Quandary’s Inwood Arete

No matter how many times I have climbed the 14er Quandary Peak, there always seems to be new terrain to discover. The┬áremote north face of Quandary harbors a semi-technical route that ascends an arete for 2,000′ to 13,800′ on the broad east face. Kristine & Sawyer were back on the coast of Maine visiting her folks for a week and so my friend Reid Jennings and I made a plan to hit this route as it would be a short half-day climb and not too much time away from Rainie & Kona back at the house. Plus, it would be a nice Independence Day scramble. I had been wanting to check this route out for some time and is even featured in David Cooper’s Colorado Scrambles book. Reid & I met at the main Quandary Peak TH at 7:15am and after driving the 2 miles or so on the dirt access road to the 11,000′ McCullough Gulch TH, we set off hiking up McCullough Gulch around 7:45am. It was very nice to leave the hundreds of folks at the main Quandary Peak TH, who would be hiking the normal standard east ridge, and have the entire north side to ourselves. I brought my 7mm tag line as our lightweight rope and a half rack of nuts and cams for the fun-looking initial 100′ 5.7 crack pitch. We both brought our harnesses, helmets, and rock shoes as well. After about an hour, 1000′ of vertical gain, and a delicate creek crossing, we reached the base of the route at the nice looking 5.7 crack.

Reid and the creek crossing

Reid and the creek crossing

The Inwood Arete. The 5.7 crack is in red and the remaining route denoted in blue is all 3rd, 4th, and low 5th class scrambling

The Inwood Arete. The 5.7 crack is in red and the remaining route denoted in blue is all 3rd, 4th, and low 5th class scrambling

Now there are 4th class and maybe low 5th class ways around this initial 5.7 crack, but what’s the fun in that?

Looking up the initial 5.7 crack

Looking up the initial 5.7 crack

Looking down at Reid at the crack's base

Looking down at Reid at the crack’s base

I placed 4 cams in about 90′, so its pretty easy climbing, but definitely adds a bit of fun to the route. I made an anchor at the top and brought Reid up to me. He enjoyed the pitch as well. We stowed our gear and traded climbing shoes for trail runners and took off up the class 3 scrambling.

Above the initial technical pitch

Above the initial technical pitch

I think the best part of the route and the most fun was the several hundred feet of class 4 and low 5th class scrambling on solid slabs above this initial class 3 scrambling. It was great. Very solid and fun climbing using various crack systems. This took us up to the base of the 1st tower.

Reid on the slabs

Reid on the slabs

Reid on a section of friction climbing with a great view down McCullough Gulch

Reid on a section of friction climbing with a great view down to McCullough Gulch

More scenic climbing shots of Reid on the slabs

More scenic climbing shots of Reid on the slabs

The cracks in the slabs really provided a nice route to the top

The cracks in the slabs really provided a nice route to the top

Reid almost to the top of the slabs

Reid almost to the top of the slabs

The towers would have been fun to hit head-on, but we just found the small gully up between the 1st & 2nd towers from the east and scrambled around just to the west of the 2nd & 3rd towers. These towers aren’t really all that impressive – mere bumps on a not so well-defined arete.

Reid coming up the gully which bisects the 1st & 2nd towers

Reid coming up the gully which bisects the 1st & 2nd towers

More scrambling awaits

More scrambling awaits

While the Inwood Arete is really not a sharp ridge as you’d think an arete should be, the scrambling is still fun and worthwhile, in my opinion. The route does sort-of meander up the remaining arete between steep, loose gullies and small cliff bands to the top at about 13,800′.

Reid up high on the route

Reid up high on the route. The three towers can be seen over his left shoulder down below

We then saw the hundreds of hikers marching up and down the standard east ridge. Another 450 of vertical gain and 20 minutes later we were sharing the summit of Quandary with probably 75 folks of all ages. Definitely not unexpected, but we didn’t stay very long.

Looking down from the top of the Quandary Couloir and Inwood Arete to its right

Looking down from the top of the Quandary Couloir and Inwood Arete to its right

Final push to the top

Final push to the top

Quandry Peak summit (14,265')

Quandary Peak summit (14,265′)

We descended the standard east ridge route until about 12,600′ where we veered northeast along the north edge of the large east-facing bowl in order to make a beeline for the car. While it was some steep off-trail talus hopping, bushwhacking, and grass slope descending, we amazingly popped out literally right at the car. Now, that’s some good navigation! :) It had taken us about 4.5 hrs roundtrip car-to-car and there were now well over a hundred folks at the McCullough Gulch TH. It was quite the scene with people trying to get to and depart from the TH via the narrow dirt road. We sat in some traffic waiting for people to backup their cars, but eventually got out. After all, it was July 4 and Breckenridge was nearby and obviously very busy and crowded. Back home at 2pm to take the dogs to the river, it was a nice half-day adventure with Reid.

Meanwhile back in Maine, my two favorite gals were having a wonderful visit:

Boating

Boating

Dressing up for parties

Dressing up for parties

And driving tractors

And driving tractors

6 Comments

  1. Saweet! Looks like a great day out fellas, minus the parking snafoo at the end. Like you said though, have to expect it on some level on Quandary over the 4th.

    Glad you liked the route. Zambo and I hit it back in 2010 I think it was, even the 5.7 crack start and with my sub-par gear placement skills, I more or less wound up freeing the entire pitch and nearly crapping myself. Definitely not ideal, and then we somehow never managed to find much in the way of quality scrambling above the first pitch either, just a bunch of choss. I think we must have been off route. And the 75 folks of all ages were on the summit when we got there as well. Actually, maybe it was only like 50 :)

    Glad you enjoyed the route more than we did. I hope you and the rest of the clan are doing well!

    Reply
    • Thanks, Ben! Yeah, you definitely got to expect hordes of folks up on Quandary, especially on the 4th. But, was nice to have the entire north side to ourselves until the summit. I do remember Zambo’s report on this way back when in 2010. You did well on the 5.7 is what I remember Zambo saying. Nice work man. I mean, you are right, the remainder of the route is definitely less than stellar, but I did enjoy the few hundred feet of class 4/low 5th crack scrambling on the solid slabs up to the base of the 1st tower. A good, quick route & summit for sure. Hope you, AL, and Jax are great!

      Reply
  2. Fun to read, Bran- Glad was good trip!! OX, Mom

    Reply
  3. Brando, I have all of 2016’s TRs to catch up on over here. Starting with this one. I did Quandary on July 4th as my 2nd 14er in 2011. There were 200 people on the summit and a keg and some dude throwing boulders off the side. I’m trying to never go back, but if I do I’m going your way and asking for help. :) Nice report as always buddy. This looks fun and glad you had a great 4th weekend. Sawyer is Huge! We need a triathlon!!!

    Reply
    • Thanks, Dillon! Yeah, July 4 may not be a great day to hike Quandary…or, for that matter, any day of the year without snow :) But, that Inwood Arete is worth doing IMO. Come to think of it that was my first ascent of Quandary during the summer months. That arete is a fun, quick half day jaunt up the Big Q. Sawyer is growing up! She is such a fun little, talking lady these days!

      Reply

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