| A January Day on Mount Yale
A January Day on Mount Yale
Route: Denny Creek TH
Date: January 7, 2011
Length: About 9 miles RT
Vertical: About 4300 feet
Ascent Party: James, Darin, Greg, Kevin, Mike, Jim
James ("Fletch") crests the summit ridge on Mount Yale, January 7, 2011
It’s 7:00 am; a bluebird morning. The familiar Denny Creek parking lot finds us scurrying to pack last minute gear. We’re all thinking - the weather and avy window is almost too perfect - we wonder about “wasting” it on a meager class two – though none of us is willing to incur the wrath of the mountain gods by voicing aloud such hubris. Still, venerable old Mt. Yale knows what we’re thinking, and decides to throw a little divine humor our way.
The gang rolls at 7:10 and leaves Mike and I busy changing thumbs in the parking lot. Normally the pack is ready to throw and go, but for some reason I can’t seem to get my make-up right this morning. By 7:30 Mike and I are on trail – till I realize the poles are in the car. Mike offers to share his. Nice gesture, but not good. We’re not too far down the trail – I’ll play catch-up. Once again, back at the car, it’s 8:00 am. Jim, can we put down the purse and get moving now?
The fork is well marked.
Ah, here’s the Hartenstein turnoff – where’s the gang? Apparently they’re upshifting, and I’m stuck in first. No matter, it’s a gorgeous day. I plod along, thankful that Mike, still in his ski boots, has scouted the occasional landmine on the otherwise well-established track. Soon the buffeting becomes too frequent. At 11,000, I declare “uncle,” settle for a long break, put on snowshoes, get some breakfast, and generally enjoy a gorgeous morning outdoors.
The well-established trench heads north up Delaney Creek.
At 11,800 the track decisively leaves the main drainage, cutting NE through a small, pretty meadow. I hear snowshoes, and find James struggling with steep terrain in the last of the trees. James, a linebacker of a fellow at 245 pounds, is working with short Evo’s, and no tails. He definitely gets the award for working the hardest with the best attitude. His next ascent will be on 30” ‘shoes. Way to hang in there, James.
James crests the hill into the alpine
The 12955 saddle
Mount Yale summit, and a nice line through the alpine
The west-facing alpine is scoured; several ribs offer passage to the summit ridge. We take a line to the left, which is a little too steep and loose for my liking on the first 60 verts. At the top of the miserable steep stuff, I spy Greg way ahead. Greg is strong, and a very fast mover. He’s taking the lead toward 13,605. I look up at the peak, and then over to Yale on the right. From this perspective, 13,605 looks taller. I look again at the peak on the left, then the right, then the left, and scratch my head. Has Yale moved since I was here last? I must have missed the change of address.
I'm pretty sure that's our Yale over there to the right, and I see a fairly dry, direct line. I round a small hill, where I regain visual contact with the group, and wait a few minutes till they see me. I hold a pole up, and get acknowlegement. Cool, let's go get the Yale Direct.
A separate reality
There’s not too much terrain which had been hidden from our view at our snowshoe stash; it’s all pretty straightforward. I stop to take photos, check on the crew’s progress, and before long a few cairns appear. Some clean talus hopping gains the summit ridge near 13,950.
The sustrugi monsters seem friendly enough here...
The summit ridge on Yale holds a warm place in my heart as one of the first joyful alpine experiences on a 14er. Today is nearly as warm as that mid-August memory. “Rapture of the steep” sets in, as I begin to experience inexplicable ecstasy. A friend recently asked, “Are your outings fun?” Oh, no, absolutely not, they’re strictly religious.
Walking the line...
Rapture of the Steep!
11:30 am. I look back across the beautiful NW ridge. Over on the south side of the summit, wind-block offers some nice solar lounging. After lunch and some photos, a progress check reveals Greg standing atop the 13,800 area, heading this way. Back over to the solar south side for more R&R.
Greg gains the summit
Darin is seen at lower right center, working the summit ridge
Closer shot of Darin coming up the summit ridge
The team arrives
The team lounges
By 1:00 pm, the crew is assembled in the sun, minus James. We’re confident he’ll make it, so we go over to the north side to find him making way up the ridge. We can’t believe how nice it is for a January day at 14,000 feet.
The guys like the Yale Direct, and decide to take it for the descent. We pack up and get started down.
Greg is careful to stay off the restoration areas
A summit is an elusive thing. While it feels like the work is done, it’s less than half done. One still has to turn potential energy into kinetic energy, which increases the risk of injury substantially, just when one is most tired. Since the springs in my ass are pretty much worn out, I usually prefer to take it a little easier on the descent.
Mike eyes Dreamland below
Greg leads the way, as we follow my ascent footsteps back through the alpine.
We assemble on the bench at the snowshoe stash, below, for more lunch, repacking, and general camaraderie, before starting into the trees.
Men at Work
On the way back I figure out James is nearly a foot short on snowshoe length, and needs a pal. Despite trying to ferret out the land mines for him, my light weight more or less cruises what he falls through, with one glorious and slightly embarrassing exception. James tries politely to ignore my struggle with the snow snakes in Delaney Creek. After composing myself, I assure him we all meet this ignoble fate from time to time. We share a good laugh, and chat about everything from California 14ers to art history. The time goes by quickly and soon we’re tipping one and chatting with Kevin and Darin at the TH under the waxing cresent moon.
Great trip, guys, thanks. Kevin, thanks for the Upshot! James, you’re the man, dude! Darin, glad to finally make a trip together, and thanks for the gas money. You’re a gentleman, undeniably. Mike, it was great meeting you, kindred spirit! Greg, nice to climb together; you’re fast. Let’s do it again.