It’s mid-day in April, and my husband and I are slogging our way down the East Ridge of Quandary Peak, a popular “Fourteener” in the Ten Mile Range near Breckenridge, Colorado on the White River National Forest. With an early start, we trekked to the 14,265-foot summit on firm snow. But now it’s pushing 45 degrees, and the conditions are quickly becoming cruddy. We know there will be slush and mud on the lower trail. As we aim for the trailhead and the sun rises higher, we watch groups of two, four, and even six people with skis, splitboards, ice spikes and snowshoes head to the summit. Soon we can look back and see a continuous stream of climbers heading up the East Ridge toward the top.
This might sound like a busy day on a Fourteener, but consider this: according to a report card produced by the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative, an average of 692 climbers summit Quandary Peak each week between June and October!
If you add in the spring “mud season” and winter climbs, the numbers are staggering. Like me, outdoor-loving hikers, climbers and skiers from the Front Range and I-70 corridor look forward to weekend ascents on Fourteeners. Unfortunately, we’re loving Quandary and other Fourteeners to death. The same report card tells the story of the East Ridge trail. The trail is in “fair condition,” meaning it receives a lot of traffic and is in need of routine maintenance. In the case of Quandary Peak, the maintenance is overdue.
Starting this field season, the NFF is bringing together trail stewardship and volunteer groups from Colorado – organizations with decades of Fourteener experience and expertise – to restore and protect sustainable access to many of Colorado’s state’s beloved Fourteeners as part of the Find Your Fourteener campaign.
Quandary Peak is on the schedule. Beginning in June, experienced project leaders from Colorado Fourteeners Initiative (CFI) will reconstruct sections of trail near the summit, while also mentoring a Quandary Peak apprentice from Rocky Mountain Youth Corps. The peak apprentice will improve coordination between the multiple groups working on Quandary Peak and provide a link between volunteer events and professional crew – and spend an incredible summer in the alpine!
White reconstruction is occurring up high, volunteers from Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado, Friends of the Dillon Ranger District, and Colorado Mountain Club will join CFI throughout the summer to enhance trail conditions from the trailhead to approximately 13,000 feet.
The number of hikers and climbers on Quandary Peak may continue to increase – even in April – but through the Find Your Fourteener campaign, the NFF is working hard to ensure access will be sustainable for decades to come.
Would you like to help? Donate to the Find Your Fourteener campaign at www.nationalforests.org/donate....