| Hiking the Yoda’s way – A Yale’s Day Out
It has been more than 12 months since my last 14er. I was stuck at #15. I wanted to start this season early and get my numbers up. :-). I knew that the first one of the season, always reminds me about how out of shape I am. On the positive side, it also reminds me how beautiful it is hiking up a 14er. :-) So, for my #16, I picked up Yale. It was the first time I teamed up with Ben (his #12) for a 14er. We decided to camp on Saturday night and hike up Yale early morning. We found a nice calm spot right across the Avalanche trail head (Nonstandard route trail head). We wanted to do the standard route, but being close to the Avalanche trail-head, we were tempted to find out how different the nonstandard route was. We read the trail directions and we felt it was do-able. Little did we know that we will be facing the music once we reached 12500 feet the next day. :-)
Analyzing Non Standard Route at the camp site.
We got up at 4:45 AM to catch few moments of the gorgeous full moon. It was pretty cold in the morning, and by the time we put on the multiple layers, the beautiful purple twilight over the mountains was inviting us and it just got us excited for the first one of the season.
We hit the trail at 5:15 AM and it was only two of us ready for the hike. There were only 2 more cars at the trail head and that made us realize that there aren't going to many hiking up the nonstandard route. Signs, this evident, also were looked at only in a positive tone. We thought, there weren't anybody at the trail because it is too early in the season. :-). So, we hit the trail and we hiked up at a good pace. When hiking up this route, we need to take a sharp left after 3.5 miles. This point is 5 minutes away from the end of the tree-line. We decided to take a 5-10 minutes break and get warm in the sun shine. That was the moment we met the first person on the trail. We met only 6 hikers in this trail till we reached the summit, the least that I have ever seen in all of my 14er outings.
En route 1
First clean sight of the Summit
Beautiful Mountain Range
Once we took the left, and we were above the tree-line, we had the first clear view of the summit. It did look intimidating, however, we still felt, we can figure it out by breaking the whole thing down into small achievable checkpoints. From here on, it is really easy to lose the trail. We lost the trail many times, and we realized it only when we saw it getting really difficult to figure out the next set of moves. We had to re-trace and try out another route many times.
En route 2
There was lots of gravel and when we reached 12500 feet, we started understanding why it was called the Non-standard route. :-) The thought of going back did strike few times till we reached 13000 feet. Neither of us was ready to give up and we wanted to take it slow with calculated risk and see if we could go little further. The only thing that was keeping us going was – “Well, if it gets really difficult, we can turn around and go back home any time".
Once we reached 13000, the altitude caught up and slowed us down. Having a tough time figuring out the trail made us look behind and see what all we hiked up. It was clear – “There is no going back.”!! We have to slowly get to the summit and take the standard route down.
We reached 14000 feet, taking our time and we knew that we finished the toughest stretch in the non-standard route. Just when we thought we did beat all Yale could throw at us, we saw few clouds come up. We couldn't see how many clouds were to follow these 4 clouds. For the last 150 feet, we were very scared and I felt tones of adrenaline rush through my body. It only helped us improve a bit - From taking a 10 seconds break every 12-15 steps we started taking a 10 second break every 18-20 steps. It felt like I was part of John Woo’s Mission Impossible movie series. There is a lot happening in the action scene, but happening in SLOW MOTION. There is nothing more you could do!! :-)
Round about 11:00 AM we reached the summit and we were relieved to find out we had some time to re-energize before the full set of clouds hit the summit. We met couple of people (John and Rick) at the summit and we told them about our experience up the nonstandard route. We were excited about making it through, by not giving up on our first non-standard route hike. It was a great feeling!! We sat there for 30 minutes, munched a bit of trail mix.
After the break, when we started thinking about getting down the standard route, it hit us. We were quite tired and we knew we would be really tired by the time we get to the standard route trail head. Our car was parked at Avalanche trail head, which is about 2.5 miles away from the standard route trail head. We started our dissent at 11:30 and we got to the tree-line quickly.
Once, we hit the tree-line we started feeling tired. And I think once I start feeling tired, I totally lose my sense of distance. It looked like the standard route trail head was 20 miles away. We reached the standard route trail head parking lot at 1:30 PM. We felt like Champions!!
We waited for 10 minutes and we started walking towards Avalanche trail-head. We were very tired and we were dragging our feet. I was asking for a lift and was trying to get a ride to the Avalanche trail-head, but I wasn't lucky. About 30-40 SUV's went by and no one stopped. I thought there was no other way but walk to the other trail head. To keep the spirits high, we looked at it in a different way. We thought we could be the first ones to do the Yale’s Loop. :-)
After about 20 minutes, we got lucky when John pulled up his suburban and gave us a ride to the Avalanche trail head. Once again, we thought we had covered about a mile in those 20 minutes, but we got to know that it was only half a mile. It felt great when John said – “I have been there, and I know how it is...” :-)
As soon as we got to our parking lot, took our shoes off and put on flip-flops and we lay there feeling jubilant and great for few minutes. I felt like a Yoda. We never gave up and made it certain that we finished the hike. Celebrated the first one of the season with Indian Potato Curry and Stuffed Bread!! We cooled ourselves by cheering with a Lassi and a Beer!! The first one of the 2013 season!! The first one of every season is generally tough, but this year’s first one would be a standout.:-)
Stuffed Bread and Curry..Yumm!!!
Cheers to the first Peak of 2013!!
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