There are three fourteeners in Summit: Quandary as well as Grays and Torreys, which sit on the Continental Divide and thus the border between Clear Creek County and Summit. All three rank among the top 15 highest peaks in the state. We also are including three more nearby 14ers: Lincoln, Bross, and Democrat, which lie just over the Park County line a few miles south of Quandary.
Quandary’s 3.5-mile, draining-but-doable east-ridge route ranks among the most popular beginner 14er hikes in the state. I’ve seen people run the route, which begins halfway up Hoosier Pass off Highway 9, in less than an hour and a half round-trip, and I’ve also accompanied my mom on a five-hour ascent. The summit can feel like a cocktail party on a crowded weekend morning, but, ironically, given its reputation as an easy peak—or perhaps because of that—Quandary also is the site of numerous search-and-rescue calls each summer. Oftentimes visiting hikers summit via the east ridge, then elect to descend the exposed west ridge for a bonus challenge and either lose their way or get stranded above massive cliffs. There’s nothing wrong with descending the same route you climbed, and sticking to the east ridge is the safest way to go on Quandary.
Grays and Torreys Peaks
When botanist Charles Parry made the first ascent of these two peaks in 1861, he named them for a pair of friends and fellow botanists who would not see the mountains for 11 years. You have to think their wait was worth it. Separated by a saddle less than a mile long that dips to 13,700 feet, Grays and Torreys are most commonly climbed as a tandem from the Stevens Gulch Trailhead in Clear Creek County (there are direct trails to each peak if you prefer to hike just one). As an alternative, you can start from Peru Creek Road near the town of Montezuma and eventually ascend the west ridge of Grays via Chihuahua Gulch, but the route is less obvious. Plus, if you come up Stevens Gulch, you get to behold the giant east wall that encases the basin on your approach.
Mounts Democrat, Lincoln, and Bross
It sounds daunting—summiting three 14ers on a 7.25-mile hike, all of it above 12,000 feet. But the reason this triumvirate loop has become a Colorado classic is because even weekend warriors and tourists can handle it. You start from Kite Lake, six miles up Buckskin Gulch from the town of Alma (turn right halfway down Main Street if you’re heading south on Highway 9). The first leg of the loop is steep and painful, but it eases off as you approach Democrat’s summit, just past a collapsed mine building. Retrace your steps to the saddle, then follow the trail uphill and northeast toward Lincoln, which sits at the end of a long, flat ridge. From there head southeast to Bross, then descend back to your car at Kite Lake. All in all, you will have climbed 3,700 feet and stood on three summits over 14,150 feet.