All 8 of us met at the T-Rex lot at very early time of 2:30AM! For some reason getting up at 1:45AM seems so much earlier than my normal 2:15AM for a 3AM meet-up. We made it to the Avalanche Gulch TH in very short order, arriving around 5AM. Everyone geared up quickly and we were off at ~5:15AM. We blazed up the initial switchbacks with Aaron (Andyouseeme) setting a great pace. The trail alternated between dirt/gravel and pure ice until we reached the trees where it became snow-packed. You had to be careful still because if you stepped near the shoulder of the boot-pack you would quickly post-hole! (which sure wakes you up! )It was fairly windy when we started but with the quick pace everyone warmed up soon. So we stopped for a second while most everyone stripped down to base layers. I didn't even need my gloves!
In short order we were off again and at around 11,200ft Aaron and I separated from the rest of the group as they stopped to rest for a bit. We made it to the 11,800' pass at 7AM. The rest of the group arrived there at 7:20AM. After a short break we headed West(left) following in the tracks of, and avoiding the post-holes of those who've preceded us on this route over the last couple of weeks. As we ascended the first bump you have go over to get to the beginning of the E-Ridge Route on Yale we caught a beautiful sunrise.
Tres CU Amigos (grcr0941 and his 2 friends) coming up the first bump on the ridge.
Sunrise w/ Mt Princeton (14,197') at right
After climbing the 200ft to get over this bump (which you have to then lose ~100ft of elev) we got our first look at Yale's East Ridge. The first sight of that ridge got my heart pumping. I loved the mixed terrain nature of the ridge with options to spice it up a little 8) on the way up! Here it was one of Grant's friends said something to the effect of "Looks like we'll make it to the summit around 8:45AM or so." Mmmmmmm....not quite. He was mistaking the pinnacles at 13,400’ as the summit. I was thinking more like 10AM, which is actually what it ended up being for Aaron and I to summit Yale.
First view of Yale's east ridge. True summit is along the broad ridge in the Center.
The climb up the ridge was pretty straightforward. There was a series of knobs/bumps that were mixed in with general rock-hopping and sometimes you could spot a “use” trail that we followed. The wind was our constant companion the whole way up the ridge. The wind speed seemed to increase from a constant 20-25mph w/ 35mph gusts to a constant 35mph wind with gusts of 40-45mph as we approached the summit. Unfortunately, the wind was coming from the NW and the south slopes of the ridge to Yale were very steep and snow covered, thus preventing us from using the ridge as a wind block.
Aaron approaching the first knob
Around 12,600’, at a little snowy flat area, I stopped to have a snack and I expected to see Grant and his friends catch up to me. But they never did, so I continued on and the next time we actually saw them was after we had summited Mascot Pk and they were descending Yale’s East Ridge. We assumed they had summited but we learned later that they had turned around about 100ft elevation below Yale’s summit due to the high winds.
View East back down the ridge
Harvard and Columbia were our constant companions to our right. They were looking very dry for this time of the year just like all of the Sawatch in the area.
Great Views of Harvard and Columbia
Aaron led the way up the ridge, and always kept a gap on me as I kept stopping to take pictures of him in action and the beautiful scenery around us.
Aaron (upper left corner) approaching the pinnacles at PT13,420
Mascot’s East Face was our constant companion to our left.
Mascot looking might nice as it cheers us on!
Here above the pinnacles at 13,500’ we could see pretty much the rest of the way to the summit. From here we could also spot the rugged/toothy Crestone Group in the Sangre de Cristo Range to the SE.
Ridge lessens up around 13,500', still 700' to go!
Up until we got to 14,000’ all the wind was blowing at us was air, but for the last 200’ of elev gain each 40-45mph gust of wind would blast us with ice particles, stinging our faces. I thought about putting my balaclava on but didn’t want to stop. I was really wishing I had the Cthulhu knitted balaclava Kiefer inspired me with! Several rogue gusts of wind caused us to have to turn our backs and brace ourselves against them with our hiking poles.
Aaron scrambling up the last section to the summit
But our perseverance paid off and we reached the summit at 10AM. Aaron quickly pulled out his “Snickers Bar of Triumph” wielding it like a sword to show he had slayed the Yale dragon!
Aaron wielding his victorious Snickers bar on Yale's 14,196' summit! (pic from Aaron's camera)
It felt good to take the final few steps to the summit knowing that we could now retreat to a comfy wind break that would place us out of reach of the Ice Blaster we had endured the last 200’. It was surprisingly hard to find a suitable wind break though; I think it was due to the wind direction relative to the shape of Yale’s summit ridge was quite sub-optimal. Yet we finally found a nice refuge where we took a 15 break to refuel and gaze upon the ridge to Mascot.
Me heading on up to the top!
No one else summited by the time we were finished refueling, and we were the only ones for sure doing Mascot Pk. So Aaron and I left the summit around 10:20AM and began traversing back to the East just below the summit ridge until we could find a suitable route down that wouldn’t cliff-out or put us on very steep snow.
Aaron descending down from Yale's summit on our way down to Mascot Pk.
After about 1000’ of descent the grade lessened a little bit and we could see more of the ridge across to Mascot Pk.
Looking south on our way to Mascot Pk 13,435'. Princeton, Antero, Shav, Tab, and even Ouray can all be easily seen.
From the pass at ~13,050’ between Yale and Mascot the views of Mascot’s East Face were impressive.
View of Mascot's mighty east face from the pass between Yale and Mascot.
We made short work Mascot’s fun North Ridge and gained the summit in ~15min from the pass and about 1:15 from Yale’s summit.
Aaron breaking out another victorious treat (picture w/ Aaron's camera)
Here we finally earned the “view of views” and I was able to continue my current obsession/addiction with the Three Apostles as I gazed longingly NW towards the incredible/jaw-dropping/eye-popping South Face of Ice Mountain and North Apostle. I had been eagerly anticipating this view for the two weeks up 'til this climb. I had brought my normal “cheapo” climbing camera and my wife’s much nicer camera just for this shot. Her camera has 12X zoom vs. 4X for mine, and a much wider aperture lens (25mm vs 30mm).
I came all the way here just for this breathtaking view of the Three Apostles. (post-processed)
Unfortunately, there were some high clouds in the distance behind Ice Mtn and North Apostle that made the sky look less blue than it did above Yale. We chatted for 15min on Mascot, enjoying the great views and here we spotted the “Tres CU amigos” descending down Yale’s East Ridge. We never spotted Catmandingo or SeracZack from here but we learned later that as they were climbing they passed the “Tres CU Amigos” descending due to the high winds. Catmandingo and SeracZack pushed on and gained the summit! Way to go guys!!!
On the summit of Mascot Pk w/ Yale looming over us and the Apostles and Huron peaking over Yales shoulder.
Aaron and I descended down Mascot’s East Ridge and I was able to catch another great view of The Apostles and also La Plata Peak showed up to the right of North Apostle.
Another shot of the Apostles from Mascot's east shoulder. (post-processed)
We had impressive views of Mascot’s East Face and the ridge back to Yale’s summit.
Me contemplating the breathtaking views from a knob on Mascot's East Ridge (picture by Aaron)
Image #18 (not yet uploaded)
Our original plan was to continue down Mascot’s East Ridge and then bushwhack all the way back to the trail at around 10,800’. While planning for this trip I had noticed a gully that descended SE off of Mascot that would take us directly to the TH. I had been secretly hoping and praying that it would be pretty dry and avy safe. My hopes and prayers were answered as I could see the south-facing aspect of the gully was completely dry/grassy and grass/willows were sticking up through the snow in the base of the gully. When I suggested my idea to Aaron he agreed it looked safe and he was more than happy to avoid the bushwhacking hell that he had been dreading!
The beginning of the Avy gully that we descended/glissaded/plunge-stepped down.
This gully was awesome! We glissaded down to the base of it and then alternated between hiking on grass/dirt, crusty snow, knee-thigh deep snow. Right around 10,200’ we spotted a use trail across some really nice/soft granitic sand that helped us bypass a steep, willow/tree packed portion of the gully that would have been brought on the bushwhacking hell we were trying to avoid with this descent route.
A view of Mascot Pk (L) and Mt Yale (R). We descended the prominent gully down Mascot's SE slopes.
We made it down to the well-packed Colorado trail and cruised back to the parking lot at the TH by 1:30PM. We hung out for 15min and decided to make a run into Buena Vista for some celebratory chocolate milk.
I climbed a mountain THIS big!!!
We then waited in my car for the rest of the group to return, which they did around 5:15PM. We learned that SeracZack and Catmandingo were the only other ones to summit as the “Tres CU Amigos” and Chrisgalan both turned around at ~100’ elevation from the summit due to the wind.
We packed up and headed home while listening on the radio to the Bronco’s being slaughtered by the Patriots.
What a wonderful day out in the mountains! In spite of the wind, we had reasonably good weather, and “Early November” conditions in mid-January. Aaron and I kept on remarking that these conditions made it feel like we were cheating (hence the title for this TR) to get this peak this easily in the Winter. Overall, we had a great group, and I was able to meet a bunch of cool people.
Special thanks from me go out to fellow Eagle Scout and “Tres Gatos” owner Aaron (Andyouseeme) for the great time climbing. It was great to have a climbing partner of similar skill/speed for this climb.
My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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