#FieldNotes – Quandary Peak Summit Attempt with the Dietrich SD-1

Frank (@frendymgee)


Through my “prestigious” position at The Matick Blog, I was able to secure a review model of the new Dietrich Skin Diver SD-1 for me. A proper review will be coming at some point in the future. For now though, here’s a tale of my adventures with the with the new Dietrich SD-1.

Had this been a standard skin diver, I would be tempted to get the watch wet; maybe do some snorkeling in warm water while looking at pretty fish. I would talk about how the depth of the dial was mesmerizing underwater because of the way light bends. I would have raved about how easy the bezel was to grip because of the cleverly placed flat sections in the ever present polygonal shapes. But, wouldn’t that be too standard and obvious for a watch that is anything BUT standard and obvious? Instead I decided to take the Dietrich SD-1 to where the earth kisses the sky: the alpine.  

Quandary Peak

Quandary Peak 14,265′

Residing in Colorado, I am surrounded by some of the most beautiful scenery and mountains one could ever experience. This time of year in particular is my favorite to trek up them. Snow has just started to fall and creates incredible contrast against the dark rocks beneath. The crowds and lines of human slugs attempting to summit in the summertime are gone by now. Most people are in their homes eagerly waiting for the beginning of ski season to venture back out. All of those things together means it is the PERFECT time to plan a summit attempt. Before we go any farther, I would like to provide some resources should the following write up and images urge you to try your hand at some alpine adventuring.

Packing List for 14er

Our gear wall.

For those that may not know, a 14er is a mountain with a summit of greater than 14,000′ of elevation. There are thousands of people that attempt summiting one every year, flocking to the trailhead to test their metal. There are different “Classes” of these mountains depending on the difficulty, ranging from 1 to 4. Class 1 implies there is a very low risk of rock slide, little to no “scrambling” required, and a well marked and trodden trail. Class 4 implies high risk of rock slide, a lot of “scrambling” or in extreme cases straight alpine climbing, and very little markings. A peak that is categorized as a Class 1 by no means implies “easy”, as the mountain at any given time can choose to let you know that you are nothing short of an insignificant speck that nature is allowing to exist here. Weather can shift in an instant, and being unprepared can be result in injury or death. Here is a link to a great starting point when making your gear list.

Hiking a 14er during this specific time of year brings some different challenges that you may not realize as well. Speaking from experience, you are not tougher than the sun. At this elevation there is roughly 20% more harmful UV rays than normal, because the snow-covered ground and surroundings reflects almost 90% of the light back at you and your eyeballs. 

Quandary Peak trail just above the tree line.

Last summer (early season) we had not considered this and Kenzie went blind for 36 hours. Snow blindness is a common problem, especially for those not equipped with the correct eyewear. Regular sunglasses blocks approximately 5% visible light and protect your eyes during daily life, mountaineering glasses with the appropriate grade will block 95% of visible light and protect you in the alpine. These glasses will also come with side covers to prevent light from leaking in from the sides due to snow reflection. Do not be like us on our first snow-laden summit, and wear proper eye protection!

The Arrival

We arrived at Quandary Peak around 7.30am, a few minutes after sunrise. The hike has just over 3,200ft of elevation gain over 3.5 miles to the summit. The beginning of the trail takes you through what could have been a fairy forest belonging to the winter court (iykyk). The strong smell of evergreen and brisk cold filled my nose with every heavy breath I took. Small animal tracks on the fresh snow from the previous night were abundant around us. I used the SD-1 to time “moving time” and breaks. Focusing on distance or elevation gain has never been the most useful mentally for me; instead, I opt for tracking time and set small goals. 

During the beginning of a hike like this, shooting for 30 minute intervals at a steady pace is my go to, refueling with water and food after each interval even if you do not feel like you need it. As we climb higher and higher the time goals get smaller and smaller. After roughly 1.5 hours, we cleared the tree line, with the remainder of the hike being completely exposed until the summit. The day was absolutely perfect, a clear “Blue Bird” CO day with not a cloud in sight. The weather forecast called for a high of 30 and low of 12, but exposed against the harsh sun we may as well have been in Florida. Slowly, I stripped layers off until only a long sleeved shirt remained, and my Dietrich. I wore the SD-1 on a leather NATO style strap from Nomad Watch Works. The thought of the cold stainless steel case against my skin during the hike was enough for me to opt for leather. Leather NATOs are fantastic because they look great, and you get all the benefits of a bund (no metal against skin) without any of the negatives. The negatives of course being that it is hideous and implies that you carry deep seeded self loathing. Also, as you climb higher your appendages swell tremendously: by the time we reached the summit, I had loosened my strap by four holes.

Last Stretch

The last stretch to the summit was a slushy mess of steep incline over large rocks. Our micro-spikes crunched at every step. 

The SD-1 notified me that we summitted at approximately 1pm. Atop Quandary, we had the full view to ourselves, save a few Pikas. We took our time and enjoyed the summit while snacking and lazily taking a few images of the Skin Diver. I couldn’t help but giggle thinking of what a preposterous trip this watch has now taken, and just how at home it seemed in these conditions. Additionally, the SD-1 proved far more useful than my typical alpine watch, the Rolex Explorer II. With the dive bezel of the skin diver, timing your breaks and hiking stints are way more useful than a GMT function, no matter what ads Switzerland shows me. The thinness, as opposed to the chunkiness of a traditional diver, due to the the reduced water resistance of the skin diver is also perfect for the alpine.

After our time soaking in as much of the view as possible, we began our trip down back to reality. About 2 hours later and we were back at the car, legs sore, out of breath, hungry, and eternally grateful. Also, sad; Happy that when I look down at the Skin Diver, I will never be able to detach my incredible memories staring off the top of a mountain, but sadness that I will have to mail this watch back. 

Thank you to the folks over at Dietrich for sending the SD-1 to me to check out, and thank you @xkenzie for tagging along on this awesome adventure.

For more info on the Dietrich SD-1, click here.

Marsh’s note: Words can’t express how grateful we are to Frank for taking the SD-1 on this epic adventure. Looking forward to more!

For Team Matick,
Frank (@Frendymgee)


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