August 4, 2002
The photo below shows Mt. Yale from the east just outside of Buena Vista.
After a successful climb of Mt. Princeton and a scenic drive to Aspen and back over Independence Pass, I arrived at the Denny Creek Trailhead around 7 p.m. I crawled in the back of the surburban to read and get some sleep. After reading for about an hour("Teewinot: Climbing and Contemplating the Tetons", a must read) I tried to get some sleep. It rained off and on through the night and I finally was able to get a couple hours sleep. The alarm sounded at 4:15 a.m. and it was time to get hiking. I like to hit these 14ers early and have the summit to myself. I had a quick breakfast and got dressed and began hiking a little before 5 a.m. There was a 1/4 moon out and many stars to where I almost didn't need my headlamp at first. Once I got into the trees though the starlight wasn't enough and I had to resort to artifical light. Hiking in the forest alone in the dark is a fun but also eerie experience. I occasionally banged my trekking poles together to make noise and ward off any creatures lurking in the darkness. I headed up the Denny Creek trail and knew that after about a mile I was supposed to bear right onto a climbers trail that headed up to Mt. Yale. Roach's book notes that finding this trail is key to the route and is hard to find. After 30 minutes or so I knew I had to be getting close and there it was, a big sign marking the way shown in the photo below. Guess this sign wasn't there when Roach published his 14er guide. Most of these photos were taking on the descent since I did most of the ascent in the dark.
Glad to know I didn't miss the trail I proceeded on the climbers trail through the forest hoping that some creature wouldn't jump out of the darkness and scare me half to death. I had heard that Yale was a pretty steep climb and Roach's book said it would test your legs no matter which direction you tackle the peak from. However the trail remained relatively flat and climb just slightly. The longer I walked I knew that I had alot of elevation to gain and the distance was getting shorter and shorter. Crossing a stream on a log bridge the trail then begins some small switchbacks up the hillside and then flattens out again on a shelf. The sun was finally coming up and the photo belows shows the peaks to the west of Mt. Yale.
After about .25 mile the trail comes out of the trees and onto some grassy slopes covered in boulders. From here on up, Mt. Yale makes you work for every step you take. The photo below shows the route through the boulders and up to the saddle. There's a person circled in yellow to give you a scale.
As you climb you can see Mt. Princeton and Mt. Antero to the south shown in the photo below and since Mt. Yale is only 1 foot lower than Princeton, this makes a good reference point to guess your elevation.
Once you get to the slope below the saddle the trail begins to switchback again and I finally gained the saddle and the views to the north were incredible. The rain from last night had froze at this elevation so the ground was covered in hail.
I was preparing myself for a big disappointment thinking the summit would still be far away once I reached the saddle. I was excited to learn that from the saddle the summit is about a .25 mile scramble away show in the photo below.
Skirting some of the rock buttresses on the ridge on the west side, I arrived at the summit right at 8 a.m. taking me about 3 hours and 15 minutes to get there. I had the summit to myself the whole time. I looked around for a register and couldn't find one so I sat down and had a granola bar. The photo below shows the view looking north from the summit. I built a cairn to prop my camera on and I think it was about 2 feet tall, so now Mt. Yale is taller than Mt. Princeton. JK.
The photo below shows the views to the south including Mt. Princeton and Mt. Yale. Roach notes that from the summit of Yale you can see 30 other 14ers so I tried to pick out as many as I could.
It was pretty chilly on top so I stayed for about 20 minutes. The rock was a little slippery from being wet but easy enough to get back down to the saddle without much trouble.
Once descending from the saddle I could make out a couple people making there ascent. As I headed back down to treeline I passed about 10 people struggling up the grassy slopes.
I took my time descending and taking pictures as I went. Once below the shelf the trail followed a small stream where I ventured off in the trees to get the photo below.
Passing a few more people in the forest I came upon a couple who wanted to know how far the summit was. After being as discouraging as I could and telling them they weren't even close, I learned this was their first 14er that their chiropractor recommended. I laughed and told them they should have done Princeton first and to slap their chiropractor the next time they see him. I made it back to the trailhead around 10:30 making my hiking time 5.5 hours. I took a slight bath in Denny Creek, changed clothes and headed back to Longmont. Another long weekend but 2 more 14ers closer to 54.