| Yale x 3 + 2
July 24, 2010
Mt. Yale, 14,196' (Loop Hike from Avalanche Gulch to Denny Creek)
Bonus Peaks: Pt. 13,420' and "Mascot Peak" 13,435'
Approximate Length: 11 miles
Approximate Elevation gain: 6,300'
Climbers: MtnHub and Wish I Lived In CO
Starting Time (Avalanche TH, elevation: 9,300'): 0445
Return Time (Denny Creek TH, elevation 9,900'): 1415
(captions appear above the pictures)
My first summit of Mt. Yale was back in 2005 via the standard route from Denny Creek TH. Conditions were very poor on that climb, as it was extremely cloudy and misty the entire time and visibility was almost nil at the top.
My second ascent was last year in 2009. On that trip I did a loop hike starting at Avalanche Gulch and descending down to Denny Creek. I had ideal conditions during that climb and I enjoyed it so much, I vowed to do it again sometime. So when my buddy from MI, Wish I Lived in CO, asked to do another climb together this year, I was happy to have the chance to repeat this loop once again.
We met at the Avalanche parking lot at 0400. Since we had two vehicles between us, we could park one there and the other at Denny Creek. This would allow us to ride back to the lot without having to walk or hitch a ride the last 3 miles.
By the time we returned to Avalanche and started up the trail, it was 0445. The sky was completely clear and the temperature was a very mild 52 degrees. After about another 45 minutes we could turn off our headlamps. It was a perfect day!
The path joins the Colorado Trail almost immediately and initially climbs steeply up the side of the hill. It leads you deep into the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness, crossing a stream a couple of times. We reached the saddle where the Colorado Trail begins to descend around 0625. There is a small clearing here and we found a couple of fallen logs to sit on and take a short break, eating a power bar and drinking some water.
Then heading west through the trees, a faint trail leads you around the skirt of a 12,000 foot peak to the East Ridge up Mt. Yale. At this point you can easily see the ridge line you need to follow, but Yale itself is hidden behind Pt. 13,420.
Although there are only a few segments of a trail, the ridge is pretty easy climbing for the most part. There are a few minor rocky bumps to go over but nothing difficult by any means. The first major obstacle occurs about a third of the way up the ridge. It is a steep 12,000+ foot rise and we tackle it head-on.
(The double-peaked Pt. 13,420 can be seen in the distance)
Once you reach Pt. 13,420, you do not have to stay on the ridge line. You need to drop back down to a grassy area just beyond the summit, so you can choose to go around it and maintain an even elevation course. I continue to take the high road and stay on the ridge while Wish elects to skirt around the side of it.
Mts. Harvard and Columbia as seen on the way up Pt. 13,420:
Mt. Princeton to the SE:
The beautiful rock of the twin-peaked Pt. 13,420':
Wish I Lived in CO skirting the 13er summit:
We hit the flat grassy area at 0830. From there we can finally see the summit of Yale way off to the right, but it is still a long steep climb of at least half a mile or more.
While climbing up this last stretch, I kept gazing over at a southern ridge leading over to "Mascot Peak" (13,435'). I was feeling pretty good and thought about bagging that peak as well, but I knew it would probably take another hour's time to complete. It dropped down pretty far to a saddle and the peak itself was rather long ridge to the top. The ridge coming back up to Yale also looked fairly steep. It would definitely be a major grunt on the return.
I finally gathered up enough courage to ask Wish if he would want to try this, sensing that I already knew how he would answer. I didn't want to inconvenience him but he gave me the OK to give it a try and he would wait at the summit for me.
The southern ridge leading to Mascot Peak (sorry about the camera strap!):
I started right down and immediately knew it was going to take a lot more effort than I anticipated. I hadn't planned to do this before we started so I wasn't really aware of the mileage and elevation gain until I arrived home and figured it out from maps and source books. It adds almost another 1.5 miles and nearly 1000' gain RT to the Yale summit, and it took me almost an hour and a half before we were sitting together on Yale's summit.
Mts. Harvard and Columbia with full view of the Horn Fork Basin:
Looking east into the Buena Vista valley (Pt 13,420 and the ridge we came up):
Looking down the western slope and the trail to Denny Creek:
The trail's end and beginning of Yale's western summit ridge:
After relaxing for about 25 minutes on the summit, we headed down the other side around 1125. This trail is quite steep and has considerably more loose scree and gravel. It falls relentlessly and because there aren't many solid rocks to break your movement, it is hard on my ankles and knees. We met a couple of trail crews putting rock steps in areas where erosion is especially severe. This will be a very welcome addition for future climbers.
Off to the east, I took one last look and a picture of Mascot Peak – yes, it was a little more than I bargained for, but it's nice to now have it under my belt!
The last portion of trail before reaching the trees is very sandy and loose. Again, it is so steep with nothing to break my forward motion on, it is really hard on my ankles and knees. Even with my trekking poles it was a struggle to maintain control without falling downward head first.
The last few miles back to the TH is through beautiful forest. There are a few fairly flat sections that offer a little relief, but it still seems like a long walk. I'm anxious to get to the car and head back to the house. We finally reach the parking lot at 1415. After changing into my Teva's, I chauffeur us down the road and drop Wish off at the lower lot.
We congratulate each other on a great climb and offer a temporary goodbye. We hope to meet up again in a couple of days and climb Longs Peak.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):