| Yale is Snow Free!
Summit Elevation - 14,196
Elevation Gain: 4300
Trip Distance: 8.75 miles
Total Round-Trip Climb Time (including about 45 minutes of rest and summit time): 7:00
4WD Required: no, paved all the way to the trailhead
Exhaustion Factor (on scale of 1-10): 5
Scenery Factor (on scale of 1-10): 6.5
I woke up in Breckenridge at 4:00am and headed to Friso to meet Samantha in the Safeway parking lot. She and I arrived minutes apart at about 4:30 and she hopped in. We hopped on I70W and about 2 minutes into it I had my first scare of the day. Driving about 70mph, I see headlights coming towards me ... in my lane ... on the interstate. I swerved to the right onto the shoulder to avoid this mad man and immediately called 911 to report someone at mile marker 201 driving the wrong way on the interstate.
So, after that disasterpiece (yes, that's a Slipknot reference), we headed onto HWY 24 via the Copper exit, where we proceeded to drive approx. 40mph after passing 3 groups of deer in the first 10 miles. This would impact our start time, but not dramatically. Any-who, travel on HWY 24 to Buena Vista and hang a righty-tighty on county road 306. Easy road, my 2wd Accord made it with no issues. It's paved. Anyways, 12ish miles in, you see the Denny Creek trailhead. There was a few spots left and several people gearing up. We did the same gearing up and got on the trail at 6:33am.
The first mile is quite simple, but at approx. 1 mile, you meet a fork in the road. There is a stream crossing that looks unpassable (well, it does now with the water as high as it is) but if you go about 10 yards up from the trail, there is a tree bridge, albeit a very slippery-when-wet tree-bridge. Be careful. Shortly after there is a fork in the road. The sign is clearly visible in the daylight and instructs you to hang a right in an effort to summit Mt. Yale. We turned right. The trail is pretty steep but easy to follow. Plenty of little stream crossings and such. Once you get above timberline, there are some really funky trees that are funky, hence the adjective I used in this sentence.
We stopped for a snack and Samantha, God bless her, brought something I hadn't eaten since the a al carte food items at Kuemper Catholic High School in Carroll, Iowa in 1997 -- Fruit By The Foot!! I discovered it's even tastier if you roll a cheeto inside of it.
As aforermentioned, the climb is steep but relatively uneventful. There were several clouds in the sky but none looked threatening.
There were plenty of people and dogs on the trail (even a chihuahua!), all of whom agreed with us that we were out of shape this early in the season. I mean come on, I've ridden a century ride and run a half marathon recently, why is this so tricky (to rock a rhyme, that's right on time)?! Anyways, we kept on truckin' and reached the top of the steep trail area and got to the bottom of the scrambling area, I'd guess 500 feet from the summit.
We lost the cairns at this point and made our own route. The rocks had some black ice on them so you need to be very sure of your steps or you can loose your footing. We made the "mistake" of going to the left of the entire section of rocks and had to make a class 3 move from a snow-covered section. Once that was done we discovered the route was more to the west side of the rocks instead of the east.
This made the climb to the summit much more simplistic. We summited about 10:15am.
There were about 10 people on the summit. Saw a fun group of 5 people posing making the word "Yale" in a YMCA style, it was pretty amusing. There was a skier atop the mountain who descended about 300' down the east side, but that was about all the snow that remained. We stayed on the summit about 20 minutes and got down, was getting a bit chilly and a bit cloudy (and looked quite stormy to the south). I tried out my underwater camera from a stream
The descent went quickly, nobody passed us besides a guy who was running the summit with his dog. He must have made excellent time, those guys always impress me! Anyways, uneventful climb down, gorgeous weather, no rain, no bugs, no snow, clear and easy-to-find trail, lots of stream crossings. This is just an all-around excellent mountain to choose as your first 14er of the year. Note to self, even if all your skin is covered, remember to put sunscreen on your neck.