Yale from Cottonwood road
Green is my off route
For the last few years, Mt. Yale has been on my winter to-do lists. However, usually school, work, and partnerships usually didn’t work out when ever I attempted to plan a trip for Yale. That changed yesterday when I decided to plan a hike, but not a peak. At around 2 am yesterday morning I ran through a 14er Cost Benefit Analysis before I left Grand Junction. I originally thought I would do Bierstadt and Evans, but after the CBA I realized if there was some risk involved by going to the Front Range. If I got Bierstadt and not Evans I would have to go back. So I decided to exit I-70 at Minturn and let the weather decide the rest.
I rolled into Leadville at 5:30 and noticed Mt. Massive and Mt. Elbert were the only two peaks that didn’t get new snow. Actually they were the only two Sawatch peaks not covered in clouds. I almost opted for Mt. Massive, but I decided Yale was going to see more people over the course of the day. By the time I got to BV the clouds lifted on most of the other 14ers except Mt. Yale. I was the first at the TH, but definitely not alone. Another individual followed literally 30 seconds behind me.
The morning was off to a rough start. I decided it was better and more convenient to use the outhouse before my trip. After I finished my “business” I realized there was no toilet paper. FAIL. Well, I avoided embarrassment and quickly swung around the building to 4 rolls in the other restroom. This was a complete failure and lack of situational awareness. So I pressed on the rest day remembering (star wars) “My failure in the cave.” Learn from the fool’s mistakes.
I made good time through the trees until I got to about 11.5k. Like Columbia the week before and probably everything else in the Sawatch, there is definitely some post hole action, but spares tree fall on the route (one or two). Not that bad though. However, like the week before I lost the main trail by following “bad” tracks and ended up in some boulder field to the left of the main route. I marked this area in green on the topo. I subconsciously continued climbing to the ridge. After about an hour and ~1000 ft. later I still could not find the main trail on the mostly clear alpine terrain. About 200 yards in the distance below and to the west I noticed the climber and his dog that left before me. I then looked toward the cloud covered summit and noticed the trail to the southeast. I then reoriented my direction and found my way to the trail.
off route again
The weather was decent to this time. It was very breezy toward the summit ridge with below freezing ~30 degrees at 10. In the clouds near the summit ridge, there were a lot of snow like ice particles in the air. I was wearing a light shell jacket and cargo shorts. When I got to the summit ridge then wind was relentless and I then had to change into my winter gear. My hands were so cold I was struggling to put my snow pants on over my shorts, then I realized that wasn’t going to be possible. The rock cover I found was not very effective at slowing the wind either and it was a rather forgettable situation. During this time the solo climber and his dog who also got off route passed me along with another group of 3. I decided to take a “hard” break at this point spent a little bit of time warming up eating watermelon, a banana, and Reeses minis. The watermelon really hit the spot. Try it.
cloudy ice particle
By the time I was ready to go again, I ran into the climbers who passed me. They said the wind was relentless on the summit and didn’t stay long. It was bad enough on the ridge, it almost knocked me over a couple times and it was so cold I thought my face was going to fall off. I got chapped lips and was two lazy to find my face cover. Pick and choose your battles.
Summit Ridge, minimal post holing
I kept plugging through minimal postholing until I got to the summit at the same time as another individual from New Mexico did. He ascended the East Ridge. Oddly enough, the wind stopped and the temperature on the summit became very pleasant 30 seconds into my stay. My New Mexico friend and I chatted and took several pictures from the summit for the next 20 minutes. There was still a good portion snow on the very top and quite a bit on the north face. The following are views from the summit.
I made it
I know this is a highly coveted picture for those interested in Harvard and Columbia
Summit to Treeline
Princeton and Antero
Just a little bit of cloud
Here is the route on the descent since I descended the standard route.
To summit ridge, snow is mostly avoidable here
The descent was fairly uneventful. My partner and I lost the trail a few times between 11.7k and 11.5k. If we did lose it would not be long before we would rediscover it. We got back to my truck at about 1 pm and I gave my partner a ride to the Avalanche TH. After that I was trying to plan my next peak for the following day, but the lack of a partner and potential inclement weather changed my mind. I decided to snap some pictures of peaks in the area for my mountain picture collection and also took a scenic drive to the top of Cottonwood Pass. I finished my day off by soaking away my sorrows at the Mt. Princeton Hot Springs before it gets too crowded.
I did not end my day on a high note though. I was feeling some Mexican food and decided to stop at Something de Sol authentic Mexican restaurant. First, there wasn’t a single individual with any ties to Mexican heritage working there for one and second, the portions were two small to exceed $4. I ordered the Carne Asada for $13 and got a 4 oz steak, and a tablespoon of rice and beans. What a rip off. I should have gone to Quincy’s or the local Brewery. It was disappointing. I tell you this so you do not make the same mistakes as I. I finished the day by taking some more pictures of the nearby peaks and by making a long trek back to GJ. Hopefully there is something in this big mess that is helpful to you. Good luck!
Sawatch from Cottonwood pass
Princeton from Mosquitos
Massive from Turquoise Lake
various other 14ers