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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Last week my wife and I made a trip to Colorado and hiked two 14ers, mountain peaks with 14,000 feet, or more, of elevation. We originally wanted to visit New Mexico, but they have an out-of-state visitor quarantine, and we didn't want to deal with the hassle. Then we thought about visiting southwest Colorado in the Telluride area, until finally the idea to try our first 14ers came up. We decided that was the ticket.

The 3,000 mile road trip and hikes were outstanding. Very challenging and worth every bit of effort. We hiked Grays Peak and Quandary Peak. These are thought to be some of the "easier" 14ers. Reminder - there are no easy 14ers.

We gave ourselves one day for altitude acclimation. While we didn't get into any difficulty, both of us felt the elevation. Truly full acclimation requires approximately one month, not feasible for a short vacation.

The formula was to wake up around 4am, and arrive at the trailhead a little after 5:00am. This is needed for two main reasons. First, 14er hiking is popular and parking space is limited, so if you don't get there early it could mean several extra miles of hiking because of more distant parking. Secondly, afternoon thunderstorms are common in summer. Thunder and lightning on a mountain are not to be messed with. Getting off the mountain by approximately noon is a general rule of thumb.

We are not technical hikers, meaning we do not use ropes, crampons, ice axes, etc. The gear we use includes pack, hiking shoes, hat, gloves, pants with zip-off pant legs, Leatherman multi-tool, manual compass and headlamp. For upper body layering we wear a shirt, pullover sweater, fleece jacket and windbreaker/hard shell. We each carried 3 liters of water, plus our own food which was trail mix consisting of raisins, roasted almonds, beef jerky and Ghirardelli dark chocolate! :) While we weren't expecting to rely on cell phones for navigation or communication, we had 3 strong bars of signal at both peaks, not uncommon, we learned.

We hiked Grays, our first 14er, on Tuesday. We hiked Quandary on Thursday, after one day of rest. Both hikes started at 37 degrees temperature at the trailhead. We started both hikes at 5:45am, and summited Grays at 9:15am and Quandary at 9:30am. Grays stayed cold the whole day, and the summit was covered in fog and clouds. It was in the 20s and windy at Grays Peak, and it had snowed (not forecasted) the night before. Quandary on the other hand had perfect peak conditions with low 50s temps, little to no wind and clear sky. A tale of two mountains.

Both hikes required about 3.5 hours for ascent, and about 3-3.5 hours for descent. Grays had the shorter (faster) descent because of slightly shorter distance, and we were cold and wanted to get off the mountain. Quandary had the longer descent because of slightly longer distance, and I was spent and walking slowly because of the full sun and no shade. Temp on the Quandary descent was in the upper 50s, but with the physical exertion and no sun, it was a tough go.

The road leading to Grays was 2.6 miles of rough going. A difficult 4x4 type of road with rocks emerging from the road surface, grapefruit-sized rocks everywhere, ruts, gullies and potholes. Plus 1,500 feet of elevation gain. The road to Quandary was rough, but nothing like Grays.

We stayed in the Keystone, CO area, which was centrally located for our two hikes. In the summer, not much is happening in Keystone. Keystone is primarily a seasonal ski village. If you like a quieter location (we do), Keystone is great. If you want more activity, Breckenridge is the place to stay.

Wildlife sightings:

Bull moose
Mule deer
Steller's jay
Gray jay (Canada jay)
White tailed ptarmigan
Brown capped rosy finch
Red fox

I could keep going but I'll stop here and leave some reference information and photos.


Grays summit, our first 14er
Sky Smile Mountain Snow Highland

Grays summit showing snow and swirling wind and fog, and some sun now and then
Cloud Sky Atmosphere Mountain Slope

Another view down Stevens Gulch from Grays summit
Sky Cloud Mountain Slope Landscape

The descent to the trailhead near the bottom of Stevens Gulch (Grays)
Sky Plant Mountain Plant community Natural landscape

Pre-sunrise moon at the start of the Quandary hike
Sky Plant Cloud Ecoregion Mountain

10,329 Posts
Discussion Starter · #2 · (Edited)
Moon setting on the Quandary hike, about 1/3 of the way to the peak
Sky Mountain Cloud Azure Slope

Me approaching Quandary summit, behind another hiking party
Sky Mountain Ecoregion Highland Outdoor recreation

Geodetic marker at Quandary summit. The marker at Grays couldn't be found by us or others.
Road surface Asphalt Grass Circle Bedrock

Quandary summit, our second 14er
Head Sky Smile Mountain Shorts
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