds) in the area. Despite this, private property access concerns for Quandary Peak are minimal compared to the Decalibron 14ers in the Mosquito Range just to the south.

Quandary Peak from Summit of Mt Lincoln

Quandary Peak from Mount Lincoln, 1873

The standard route that the vast majority of hikers take to the summit of Quandary Peak is the Class 1 standard route up the east ridge. Starting at the trailhead just off Hoosier Pass south of Breckenridge (10,830' elevation), the trail meanders through the forest for 1.4 miles before reaching treeline. The rest of the hike consists of a steady westward walk along the east ridge of the peak for another 2 miles before reaching the summit. This route is 3.4 miles one-way with a net elevation gain of about 3,430'.

View down east ridge of Quandary Peak

"View Down East Ridge of Quandary Peak" (CC BY 2.0) by Paul Kehrer

Another route up Quandary Peak is via its west ridge. This route is best left for somewhat more advanced hikers, as it's a Class 3 (scrambling) route and it's easy to go off trail and "cliff out" (can't climb down or back up). Search and rescue teams are routinely called out for people who go off-route on the west ridge of Quandary Peak. 

This route leaves from the trailhead at Blue Lakes (11,715' elevation) along the Blue Lake Trail #850W.4A heading west for 0.8 miles before the trail becomes less defined and continues climbing up the valley in a northwest direction. After another mile or so, the trail gains the west ridge and turns east towards the summit. This route is 2.9 miles each way with a one-way elevation gain of 2,550'.

Mountain goat on Quandary Peak

"Mountain Goats are a very common sight on Quandary Peak" (CC BY 2.0) by emerson12

Despite the reputation of Quandary as being an ideal beginner 14er hike with its relatively short Class 1 walk to the summit, there have been fatalities in recent years even on the "easy" route from cardiac arrest. Even with these "easy" routes, one must always respect the limitations of physical conditions, particularly at altitude, as well as the other usual concerns with alpine hiking: staying hydrated, watching and respecting adverse weather conditions and having appropriate gear including your 14ers maps and compass. Quandary Peak is one of six fourteeners featured on Outdoor Trail Maps Colorado 14ers Series Map 4 of 16.

Directions to Trailheads:

For the main Quandary Peak trailhead to the standard east ridge route, drive 8 miles south from the center of Breckenridge, CO on Colorado Hwy 9 and turn right/west on Blue Lakes Road (County Road 850).  The trailhead is directly on your right after this turn-off.

For the west ridge route, instead of turning into the trailhead after the right turn on to Blue Lakes Road as on directions above, continue 2.2 miles (past the first Blue Lake) to a trailhead at the base of Upper Blue Lake dam.  The trail heads west from this parking area.

Feature image by Peekaboo5 - Peekaboo5, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link


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