On Sunday, myself and Chris "I love the Grenadier Range" Cavallaro went up to Quandary Peak. We drove up the Blue Lakes Road around 8pm Saturday night. We were able to make it about 1 mile up the road to the first parking area. Here we camped with about 5 or 6 other cars in the general vicinity. It was a beautiful night abundant stars revealing more each moment to those willing to watch, with the tune Barstools and Dreamers in my head, I thought the lyric "Look at how the numbers grow" seemed perfectly apropos.
We awoke around 4am and hiked the mile up the road to the base of the dam. Finding the coulior was simple as there were many footprints and ski/snowboard tracks. It was a little warm in the morning, right around freezing at 11,500 feet. The soft snow down low was somewhat disconcerting; however, the snow pack was really solid once we reached around 12,000 feet. We were fortunate to find kick steps for the majority of the climb with solid consolidated snow perfect for cramponing. The main couloir was filled with ski tracks, snowboard tracks, glissade tracks, and any and all tracks for ascending and descending snow. We arrived at the summit around 8 am. It was our first time up Quandary and what a summit!!! A warm sun with calm winds was there to greet us. The snow was still pretty firm so we had to wait about an hour for it to soften up.
On the summit we met two solo climbers and a group of four skiers, all of whom ascended the couloir. After lounging about for an hour it was time to start skiing!!!! No sound in the world can compare to that click of a binding on a mountaintop, especially one at 14,265 feet. The ski descent was absolutely perfect. The velvety silky smooth corn snow sliding beneath the bases with just enough firmness to hold an edge where warranted. The turns were plentiful and the slope consistent. I will venture that the average angle of this couloir is 35 degrees and the steepest angle 45 degrees with variations depending on your exact route.
After negotiating the terrain park, a half pipe that had formed at the base of the couloir we were able to ski right back to the car. 4 hours climbing 1 hour lounging and 30 minutes skiing. Total trip time 5 hours 30 minutes.
I would highly recommend this climb/ski to anyone as a perfect day trip. Easy access, a consistent pitch, great summit, and probably for one more week a summit to car ski descent.
Doug Cook wrote:
Last year, May 27, 2000 I did the Cristo Couloir for the first time. The road was melted out to within about 200 yards from the parking area at the Blue Lakes Dam. After the storms last week, the road may still be closed which requires a two mile hike up to the Dam. (Be cautious on the 4WD road to the Dam - several avalanche paths cross the road). The approach to the Couloir starts just below the Dam. It all depends on snow conditons, but the Cristo Couloir glissade is advertised to be one of the best in Colorado (it's probably fun to ski too). Last year it was a hoot - after a two mile, 2600 vertical climb to the summit, almost the entire Couloir (from just below a melted out rock band below the summit) was perfect snow conditions for a glissade. The max angle is 30 degrees, so the Couloir never feels too steep. The Cristo Couloir seems a lot like the snow climb on the Angel of Shivano, and a lot shorter drive!
Be cautious of wet snow slides in the afternoon as the snow warms up from the sun.