Hiking Partner – Solo Distance – 9.2 miles RT (based on my GPS) Trailhead – Denny Creek Height - 14,196 Feet (4327 Meters)
I originally planned to take Friday off and do Pikes Peak via Barr Trail, but I wasn't too keen on the 26 mile round trip. I scheduled the day off and at the last minute decided to try something different. Yale had been on my summer list, but never got around to doing it. Why not today???
Since I had already planned a very early start (4:00am), I just decided to drive to Buena Vista first thing in the morning. Made great time, reaching the TH at 6:15am. Still a little too dark, so I slowly prepared my gear and put on sunscreen. About 6:45, I left and started under the light of my headlamp.
Still Dark – First stream Crossing
First view of my goal
The Aspen are now Bare - Fall is here
View towards Cottonwood Pass
The first part of the trail rises at a very slow pace. Unfortunately, that left more climb over fewer miles. The last mile turned out to be brutal. After passing tree-line, I began to encounter snow fields making it hard to find the trail. Most of the snow was hard crusted or not too deep. However, there were a couple places where I sunk about 8-9 inches. Also, the wind picked up to about 15-20 MPH. Not too bad, but did make things a little chilly until I put on my soft shell.
I am getting closer, but struggling
Looking down the ridge from where I came
Summit on the right, goal was the saddle on the left, but had to make the steep climb (pictures just don't do this part justice)
I finally reached the saddle with my GPS showing roughly 300 more vertical feet left. This last part involved some rock scrambling and took some time as I searched for cairns indicating the "easy" route (snow made it hard to find an actual trail).
L - R La Plata, Missouri, Elbert, Belford, Oxford, Harvard...All 14ers
Summit is in view
There it is!!!
Summit views were gorgeous. There was some wind, but not too bad. The clear skies allowed me to see all the ranges. Uncompahgre was visible to the south-west, most of the Elks could be seen, and of course my original goal (Pikes) was there to the east. Overall, it was not a bad time and awesome to have it all to myself for 30 minutes.
This is what happens when you think the camera is on "timer" - my only decent summit shot, I guess
Cottonwood Pass – Trail starts on the road
Elk Range - Snowmass is easily identified in the center and Capiltal to the right
Stream on the way down - Ice showing winter is on the way
I was just up there!!!
I have heard other climbers talk about days where they struggled and I experienced one such day earlier this year causing us to turn around. Today was another one of those days. For some reason, I just didn't feel 100% and contemplated turning around a few times, but didn't. Perseverance got me to the summit, although a little later than planned. Having the summit to myself was awesome and I only saw 5 other people the entire day. It turned into a great day.
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