Classic Descent: Quandary Peak

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Dominating the vista from Breckenridge, Quandary Peak (14,265 feet) is one of Colorado's most accessible fourteeners, and a popular one for people looking to start the quest for all 54. Quandary's East Slopes route is a moderate climb, never getting above 40 degrees in steepness. The route is also a good introduction for people looking to get into ski mountaineering.

Park at the Monte Cristo Trailhead, accessed off Highway 9 south of Breckenridge from the switchback on Highway 9 2.2 miles south of Hoosier Pass, about eight miles from Breckenridge. Turn onto the Monte Cristo road and park at the snow closure.

Put your skins on your skis and skin up north -- following a road where visible, using the best track where not -- until you reach the ridge crest. From here, follow the ridge crest to the summit of Quandary. Take off your skins and ski back down your ascent route, taking care to stay to skier's right whenever the line looks nebulous.

A bonus of doing Quandary is that if your ski skills are good enough and the snow conditions are right, the south side offers several couloirs that descend 2,000 feet to the base. The big westernmost one is called the Cristo Couloir, and is a popular glissade for mountaineers in the spring. Farther east down the ridge from the summit is a narrower couloir that Chris Davenport descended in January, 2006, as part of his Ski the 14ers project. If you choose the south side couloirs, be sure of the avalanche conditions, as they are a good angle for slide danger.

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