Getting the most out of the mountain |

Getting the most out of the mountain

Reid Williams

SUMMIT COUNTY – When hikers are injured or die on Quandary Peak, it’s often not because they’re ignorant or inexperienced. It’s because the mountain is deceptive.

So says Summit County Search and Rescue liaison officer Jim Koegel. Koegel said two hikers who prompted a June 28 rescue operation on the 14,265-foot peak south of Breckenridge were avid hikers familiar with the mountains. One of the pair, 31-year-old Julie Marshall of Denver, died from a fall while attempting to descend the mountain.

“There’s a real problem when people are going up the west ridge route,” Koegel said. “There’s some fairly stout climbing. People decide they don’t want to do that and off to the side. Then they end up in the cliff band.

“Or, they’re at the top and they can see the parking lot or the lake, and they think it’s a shortcut. They hike for a ways, they hit the cliff bands and think, “I can go all the way back or I can try to make it down this cliff.'”

Koegel urged hikers to stay on formal trails on Quandary. If they find the hike becomes too difficult or isn’t what they expected, Koegel said, recreationalists should turn around.

Koegel said rescuers are called to the Quandary area almost every year. He added factors such as loose rock and the mountain’s reputation as an “easy fourteener” contribute to the number of rescue calls there. Koegel said the mountain’s difficulty is underrated.

People can also get themselves into deeper trouble, Koegel said, because they don’t seek help from Search and Rescue. Hikers have trouble swallowing their pride and sometimes hike beyond their abilities, he said. While conducting the rescue operation June 28, the team encountered another pair in need of assistance. A father and daughter from Kansas had found their way to the cliff band. While the girl was quite vocal about wanting “a helicopter ride,” Koegel said, her father wasn’t sure he needed help.

“We want people to understand we’re doing it in their best interest,” Koegel said. “We’re volunteers – it’s not like we’re just doing a job and telling them these things for no reason. We’re not trying to ruin their holiday, or have them be perceived as lesser people. We don’t want to come back for them under more uncomfortable circumstances.”

Reid Williams can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 237 or

Hiking Tips

– If you’re lost: Summit County Search and Rescue can be

contacted via 911. Extra hint: rescue extractions can be costly; buying a state fishing license gives hikers one free rescue from the backcountry.

– Avoid hiking alone. If you do, leave a trail route and estimated time of return with friends or family.

– Water should be purified by boiling for 15 minutes or using an approved chemical filter.

– Thunderstorms are a sign to head home. Lightning strikes and ground currents are deadly. To avoid storms, try setting out early in the morning.

– Altitude sickness: The first symptoms are headache, lack of appetite and nausea.

– Hypothermia: Administer hot drinks and no alcohol. Do your best to keep warm and dry.

What to Pack

– The alpine hiking terrain of Summit County is not only rugged, but also challenging since weather conditions can change quickly and without warning. Being prepared by

packing wisely is the best way to prevent injury or illness. Here are the recommended essentials for your pack:

– Map and compass. Learn to use them before you hit the trail. Orienteering seminars are offered regularly by Colorado Mountain College (453-6757).

– Poncho or water-repellent jacket. Summer storms are frequent and build quickly.

– Extra shoes. You never know when you’ll have to cross a stream or develop blisters because of a loose fit.

– Sunglasses and sunscreen. The extreme elevation of many trails exposes hikers to increased levels of ultraviolet light. Long sleeves aren’t a bad idea, either.

– Just in case: waterproof matches, pocket knife, first aid kit and flashlight.

– For high altitudes: Sweater, wind breaker, hat and gloves will shield you from the wind and cold.

– Nourishment. High-energy foods such as specialty bars, chocolate or dried fruit provide plenty of calories without

taking up too much space.

– Water: Always carry plenty.

– Litter bag. At high elevations, food waste does not biodegrade. Remember the adage, “Take only pictures, leave only footprints.”

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