| Mt Yale - Avalanche to Denny Creek Loop
Back in 2005 I reached the summit of Yale, but conditions were not very favorable. It never actually rained, but the ceiling was very low, and for the last third of the climb I was hiking through mist and clouds. Sometimes I could barely see more than 10 feet in front of me. I've always wanted to return and do it again as I've heard many people say how outstanding the view is from the top.
Approximately two years ago, I read someone's trip report about doing Yale as a one-way loop hike, starting from Avalanche and ending in Denny Creek. This appealed to me in several ways, as I enjoy doing loops versus going up and down the same route. It also attacked Yale from the east so the sun would be at my back and not in my eyes. And I also really enjoy long, high ridge hikes up to a summit.
I had the opportunity to finally do it this year, and I was not disappointed!
After parking in the large lot at the Avalanche Gulch Trailhead (9,300'), I started up the trail at 0435. It quickly connected to the Colorado Trail, which initially climbs sharply up the side of the hill. I noticed another pair of headlamps following me shortly thereafter, but no one ever caught up with me.
The trail continued through thick forest glades, crossing a stream a couple of times. At around 0515 it was light enough to turn my headlamp off. This is my favorite time of the day when the world is just waking up. I am at peaceful solitude seeing birds darting across the path or serenading me with their early morning song.
At about 3 miles into the trail, the forest thins slightly and eventually rises to a small clearing at a saddle (about 11,900'). There are a few camping sites here.
At this point you leave the Colorado Trail, which begins to descend, and if you aim pretty much due west towards the ridge, you wander through the trees and find a thin trail leading you over to the East Ridge itself. Two young ladies were just breaking camp when I passed them.
As you round the north side of a 12,140' summit peak, you lose the trees altogether and the East Ridge becomes more clearly visible. A faint trail is still quite apparent and you can now begin to see what lies ahead. The summit of Yale is still hidden behind Point 13,420' however.
A closer look at the beginning of the ridge:
There are a few rocky bumps to go over but none are terribly difficult. The entire route can be kept at class 2, with maybe a very short section or two of easy class 3. The rock itself is fairly solid with minimal loose areas, and anything really difficult can easily be avoided.
One of the first rocky bumps to go over:
Looking back along the ridge about halfway up; two climbers visible in the center:
As you come up to the base of a double-peaked Point 13,420', you can either go up and over it, or around the south side of it like I did.
Once you get around this 13er, Yale finally comes into view. You cross a relatively flat and grassy bridge before ascending the last steep ridge up to the summit:
Looking back at the grassy bridge and Point 13,420' at the start of the final ascent:
Coming up to the summit:
A rock cairn marked the summit, and I was a little surprised to discover that I was the first one up that day. It was already 0840. I guess I expected a lot more people to be coming up the shorter standard route. The temperature was 50° with thin clouds and a light breeze. The two young ladies arrived about 10 minutes later and one of them was kind enough to take my picture:
Doug & "cairn" (my wife, Karyn, by proxy! Ha!)
I enjoyed the summit for about half an hour, eating a snack and taking in the wonderful view that I missed my last time. To the west I could see the fun rocks and boulders that I needed to scramble over yet before going down the standard route:
A closer look at the western saddle. A climber is standing at the top of the trail:
I began my descent at 0905 reaching the western saddle at about 0925. I could now see many climbers coming up the loose southern slope. I was dreading this part of the climb, as I remembered it being quite tedious, but it wasn't quite as bad as I anticipated.
I arrived at the Denny Creek Trailhead at 1130. Since I was the first one to summit, I didn't feel like waiting around just for someone else to come down to hitch a ride with. So I just started walking along the highway hoping for someone else to take me back to Avalanche. It was only another 3 miles at most anyway and I felt pretty good. I ended up walking the first mile, after which a BV local picked me up and carried me the last two miles. I was in my car by 1145.
This is an outstanding way to bag Mt Yale and I would highly recommend it to anyone who likes one-way routes. It offers much more solitude than the standard route with outstanding views of the mountain, highlighted by the dawning sun. I could easily make this a once-a-year repeat with every return to CO.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):