| Mt. Yale - Southwest Slopes
Climbers: Tony (Me) and Patrick (aka Patch)
My 3rd fourteener summit, and Patch’s 1st.
So one of my best friends and I decided that instead of going skiing at Arapahoe Basin over the weekend, we should go hiking instead. Good for us, I think it proved to be a pretty good decision!
This is probably also the first trip report that utilizes the new Yale trail (haha, rhyme ).
We left Castle Rock at around 4:30 AM to start our adventure to the summit of Mt. Yale.
Crossing South Park on US 24, I noticed a lone group of small, puffy clouds right above the area where Mt. Yale was, and started to get a bit nervous, worrying that those would be the first storms to fire up, and right over where we were going to be. Especially after being chased off of Decalibron the past Thursday by storms (and without a single summit at that), I didn’t want it to happen again. However, much to our luck, shortly after starting the hike, the clouds moved off to the southeast and dissipated, leaving the sky over Mt. Yale and surrounding areas completely blue! Whew!
We arrived at the Denny Creek trailhead at 7:00 sharp (BAM!) and started our ascent at 7:10.
The trail started off pretty steep, and stayed that way for a while, mellowing out after a little bit of hiking and some elevation gain. Near the trailhead was this sign, and I found it amusing that they felt the need to ban hang gliders:
The trail reached a flatter spot that continued for some ways, as well as a hefty creek crossing before starting back uphill again towards the trail fork.
Crossing viewed from above:
The fork in the trail is easy to understand; if you want to go to the lake, it points you straight ahead, and if you want to go to Mt. Yale, it points you to the right, so to the right we went!
After starting to the right, the trail immediately started to get a little steeper with some more quick elevation gain. It stayed somewhat steep all the way to above timberline (a while away) with a few small creek crossings that were pretty fun to walk over.
Alright, so now I swear that this part of the trail is really trying to mess with all of us hikers. As soon as you begin to wonder when you’re going to hit treeline, you can see the bare tops of some hills through the forest cap and you start to think that treeline is only a couple hundred vertical feet away. Wrong! Up and up you go, with no sign of the trees ending.
Then it gets worse. You start to actually SEE the trees thinning:
Yet there is still a few hundred more feet of elevation to gain before treeline is reached. This is also a pretty steep section of trail with a lot of switchbacks.
Once we were tricked about reaching treeline for maybe the third time, we enter the forest again and come across where the old trial had been closed off, and the new trail was all fresh and squeaky clean, splitting off to the left. A few feet down the trail, we reached a set of stone stairs installed onto the trail by the CFI. It was immediately apparent how much work they had put into opening the new trail.
Shortly after, the trees begin to thin again, but this time it is for REAL! Once fully past timberline, the trail veers off to the left and up into a rock field:
Once up a little more, we saw the CFI working on putting the final touches to closing the old trail:
The new trail switches back and forth through the rock field, with stairs added in spots and gravel poured into spots to act as a “paver” of sorts.
The view back down to treeline so far:
A marmot had ventured out of hiding to spy on us as we ventured on past:
The trail continues through the rocks, and it is easy to follow:
Up and up the trail goes, through even more rocks, and the summit is now in view:
The wildflowers were also in full bloom by this point, and was a nice addition to the hike through the beautiful alpine tundra zone:
The trail then eased a bit in steepness, so before continuing we decided that it was a good spot to snack a little bit and put on sunscreen (DO NOT FORGET SUNSCREEN PEOPLE) since the sun was shining with full force.
We continued on the now not-as-steep trail when we came across a small snowfield maybe 15 feet across. Foot traffic had already cut through it so it was a simple few steps on slushy packed snow/ice to get across. Easy! Cutting across the field actually results in a short detour of the trail, since the trail itself goes under the snowfield (the LONG way at that) for upwards of 100 feet or so, so once crossing the snowfield, we walked along the uphill side until we got back to the trail not more than a minute later. From here you get a good view of what lies ahead. The trail cuts through another small rock field and the steep switchbacks start shortly after, up to the saddle:
The new trail re-joins the original one shortly before ascending the switchbacks.
Up the switchbacks we climbed, steep and slow. There were a few groups of people making their way up as well, and at this point we started to pass the first people heading down from the summit. Quick break after quick break, and small step after small step, we finally got to the saddle and were rewarded with a great view. It was only a short rock scramble up to the summit from here!
A view from shortly after starting the rock hike/scramble/climb; it is NOT as steep as it looks:
About 10 minutes later, we made it up to the summit. The time was around 11:10 so the climb took a good, solid 4 hours. We celebrated with a nice sitting down and eating lunch in the wonderful weather. The wind was almost non-existent with only a light breeze here and there, and it was warm enough to take off the jackets!
The second picture makes the summit look smaller than it actually is, it’s narrow but rather long and it’s easy to find an empty spot to rest.
The location of the register was pretty unknown. I and several others looked over the whole summit for it without luck. But oh well!
What I’m pretty sure is Mt. Harvard:
Patch decided to really chill out on top, opting for a possible short nap. HA! Good luck, my friend. Another marmot decided to come check us out, too. I think this picture is just kind of funny (and Mt. Princeton is on the top left):
As you can see from some of the pictures, the weather started to get a little bit dicey in areas to our north, northeast and somewhat to our south. A weather area to our north, past what I’m also pretty sure is Mt. Columbia in the center, with Mt. Harvard on the left:
The general movement of the weather was to the east and southeast, and skies to our west and northwest were pretty clear so I wasn’t worried. I sat back to admire our beautiful state and workings of the weather while Patch relaxed. We spent about 45 minutes on the summit before a light snow squall (Maybe? It came from light cirrus-looking clouds. Interesting to say the least ) decided to blow in for a couple minutes. We decided that then it would be a good time to start heading down just in case more weather started to actually develop to our west, so we got our achievement picture and started climbing back down the rocks.
On the way down, we heard some small rumbles of thunder to our east , while skies remained okay to our west. Some cumulus development but nothing ever came of it.
Also on the way down, we came across a deer in the trees, who decided to observe (kinda like this ) as I snapped a picture of it:
We made it back to the car at around 2:15, so it took us about 2 hours and 15-20 minutes to make the descent. Not too bad!
I believe I picked a great mountain for the hike. Even though it was Patch’s first fourteener (and he was definitely exhausted afterwards!), I knew he could pull it off just fine! I hiked 2 fourteeners before Yale, but they (Quandary and Elbert (east ridge)) were Class 1, so this was my first Class 2. Not too difficult at all! Oh, to be young, I guess.
If you hike this trail within the near future, it also opens your eyes to how much hard work the CFI puts into maintaining our present trails, as well as constructing new trails for our safety and comfort. There is no good way to thank these good people for their efforts, but I’m sure I can speak for all of us when I say that they are much appreciated and that we are thankful from the bottom of our hearts!
I hope you enjoyed reading, please have a wonderful day!
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):