| snowy spring day on Yale
Start: 6:20 a.m.
Summit: 11 a.m.
Finish: 1:45 p.m.
When we pulled into the Denny Creek Trailhead parking lot at 6:15 a.m. the weather was crappy. After enduring whiteout conditions on Shavano the previous day, all I could think was, Here we go again.
It was a muggy, sweaty hike up to treeline, and it rained on us off and on.
This little fatty, with hind legs the size of an Akita's, hopped across our path:
With all the recent rain and melting snow, creeks were raging.
The last time I climbed Yale, years back, I remembered it as a steep hike. I felt the same way on this climb.
Somewhere around 11,700, give or take, the summer trail was obscured by snow. Tracks went in a few different directions.
We chose one set of tracks up to the left, and postholed our way up.
We followed the tracks to a rock-filled gully below a broad slope and I immediately had one of those gut feelings that something was wrong. Our adventure on Shavano the previous day had me intimately in-tune with my gut, so I listened closely this time. After checking my compass and topo map, I realized we were slightly off course. A short correction through the snow-filled forest put us back on track.
Right after getting back on track, a group of three passed us. They were the first people we had seen all day.
Just above treeline, at about 12k, we were afforded this view (3 or 4 photos stitched together):
The next section of the climb ascends steeply up loose dirt. Fortunately for us, it was saturated with water so it wasn't as slippery as it is when it's dry. It still required some calf-burning, heel-blistering work to get up it.
Somewhere around 12,500', give or take, snow started to cover some sections of the summer trail. It also started to snow lightly on us.
Looking behind us, we could see the sun trying to push through the clouds in some areas, but the clouds won the fight in the end.
As we ascended, temps dropped, winds picked up, snow fell harder and crossing snow fields became more and more of the game.
Still, we were able to follow the summer trail for most of the way.
I found the sticky, fin-like snow on these blades of grass very interesting:
As we pushed up that never-ending slope, I thought about turning back often. The weather was crappy, my feet were getting cold and I wondered about conditions on Yale's summit ridge. But we pushed on. And in a twisted way, I was actually enjoying it.
Once we got to the base of the ridge I became excited and the adrenaline warmed my feet.
Out of all the 14ers, Yale is the only one that gave me a lasting injury. While scrambling down one section of rock, I somehow wrenched my shoulder and pulled a muscle in my rotator cuff. It took many months of physical therapy to get it back to normal. So on this climb, my second one up Yale, I proceeded carefully. I also stepped cautiously, so as not to posthole into a snow-free cavern between boulders.
A few shots of Jen on the ridge:
We met the three climbers that had passed us earlier on the summit. Very friendly people. One even took our photo on top (a photo of the both of us is something you rarely see in my trip reports).
The views were nonexistent, but it was still beautiful up there.
Climbing back down was just as exciting. Here's a shot of Jen working her way down:
Here's me on one section of the ridge:
Right after exiting the ridge the snow really started to pick up.
We passed quite a few people on their way up, but we were glad to be heading down, as the weather seemed to be worsening.
By the time we made it back to the snow just below treeline, it was pretty soft.
Then it was just a basic hike back down … in the rain … with some creek crossings over slippery logs:
Overall, it was a good day to be in the mountains, even though the weather was less than ideal. And the way I see it, a hard day in the mountains is still better than an easy day at work.
I leave you with a look back on Mt. Yale from southeast of Buena Vista, taken the following day, 5/25/09:
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):