| Golden Yale
October 4th, 2011
Hiked with mike_kadow
So my last 14er hike of the season has turned out to be my favorite so far. A great way to end the season if I say so.
The weather forecast for this day was a bit sketchy, with a 40% chance of rain/snow/thunderstorms. So we tried to make it an early start. I "woke up" around 2:40am, although I know I didn't get any sleep. Insomnia isn't a stranger to me, so luckily I know I can still hike 9.5 miles with no rest. Mike had roughly the same amount of rest that I did, so at least we were on the same page... it would be a long day.
We were the first people to the Denny Creek trailhead, and hit the trail in the dark at 6:30am. It was around 32 degrees, and not very windy, perfect fall hiking temps. We started hiking up the horse-crap-and-other-nasty-smelling-trail with headlamps but the sun was soon up to light our way.
One of the smells along the trailThis was when the hike took on a rewarding beauty that kept me in awe the whole day. The aspens along the whole trail were a magnificent shade of yellow and gold, and in the bright sun they glowed.
We continued through the forest, over one stream, then another, higher and higher until we reached tree line. This was definitely the longest hike i've been on from trail head to tree line. It has to be somewhere around 3 miles of forest.
Once we got to tree line the views were remarkable. It's definitely inspiring to be surrounded by so many high peaks. Although by this time we had a good amount of cloud cover. Nothing too worrisome, and plenty of spots of blue and sunshine poking through, but something to keep in mind.
We headed up and around a gentle slope when the sun decided to come out again and heat us up. So we rested in some shade from a rock outcrop and ate some food, knowing we needed a boost of energy for the steep slope that wasn't too far away.
After a bit of rest and some food in our system we headed towards the steep slope. First we attacked it at our normal pace, but after a hundred vertical feet or so, it grabbed us by the balls. And at this altitude, with the amount of rest that we had, and after 3+ miles of hiking things slowed down a bit. The rest of the steep slope was a "walk 15 feet, take a break, walk 15 feet, take a break" experience. Luckily the slope switchbacks aren't too long, and you gain a lot of altitude quickly, so by the time you're feeling like this wasn't the best idea, you can see the ridge and it gives you a boost of energy, and you're not that far away.
Coming up to the ridge gives you some amazing views in all directions, and once you're there you've already forgotten about the steep slope. From here on up to the summit I felt 100% better. You get into some boulder hopping/ scrambling (if you want to) up past a false summit, and then shortly again to the summit. By this time we had gotten a couple of snow flakes and clouds coming by. Neither of which were anything to be fearful of. And on the summit they had passed. Although there was still plenty of cloud cover, and we had some amazing views of the clouds literally being formed by the mountain. It looked like the steam coming up from a man-hole in the middle of winter.
Clouds coming out of the mountain
We hung out on the wind-free summit for about 10 minutes, then another gentleman summited right behind us. We had been watching him from the steep slope and he had an impressive pace. I'm amazed he got up the steep slope so much faster than we did.
Then after another 10 minutes or so we decided to head down. We didn't want to chance the weather anymore than we had to.
We came across another pair of hikers by the time we got down to tree line, but other than them, the other gentleman that summited after us, and his partner who only made it to the steep slope, we didn't see anyone else. Overall, 6 people on a mountain, with beautiful scenery, on a fairly good day for weather was awesome.
The hike down through the forest was just as impressive as it was going up. It seemed every 100 feet was another picture perfect view. The aspens were beautiful, the weather cooperative, and Denny Creek playing a symphony for much of the hike.
After we got back to the car, it wasn't 20 minutes before it started raining a bit. And before you knew it, the wind came up, the clouds were lower, and things got much more serious. I'm not sure if it was enough for lightning, we never heard any thunder, but every high peak around us was socked in clouds, so snow might've been flying around up at the top.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):