Don’t be fooled: Quandary isn’t always a walk in the park |

Don’t be fooled: Quandary isn’t always a walk in the park

summit daily news
Summit County, CO Colorado

SUMMIT COUNTY ” An 11-hour rescue operation on Quandary Peak Tuesday marked the ninth mission on the mountain this year, a noticeable increase from the three calls for help in 2007.

“We are way beyond what we saw on Quandary last year,” Summit County Search and Rescue Group spokeswoman Anna DeBatiste said.

“The peak is known as one of the easier Fourteeners in the state, but easy is really a relative term here.”

Rescuers were called to Quandary Tuesday afternoon after three hikers opted to change their descent route from the main east trail to a technical couloir on the west ridge.

They found themselves stranded on top of a cliff face after becoming disoriented on the unfamiliar trail, and they used an SPOT satellite messenger device to call for help at 3 p.m.

“Apparently the group thought they were taking a shortcut and had only prepared for a little afternoon hike,” DeBatiste said.

“They were completely cliffed out, so we used a Flight-for-Life helicopter to drop them some supplies and a radio.”

Evacuating the hikers from the 400-foot cliff became increasingly difficult, as loose rocks tumbled down the cliff face, injuring one rescue worker who was struck in the leg by a boulder.

Rescue crews set up a rope system to lower the three hikers down the cliff, and the group was brought down to the Blue Lakes trailhead by 3 a.m.

Many hiking guide books depict Quandary as a pleasant day hike, an easy option for people wanting to summit a 14,000-foot peak for the very first time.

But routes to the summit vary from walking trails easy enough for novices ” under ideal weather conditions ” to technical climbs that require the right gear and proper training.

“There is a big difference between being an experienced hiker and being an experienced climber,” DeBatiste said.

“Many times, people get caught when they think they can get down any side of the mountain.”

Earlier this summer, a hiker from Missouri died on the mountain after falling in a couloir on the western ridge.

Although he had summitted the peak previously, Ryan Torpey strayed from the marked trail and remained missing for almost a day as rescue workers scoured the mountain to find him.

“Even if you think you are going to be up and down the mountain quickly, you still really need to prepare for everything,” DeBatiste said, adding that weather near the summit is unpredictable year-round.

Hikers are advised to bring extra food, water and clothing regardless of the route they choose on Quandary, and those planning on tackling the more technical trails on the west and south sides of the peak should consider bringing emergencies supplies, a cell phone and a GPS device.

“If these hikers had had a map and a compass, they would have been able to see that the route they chose was not the best,” DeBatiste said.

“Typically, experienced climbers will know what they are getting into, but being an experienced day hiker isn’t going to help if you find yourself out on a cliff with few options.”

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