I'd never done fourteeners on back-to-back days, let alone long Sawatch trailhikes. And certainly not after sitting at a desk 60-80 hours for week each week since January. On the other hand, I hadn't come from low-elevation Wisconsin. Could we do this?
Eric and I left the Best Western in Buena Vista around 3:30, getting to the Denny Creek trailhead in time to start at 4am. There were a lot of cars in the parking lot - most of which, we discovered, belonged to CFI members.
The first part of our journey was steep, and our legs were grinding (I don't have a 4wd-low mode in my calves any longer). First light over the Sawatch:
Plenty of snow on the trail, particularly below treeline:
Snowpack covering the junction led us onto the "old" trail on the ascent. Our first view of Yale:
And its little buddy, Mascot Peak:
The old trail is much steeper than the new reroute - no switchbacks, just up:
A broader look at the (old) trail from about halfway to the steeper ridge:
For this snowfield, we had to go straight across - several hundred feet wide. The snow was still hardpacked at this early hour:
Eric starts to gain ground on me as we struggle to gain the ridge - I found that I couldn't focus on the ridge, but I could make a reasonable goal of making the next switchback. This got me about 40 feet each time:
Nearing the ridge, we get our first good look at what we face. The summit is not yet visible here:
Now on the ridge, Eric leads the way through the maze of rocks. Some are slippery with morning ice.
Finally past the major obstacles, we can now focus on the summit itself!
And a look back at the ridge (and Eric) from the summit of Yale. Most of the snow here is on the east side of the ridge:
North towards Mount Harvard and friends:
To the west, towards Cottonwood Pass:
To the south - Mounts Princeton, Antero, Shavano, Tabeguache (and friends):
Official summit portrait - my twenty-first unique fourteener (and my first on the back end of a doubleheader):
From the summit, the way down looks very far down indeed:
Buena Vista, and a hazy Pikes Peak:
We summited at 8am sharp, and as far as we could tell, we were the first to summit on this day. Having said that, it always feels good to be on the way down:
Eric negotiates the long snowfield. No particularly tenable way to circumvent this one:
The mighty Elks, awash with snow:
We followed the improved CFI trail on the descent, and were fortunate to see two marmots fighting while a third marmot watched (perhaps with a camcorder):
The new CFI trail is much nicer - switchbacks help the knees on the descent. Nice work, CFIers!
Do not want:
Did I mention that there was a lot of snow on the trail below treeline? A lot of snow.
Always fun to get to the log bridges below treeline. Creeks were high, and it took some searching to find compatible passage (although it was always possible).
So there you have it - we finished at around 11:10, and drove back to the Best Western to relax a bit. Went to Amica's Pizza in Salida that night (my favorite pizza place).
We really weren't feeling a third fourteener (Missouri Mountain) on Monday, particularly knowing Oman's fate early in the summer on that particular peak. Fortuantely, our outcome was determined by the fresh snowstorm that blew into Buena Vista on Sunday night, continuing into Monday. Missouri Mountain will still be there next time. Thanks to Eric for a successful weekend of hiking, and for the pictures that I stole to incorporate here.
My GPS Tracks/Waypoints on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):