Hello former Oatmeal after Spinning readers! You probably noticed a big change on the blog today- the name!! I am very pleased to unveil the new version of my blog: Me and the Mountains. If you type oatmealafterspinning.com into your address bar it should redirect you to the new URL meandthemountains.com. Other than the URL and the header, not much else has changed. I’m still working on a header design and tweaking the layout a bit so there may be a few other design changes coming soon. I’m also working out a few kinks, but hopefully everything will run (and load) smoothly. Right now I know that the header image is getting cropped when the size of the window changes- but hopefully I’ll figure that out soon.
So why the big change? Well, as I’ve stated before- I’ve never been too happy with the name Oatmeal after Spinning. I just kind of picked a random name (my former favorite breakfast and workout) because I wanted to get my blog started. I’ve never really felt like it fit me or what I wanted to share. I’ve been thinking of changing the name to Me and the Mountains since last winter and it was finally time to just do it. I’m fairly certain that I don’t need to explain why I think the new name fits me better- you guys know just how I feel about the mountains. And in case you didn’t see it before- I also changed my Twitter and Instagram handles to @mountainlauren1.
It’s pretty fitting that my first post on the “new” blog is all about one of my most favorite things: the mountains!
This past weekend Greg and I hiked our fourth 14er!
We decided to take on Quandary Peak for a few different reasons: it’s close to Breckenridge/Frisco/Dillon, it’s supposed to be a good “first” 14er to climb and it’s known to be a gorgeous hike! Although it wasn’t the first 14er that Greg and I hiked, it was for our four friends that went with us (Paige and her husband Shane and Greg’s best friend John and his wife Tiffani). Greg, Shane, Paige and I headed out to Dillon Friday afternoon to hang out (John and Tiffani came later that night) for the rest of the day/evening. The trail head for Quandary was a good 2+ hours from our house and since we had to start the hike as early as possible, we figured it would be better to stay at a hotel close by. (Dillon is about 30 minutes from the trail head). We did a little shopping and went to Pug Ryan’s Brewery for burgers and beers.
We spent the rest of the night laughing and playing card games (ever hear of Euchre?) and tried to go to bed early to prepare for that 5:00 am wake-up call.
The six of us left the hotel at 6:00 and arrived at the Quandary Peak Trail Head around 6:30 am. There were probably about 75 cars parked there already and more kept coming (it’s a very popular trail). We walked over to the trail and started climbing.
The first 20 minutes or so were all in the woods, but we quickly got above treeline.
Unlike the last 14er Greg and I hiked, this trail had no warm-up. It was pretty steep right from the start and didn’t let up until we got out of the woods. It leveled out for a bit and then went back and forth between having a gradual and steep incline.
We took a few rest stops here and there and soaked in the scenery. It was a little overcast (we even felt a few raindrops) but still a gorgeous day.
The trail turned from dirt to loose rock and that’s where things started to get tricky. Not only was the incline getting steeper- the rock threw in a whole new challenge! You really had to pay attention to every step and keep your balance. It was intense!
When the summit was in clear view we looked and it and said “are we really supposed to climb straight up that thing?!”
My photos don’t really do it justice, but it just looked insane. No switchbacks- just straight up hill.
People looked like a line of ants climbing up the mountain.
The last hour and a half required pure determination and we dug deep to find every bit of energy to keep pushing to the top. Greg and I assured our friends that the view at the top would be worth every moment of pain it took to get there.
One thing I’ve learned from the 14er hikes I’ve done before is that it’s so important to keep taking frequent (brief) rest breaks- even if you think you don’t need them. Just stopping for thirty seconds to bring your heart rate down and take a few deep breaths helps so much. You definitely feel the altitude in every part of your body (but especially your lungs and legs!).
And just about 3 1/2 hours after we started, we made it to the summit!
The geological marker:
This was the first 14er I’ve done on a weekend, and it was crowded at the top!!
It was actually really cool! Everyone was so happy, people were playing music and it was like one big party at 14,265′!
We enjoyed our beers and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (a 14er tradition!) and took a million pictures. I was also so happy to be able to share this awesome experience with my hiking bestie!
We gained 3,328′ elevation in just over 3 miles (isn’t that nuts?!) to get rewarded with this view.
It was worth every single step.
And of course, I had to represent #kindawesome.
As elated as we were to reach the summit, we all knew that it was only half the battle. Getting back down was going to be a challenge. The majority of the trail (including the most steep portions) were covered with loose rock and we had to keep our eyes on our own feet the entire time.
We took just a few breaks to enjoy the scenery on the way down.
We were rewarded with an awesome surprise (twice!) during the descent: mountain goats!!
This was the first time I’ve ever seen mountain goats on a trail- it was so cool!
We got to a portion where the trail was single-track and hit a bit of a traffic jam.
But eventually the trail widened out and turned to dirt again. We all happily made the final push to get back to the trail head. Six hours and thirty nine minutes after we passed it the first time, we made our way back to the start!
Wiped out, sore and extremely happy- we had done it!
And are you ready for this?? Check out the stats from my heart rate monitor:
Whoa! Hmm… does that mean I get to eat an extra 4,000 calories?!
We headed over to Breckenridge for celebratory beers and food and did a little shopping. I had remembered seeing t-shirts for Quandary Peak all over Breckenridge the year before and wanted to get my own!
Now I can say been there, done that… bought the t-shirt.
We drove through Frisco on the way back and luckily stumbled upon this awesome bike festival in Frisco. We pulled over and watched the riders for a bit- they were insane! They were doing all kinds of tricks including flips in the air. Look these airborne dudes!
I seriously could’ve stayed and watched the riders for the rest of the night with my jaw on the floor, but eventually we had to head back to the mainland.
As we pulled off the exit ramp to the road that leads home, we were greeted with a double rainbow.
Definitely a perfect ending to an amazing day.
To compare Quandary with the other 14ers that I’ve climbed I’ll say this: it was definitely the most challenging! The majority of the hike was steep and rocky and it didn’t let up often. I think that Bierstadt was the easiest (though not easy by and stretch of the imagination) and the prettiest (most scenic). But, Grays and Torreys might still be my favorite. We’re going to try to bag one more before it gets cold… any suggestions?
What do you think about hiking a 14er- does it seem like it’s worth it?