Quandary Peak - Blue Lake Trail

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My second ascent of Quandary Peak (elevation 14,265 feet) was on 15 August 2004. I hadn't realized it at the time but it was just 5 days short of being exactly 10 years since my last climb up this peak. This time I started from the Blue Lake trailhead, not so much by choice as because the Monte Cristo trail that I planned to take was closed by the park service due to overuse*, and I didn't discover this until I arrived.

Instead of climbing Quandary's east ridge, the Blue Lake route starts south of the mountain at the Blue Lake dam, and climbs up the mountain's west ridge. It is a scenic route, with a nice view of the lake and close approaches to two ruined buildings, presumably leftovers from mining days. However, the terrain along the ridge is challenging and dangerous, and the trail is poorly marked. Had I known in advance how tricky this route was, especially for a solo hiker, I would not have taken it. I do not recommend this trail.

One other person came up this route after me and we met on the summit. We both decided that we had no desire to go back that way. For my trek down I started down along the east ridge until I could cut south down-slope to pick up the road leading back to the trailhead. I don't like leaving the marked trails, as this can lead to environmental damage and there are always surprises offered by the terrain, but I did not feel at all safe going back down the west ridge. It was a slow descent, but I was rewarded with a great view of a herd of mountain goats.

This was a difficult hike but the weather was ideal and I was pleased with my pictures. This was the first hike on which I used my digital camera, and I liked the results so well that I decided to abandon the use of film cameras, despite the digital camera's extra weight. I'm just an amateur photographer and my inexpensive camera, an HP PhotoSmart 318, does what I need.

For those interested in an easier route, there is a new trail ("Lower McCullough Gulch") nearby Monte Cristo that mostly duplicates the old east slope route. From Colorado 9, go west on Summit County 850 for 0.1 mile, turn right onto Summit County 851 and go 1.0 mile to the new trailhead. A trail goes southwest to join the original route at the base of Quandary’s lower east slopes.