(WINTER) HOLD ON! If you don't have much high-elevation, winter climbing experience, be careful in your planning and take a partner. Even the "easy" 14ers (Quandary, Sherman, Grays & Torreys) can be deadly in winter.
From U.S. 24 in the center of Buena Vista, take the County Road 306 towards Cottonwood Pass. Drive about 9 miles on 306 to reach the trailhead on the right.
From the north side of the lot and start up the excellent trail (also the Colorado Trail). Walk through the trees and ascend a hillside (Photo #1) before re-entering the trees near 10,100' - Photo #2. Follow the trail (Photo #3) north for a total of 3.25 miles to an open area on a ridge crest, near 11,900' - Photo #4. Before the trail goes over to the north side, turn left, leave the trail and hike west into the trees. The turn-off isn't obvious but a simple 90° left turn in the middle of the clearing will do. Walk about 100 yards west and pick up a small trail leaving the trees. Traverse up the north side of a hill (Photo #5) to get your first view of Yale's east ridge - Photo #6.
Descend west along the ridge (Photo #7) to reach the a 12,000-foot low point - Photo #8. Photo #9 is a closer look at the east ridge from this area. Continue around a few ridge bumps (seen in the lower half of Photo #9) to reach steeper terrain near 12,600' - Photo #10 and Photo #11. Near 12,800', the ridge steepens and you'll reach a rugged, 12,900-foot point that holds some of the loosest terrain on this route - Photo #12. Hike to the left side (Photo #13) of the point and carefully ascend loose rock and dirt (Photo #14) to regain the ridge crest. Continue on easier terrain (Photo #15) to reach a clump of white rock, just left of a some rugged, higher points - Photo #16. After crossing to the south side of the ridge, continue along the left side of the first of a two 13,400-foot-plus points - Photo #17. You don't have to climb to the top of either point. Once you're past the first point, pass below the taller, 13,420-foot one (Photo #18) and regain the ridge crest - Photo #19. Taken from higher on the route, Photo #20 and Photo #21 look back at this rugged area.
Descend slightly to reach a flat spot (approx. 13,350') below the next set of difficulties - Photo #22. Cross the gentle terrain to reach 13,400' and more rock outcroppings - Photo #23. Pass the initial point on either side and then ascend a steep, longer section - Photo #24. Near 13,700', follow the easiest terrain along the ridge to reach 13,900' - Photo #25, Photo #26, Photo #27 and Photo #28. Climb a few more short, rocky pitches (Photo #29) and the summit comes into view - Photo #30. Walk over to the top - Photo #31 and Photo #32.
This route is longer and more difficult than the standard route from Denny Creek. It has some loose rock and steep hiking, without a trail. IMPORTANT: This route enters the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness area. Wilderness areas have special regulations and restrictions for party size, dispersed camping, campfires, etc. Also, dog owners should read the wilderness information carefully because some wilderness areas prohibit dogs to be off-leash and/or limit how close dogs can be to lakes and streams. If you have questions about the Wilderness area, please contact a U.S. Forest Service office for the National Forest(s) listed above.